Best Practices for State Wildlife Action Plans - Voluntary Guidance to States for Revision and Implementation

In 2005, Congress mandated that state fish and wildlife agencies develop State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs) that identified the species and habitats in greatest conservation need, key threats, and recommended actions - in order to receive federal funding through the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies prepared a report with guidance focused on integrating climate change adaptation planning into SWAPs in 2009 - Voluntary Guidance for States to Incorporate Climate Change into State Wildlife Action Plans and Other Management PlansThis 2012 report is from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Teaming With Wildlife Committee’s SWAP Best Practices Working Group - and builds on the 2009 version with updated guidance and replicable best practices. While not focused entirely on climate impacts, the threat of climate change is given special consideration again here, and, as noted in the report, incorporating climate change into SWAPs is vital for the development and implementation of effective conservation actions.

The Working Group was tasked with identifying best practices that state fish and wildlife agencies could use when revising and implementing their plans. The document is offered as a resource for "states that are interested in improving consistency, meeting the revision requirements, and enhancing effectiveness with respect to prioritization, conservation delivery, and collaboration with partners and other states." The practices outlined in this report represent some standards that all states can achieve, and others that can be strived for based on capacity and funding. These are voluntary practices, not mandated, and may be implemented at any time or whenever a state undergoes a revision of its plan.

The report is organized into six chapters based on the Eight (federally) Required Elements of SWAPs. Some of the practices are illustrated by case studies from states that have been innovators in implementing a particular element.

For example, Elements 3 and 4 of the Eight Required Elements for SWAPs direct each state to identify threats to Species of Greatest Conservation Need and the conservation actions to address those threats. Chapter 3 presents best practices for identifying priority issues and actions for these species, with climate change as a focal threat to consider. 

A few example climate related best practices in this chapter include to:

Conduct vulnerability assessments to inform the selection of SGCN and conservation actions. Use Scanning the Conservation Horizon: A Guide to Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment (Glick et al. 2011) to determine the best approach for conducting a vulnerability assessment for habitats and species at an appropriate level (as determined by each state). This is more quantitative and spatially-explicit than a ranking system. Be specific about the aspect of climate change addressed (e.g., increased precipitation, prolonged drought, increased fire, sea-level rise, etc.), and take advantage of information from assessments already available (e.g., regional vulnerability assessments, university- or NGO-led vulnerability assessments).

Link climate impact to priority actions. Using the best available climate data, specify which impact (e.g., sea-level rise, prolonged drought, increased precipitation, increased fire, etc.) will result in which threat, and which action will address that impact. Avoid unspecified generalities such as “will create corridors” or “eliminate invasive species.”

Along with the recognition that every state and process within is inherently unique, a goal to achieve greater consistency and standardization across state wildlife action plans is expressed in the report as well. As described by Teaming with Wildlife - such consistency will engender improved efforts to measure our success with the conservation of targeted species and communities, track progress on population recovery and habitat enhancement goals, and foster enhanced collaboration across state lines.






Publication Date: November 2012

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