Back From the Brink: Refining the Threatened Species Recovery Process

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Sally Stephens and Stephanie Maxwell (Editors)
Australian Nature Conservation Agency, 1996
ISBN 0 949 32469 8

Recovery Plan Design

Essentials of a good recovery plan

Andrew A. Burbidge

Recovery plans are best prepared by a recovery team and should be outcome-oriented, practical, easily understood documents containing recovery actions that are achievable with a reasonable input of resources. The most important parts of a plan are the recovery objectives, criteria for success and failure, and recovery actions. Costings should be clear and accurate, and detailed records should be kept of how costs were developed. Lack of biological or other information on a species or community should not delay the writing or commencement of implementation of a recovery plan. Where lack of information prevents the production of a full recovery plan, or where urgency dictates that recovery actions can not await a full plan, an interim recovery plan should be prepared, especially for critically endangered and endangered taxa or communities. An interim recovery plan prescribes work over a three year period, including any research needed to more clearly define recovery actions. Pitfalls for recovery plan writers include too much detail in introductory sections, wasting time and space on minor details that have little or no relevance to outcomes, and delaying the commencement of recovery actions because of delays in preparation of the Plan. Recovery plans require commitment of staff and resources for their implementation and should be officially adopted by relevant Ministers and conservation agencies. The only real test of recovery plans is whether they successfully guide the recovery of a taxon or ecological community, so they need to be regularly reviewed and flexible, and be amended as knowledge improves or conditions change. Four recovery plans written to guide threatened species and ecological community recovery in Western Australia are reviewed for their adequacy and ease of subsequent implementation.

Incorporating science into recovery planning for threatened species

Christopher R. Dickman

A species may be considered threatened if it (1) is represented by one or a few stable but small populations, or (2) was formerly widespread or abundant but is now in decline. In the first case, it may not be appropriate to attempt recovery of the species if it has not declined; monitoring and perhaps captive breeding should be the only management needed. In the second case, research is important to identify the processes causing population decline and to ensure that management for recovery is informed and effective. A rigorous scientific methodology is advocated to identify causes of declines and is applied in case studies of the Lord Howe Island Woodhen and a small dasyurid marsupial, the Mulgara. Four steps are involved: (1) establish the magnitude and rate of population decline, and list possible explanations for it (observations); (2) identify the most plausible threatening process or processes that may be causing the decline (model); (3) derive predictions from the models (hypothesis); and (4) test critically, using null hypotheses, whether the putative threatening processes identified in the second step are causing the observed population decline, by using mensurative or manipulative experiments. When one or more processes causing population decline have been identified, management should be initiated to alleviate them and subsequent population changes monitored. It is proposed further that scientific methodology be used to identify effective management techniques, evaluate contentious practices, and guide reintroduction programs. I discuss objections that science is sometimes irrelevant for recovery of threatened species, and propose that strengthened links between research and management would increase the effectiveness of recovery planning.

Collaboration of science and management in endangered species recovery

Peter J. Jarman and Margaret A. Brock

This chapter clarifies the context for science in recovery management, aiming to help managers and scientists to appreciate their distinct roles in working for the recovery of endangered species. Saving endangered species is not itself a scientific aim; it is a management aim. Science uses well established methods to generate and verify facts, prove relationships, make predictions, and demonstrate the effectiveness of management actions. It does so by answering carefully framed questions. Management, on the other hand, sets aims and makes decisions about actions to achieve its aims. Science alone will not make decisions for management, but can assist decision-making by answering some kinds of questions. Managers will get the most out of scientists by framing the right questions, answerable by scientific methods. Those questions may include ones that test the effectiveness of management actions. There should be a formal place in recovery planning for collaboration between scientists and managers.

Involving farmers in recovery programs

Ian C. McClintock

There is a limit to the number and appropriateness of national parks and wilderness areas that can, in practical terms, be utilized for endangered species recovery programs. Many land owners have a deep interest in nature conservation and many more would develop one if the incentives to do so were right. Predators, particularly ferals such as foxes, cats and pigs etc. jeopardize the release of many species. The option of a network of reserves including feral-free reserves covering a much wider and more diversified range of environments, managed by farmers, could offer an order of magnitude difference in the success rate of recovery programs. Landcare and the Total Catchment Management or Integrated Catchment Management processes are the most exciting development in reversing environmental problems and stimulating interest in nature conservation. They nourish a comprehensive, holistic outlook and attitude to land management taking into account a balance between the economic, social and environmental factors. There needs to be trust by both government and landholders for this to succeed. The unfortunate example set by the New South Wales Government's environment policy introduction strategy, illustrates just how fragile the standing of this confidence and trust can be. With an enlightened approach and the right information, assistance and incentives, farmers would be willing to play their part.