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

Workshop Reports

The Back from the Brink - Refining the Threatened Species Recovery Process conference included workshops on four issues vital to the recovery process. Each workshop ran twice with different participants, with about 25 people in each session. Two leaders ran both sessions of each workshop, to ensure continuity.

The leaders then consolidated the outcomes of both sessions of their workshops and presented these at a full forum of the conference.

The workshop reports presented in the proceedings provide a summary record of the workshops, based on the notes taken by the scribes at the workshops and incorporating comments from the participants.

The recommendations arising from the workshops are listed below, and are also included in the proceedings. These recommendations do not necessarily indicate consensus of the whole conference forum. They do, however, provide a basis for further discussion and refinement of the recovery process. Some recommendations are already being incorporated into the recovery process.

The recommendations arising from the workshops, together with the papers and discussions at the conference, are expected to form the basis of revised guidelines for practitioners implementing the recovery process. This will replace the existing Endangered Species Program Recovery Plan Guidelines for Endangered and Vulnerable Species and Ecological Communities.

Workshop 1: Recovery Plan Implementation


  1. That there is a need to address both species and threats.
  2. The conference recognizes that the protection and recovery of threatened species and ecological communities is essential, but will not in itself address the ongoing problem of loss of biodiversity across the Australian landscape and recommends the establishment and support of a program (as a logical successor to the Feral Pests Program) aimed at dealing with threatening processes. The program must be aimed at developing strategic approaches to mitigating problems such as those caused by:
    • invasive species of plants, animals and pathogens,
    • overgrazing by domestic stock,
    • land clearing and habitat destruction,
    • unsustainable resource use, and
    • urbanisation.
  3. That community involvement be recognized as an important resource.
  4. That there should be review of planned research and management actions at the beginning of the recovery process and regularly throughout the process.
  5. That State agency regional threatened species coordination be encouraged.
  6. That there needs to be a national ranking system across all threatened species and communities.
  7. That the regional recovery plan approach be applied where possible.
  8. That a separate research plan is not necessary. Research actions should be incorporated into recovery plans.
  9. That there is a need to identify key stakeholders and to get them involved from the initial stages of the recovery process.
  10. That a process be developed to assist in identifying the appropriate people to be involved in the recovery process, taking into account:
    • communication,
    • circumstances,
    • need for flexibility, and
    • need for assignment of tasks to appropriate people with appropriate timelines.
  11. That guidelines be developed to help the recovery team work as an effective team.
  12. That recovery teams should have regular meetings and keep minutes.
  13. That there be annual reviews of recovery team membership.
  14. That member roles should be identified and written into the recovery plan.
  15. That the recovery team make up the core group and operational groups be used where required.
  16. That the recovery process must have flexibility to be able to respond to changing circumstances.
  17. That funding for recovery plans undergo major review every five years.
  18. That thresholds for failure of recovery actions should be recognized.
  19. That there be annual reviews, including ability to ensure that modified objectives fit in with overall objectives.
  20. That the use of interim recovery plans be considered for critically threatened taxa or populations.
  21. That community involvement is an essential action for all recovery plans.
  22. That community involvement be incorporated into the Recovery Plan Guidelines flow chart.
  23. That a consultation and advocacy (education) phase be incorporated into each plan.
  24. That an information gathering workshop be held to identify the issues, problems and people involved.
  25. That the Recovery Plan Guidelines incorporate consultation processes.
  26. That recovery plans be reviewed regularly and that the plans include details of review requirements.
  27. That the scope of the recovery plan should be identified early in the planning process, particularly the conditions that must be met for completion and termination.

