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Perceptions of conservation introduction to inform decision support among U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees

September 21, 2022

Executive Summary

Around the globe, fish and wildlife managers are facing increasingly complex management issues because of multiscale ecological effects like climate change, species invasion, and land-use change. Managers seeking to prevent extinctions or preserve ecosystems are increasingly considering more interventionist techniques to overcome the resulting changes. Among those techniques, translocation methods that intentionally move species into new, less impacted habitats are being considered. These types of translocations are known by a range of terms, including “managed relocation” and “assisted migration,” but the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC, 2013) has proposed “conservation introduction” (CI) as a standard term.

As defined by the IUCN SSC, CI is the intentional movement of a species or population outside its indigenous range for conservation purposes. CI can be divided into two forms: assisted colonization and ecological replacement. Assisted colonization is moving species outside its indigenous range to prevent extinction or extirpation of a population. Ecological replacement is moving species to fulfill an important niche that is necessary within an ecosystem. Proponents suggest these methods are necessary to address the ecological challenges managers are trying to overcome. Opponents point out the potential for species to become invasive, introduce disease or parasites, and cause other cascading impacts throughout the ecosystem. The result is controversy and disagreement. As such, it will be imperative to develop clear guidelines and best practices to be followed within wildlife management agencies to prevent potential

To this end, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to develop the current project. The intent was to describe the perceptions of USFWS personnel across many aspects of CI so that the USFWS could use this information in the planning and development of their own internal decision-support framework for CI.

This report is presented in five sections. Section 1 introduces the project and provides an in-depth overview of background literature related to CI. Section 2 describes the study design, methods, and study participant characteristics. Section 3 describes key results and recommendations related to the development of a USFWS decision framework. Section 4 investigates a range of perceptions held by participants and establishes baseline information for how USFWS personnel may view CI and its application. Types of viewpoints surveyed include preferred terms and definitions, perceived barriers, perceived risks and tradeoffs, and aspects of success. Perceived barriers refers to factors that may prevent successful implementation of CI and perceived risks refers to potential negative outcomes that may occur as a result of implementing CI. Section 5 provides an overview of our conclusions for this project.

Overall, we found that CI is likely to be viewed positively within the USFWS, but employees offered cautions and caveats. Most participants we interviewed feel that it is a necessary tool that will be indispensable in certain situations but also feel that there is more risk associated than with more traditional methods. For this reason, many participants are concerned about the assessment and planning that should be conducted prior to any CI effort. Our results indicate that many USFWS personnel will be open to CI being adopted more regularly but will be looking for clear guidance on how it should be implemented.

Publication Year 2022
Title Perceptions of conservation introduction to inform decision support among U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees
DOI 10.3133/sir20225092
Authors Nicholas Cole, Julia B. Goolsby, Amanda E. Cravens
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2022-5092
Index ID sir20225092
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center