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January 9, 2024

USGS scientists, working with scientists and resource managers from multiple U.S. Department of Interior Bureaus and other government agencies, have created a platform to collect, record, and share data that could drastically improve the way land and species managers are able to restore, conserve, and rehabilitate ecosystems.

The Conservation Efforts Database (CED) provides a tool where resource managers can upload and display information on an online map about their management activities, and view activities input by others.

The decision support tool was developed to archive and display information across agencies and private landowners about land management, conservation, and rehabilitation projects and their effectiveness. Modules developed for the sagebrush biome, Gunnison sage-grouse, and Lahontan cutthroat trout are the first of their kind.

“Prior to the CED, decades of research and management monitoring data points were sitting in separate silos with no coordinated access and understanding between agencies,” said Justin Welty, Biologist with the USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center in Boise, Idaho. “If we don’t know what methods have been used in the past and if they were successful, we don’t know whether we should use them again or switch to something else in the future.”

Originally built in 2013 to track outcomes of management actions in the sagebrush biome to conserve, restore, and rehabilitate Greater sage-grouse habitat, the CED has grown to include activities that support Gunnison sage-grouse across its range, and most recently, the Lahontan cutthroat trout in Nevada.

Lahontan cutthroat trout are a threatened native trout species that once occupied 12 lake systems and more than 7,000 miles of streams in the Lahontan Basin, which encompasses northern Nevada, the Eastern Sierra and southern Oregon. Now, due to habitat loss and degradation, as well as competition, predation and hybridization from non-native trout, the species occupies only 10 percent of their historic range.

“The sharing of ideas between land managers is vital as restoration techniques evolve and adapt to regional and climatic differences,” said Lief Wiechman, USGS Ecosystems Mission Area’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Specialist. “Having all this data combined in one place helps managers easily access the information which they can use to assess when restoration actions are more likely to be successful. It’s also helps them determine how to use their limited resources more efficiently and effectively.”

Wiechman said compiling decades of data from across multiple sources has been a monumental task and would have been virtually impossible without the support of all the agencies and private landowners involved.

“The partnership aspect of this project is critical. There is no one entity who could take this on alone,” said Matthew Heller, Cartographer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Science Applications and Migratory Birds Program and a key member of the CED development team.

Future CED modules are in the works and would expand the CED footprint beyond the sagebrush biome and the three initial species to include the central grasslands.

“We’ll rely on the needs and feedback from those who use and contribute information to the CED to determine what to develop, both for input and output user interfaces, to make the CED into more than just a data catalogue. We want it to be a decision support tool for generations of scientists and resource managers to come,” Welty said.

Funding was provided in part by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, as well as other USGS and USFWS programs.

Visit the CED website for more information on how to contribute information.                                                                                                                                                     

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