Workshop 2: Community Involvement


  1. That all key community stakeholders be considered when forming the recovery team.
  2. That a trained communicator be included on the team to facilitate community support.
  3. That the decision to write a recovery plan be publicly advertised.
  4. That an independently facilitated public forum be held to discuss the issues, identify stakeholders and establish the recovery process structure.
  5. That transparency and equality be fundamental to the recovery team.
  6. That flexibility be built into recovery team operation.
  7. That recovery team membership reflect expertise from all components of the community.
  8. That the role of volunteers be recognized and in-kind contributions be identified in the recovery plan.
  9. That casual labour costs and conditions be clearly identified.
  10. That draft recovery plans be readily available to the community for comment.
  11. That the community be involved in appropriate project work, and that costs and conditions be considered in the recovery plan.
  12. That feedback be prompt and continued community involvement be encouraged.
  13. That the local community be involved in community education and involvement.
  14. That procedures for reconciling differing priorities be established within the recovery team.
  15. That use be made of existing opportunities and structures (such as Landcare, Integrated Catchment Management) where appropriate.
  16. That funding sources other than Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia be considered in recovery plans.
  17. That flexible funding arrangements be considered for community action.
  18. That the Endangered Species Unit recommends to ESAC to seek a commitment from lead State agencies to fund initial public forums.
  19. That ESU improve feedback on project applications, draft recovery plans and annual reports.
  20. That ANCA/ESU circulate unfunded project details to zoos, NGOs etc., to seek alternative funding.
  21. That an ongoing management plan acceptable to the community be developed.
  22. That intellectual copyright issues be clear.
  23. That feedback to providers of information be ensured.

Workshop 3: Monitoring and Evaluation of Recovery Programs


  1. That monitoring address three components:
    • the scientific and biological factors (data, techniques and costs relating to species/habitat/threats);
    • the social factors external to the recovery team (community attitudes and organisational/ political commitment); and
    • the social factors within the recovery team (team performance).
  2. That performance indicators for all aspects of recovery, including management of the recovery process, be explicit in recovery plans.
  3. That the monitoring program should be cost-effective, well designed and built in to actions in a continuous and ongoing way.
  4. That a review be undertaken on three timescales:
    • an on-going internal review at every recovery team meeting,
    • a formal annual review, and
    • a major external review conducted at the end of the funding cycle (usually three to five years).
  5. That it be possible for a technical audit to be instigated by the recovery team, or by a member of the team, when difficulties with the plan are not being resolved.
  6. That recovery plan proposals be reviewed and prioritized by a State panel, involving government and non-government agencies, before submission to Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia.
  7. That review be costed as part of the recovery plan.
  8. That major external review panels be arranged by ESAC.
  9. That evaluation be built into recovery plans, (ie., carried out against objectives/criteria and actions).
  10. That procedures for evaluation be explicitly included in the ESP guidelines for the recovery process.
  11. That success or failure criteria be built into recovery plans.
  12. That ongoing internal review and periodic external reviews be an explicit part of the recovery process.
  13. That failures in recovery plan operation or implementation initiate external review.
  14. That lessons learnt from the reviews be disseminated to other practitioners.
  15. That recovery team members may be given training or support necessary to carry out their responsibilities effectively.
  16. That recovery team roles be clearly detailed in Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia guidelines on the roles and responsibilities of teams and individuals.
  17. That Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia take a lead role in developing national plans for species across State or Territory borders.
  18. That State or Territory plans incorporate the national perspective.
  19. That responsibility for ongoing management of species once a recovery plan has been successful be identified and a plan for ongoing management written.
  20. That non-government groups, corporate sponsors and local communities be involved in a team approach to ongoing management as appropriate.

Workshop 4: Ecological Communities and Groups of Species


  1. That nominations for listing contain detailed information, including information on community distribution and identifiable boundaries.
  2. That plant communities or other surrogates be used to identify ecological communities.
  3. That the classification system used to describe a community include floristics and abiotic information.
  4. That communities need not contain threatened species in order to be nominated.
  5. That 'degree of threat' be the main factor considered, with 'potential for recovery' and 'uniqueness' considered separately.
  6. That the plant priority ranking scheme be considered for use, with modifications, for communities.
  7. That recovery planning recognize the dynamic nature of communities.
  8. That threat abatement plans be considered as methods for conserving communities.
  9. That the current recovery plan guidelines be used and adapted as necessary.
  10. That indicators of recovery be of the 'sufficient', 'sustainable' or 'representative' type, as species and population parameters are not applicable.
  11. That care be taken to conserve the potential for succession in a community.
  12. That adaptive management take into account the results of research.
  13. That monitoring cover biotic and abiotic parameters and include achievable and measurable indicators.
  14. That community involvement and education be encouraged through flagship taxa or ecological communities.
  15. That links be made with related programs.
  16. That the potential advantages of group or regional approaches be taken into account when considering recovery.
  17. That threat abatement be identified as an integral part of the recovery process.