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Conservation actions and effectiveness monitoringWisconsin Wildlife Action Plan

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Radio transmitter DNR biologists use to track the movements of bats. Photo by Michael Kienitz, Wisconsin DNR.

What are conservation actions?

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Conservation actions in the WWAP are:

  • entirely voluntary;
  • not a wish list, they are the most important issues to be addressed over the next 5–10 years
  • clear in intent, scope and scale;
  • directed at the source of the problem (sustainable construction) or its effect (restoring shoreline vegetation;)
  • aligned with a globally recognized classification system of threats and conservation actions that make it easier to communicate across disciplines and regions.

Download full descriptions of threats/issues and conservation actions

The WWAP is a nexus for many plans and initiatives that are a call to action to care for and conserve natural resources in our state. The threats/issues and conservation actions identified below for each animal and natural community group relied on many of these plans and initiatives.

Which threats/issues and conservation action categories are cited most frequently in the WWAP?

All issues/threats and conservation actions described in the WWAP are a priority. The following summarizes those cited most frequently by technical teams.

Issue: Invasive and disease-causing species.
Actions: Awareness and education about and use of multiple, integrated methods and best practices to prevent and control these species in all environments; continued research and monitoring.

Issue: Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation originating from multiple sources of development and resource use.
Actions: Practices to avoid and minimize loss or fragmentation of habitat; policy and conservation planning supportive of conserving SGCN habitat; comprehensive management of protected and preserved areas to maintain and restore diverse communities and habitats; incentives to encourage conservation on private lands.

Issue: Modification of environmental processes that includes water extraction and hydrological change, alteration of natural fire regime and habitat modification.
Actions: Policy and best management practices supportive of conserving SGCN habitat; comprehensive management of protected and preserved areas to maintain and restore diverse communities and habitats; incentives to encourage conservation on private lands.

Issue: Unsustainable resource use for terrestrial SGCNs and their habitat and water pollution for aquatic SGCNs and habitat.
Actions: Support and compliance with best management practices and conservation planning to manage for diverse habitats to persist on landscapes mixed with these other uses. Improved awareness, training and education to increase compliance with existing regulations, standards and practices.

Actions supporting training and participation through citizen-based monitoring and science are beneficial to the research and information needs of all species and communities and are not limited to any single issue/threat.

What are monitoring and effectiveness measures?

State wildlife action plans address monitoring from two perspectives. The first, most commonly understood application is monitoring SGCNs and their habitats over time to track status or condition. The second is to monitor the effectiveness of conservation actions to understand if they are having the desired outcomes. When conservation actions are not successful it is essential to understand why, as well as adapt conservation actions to new information or changing conditions.

Along with SGCN and habitat (or natural communities as a proxy for habitat), issues/threats, conservation actions and effectiveness monitoring, make up the core of the Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan.

How do we measure the effectiveness of conservation actions?

Results chains (also known as logic models, logic chains or causal chains) show connections between conservation actions and results through intermediate and final outcomes. For each step in the chain, an indicator, or “measure,” can be established allowing for both short and long term progress to be measured. Establishing results chains with indicators that can be measured over time, helps to satisfy funding sources that want to track progress in shorter intervals and it helps conservation practitioners to work toward positive outcomes. Results chains are used in many sectors to measure performance and evaluate progress toward goals and objectives. An example is provided below.

Graph showing the number of Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Wisconsin

In this results chain, we begin with the conservation action of prescribed fire and mechanical control of woody vegetation. That leads to three intermediate outcomes—a reduction in woody vegetative cover, an increase in nesting and foraging habitat for grassland birds and an increase in grassland bird reproduction and survivorship. And lastly, as we move from left to right, the ultimate outcome—grassland bird populations increase.

What's next with effectiveness monitoring

WWAP Implementation Projects include development of a conservation actions database and tool that will record attributes about actions to conserve SGCN and their habitats and an effectiveness monitoring system to track the success of conservation actions undertaken by the Natural Heritage Conservation Program. Our approach follows that developed by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' (AFWA) report, "Effectiveness Measures for State Wildlife Grants [exit DNR]." A Comprehensive Approach to Bat Management in Wisconsin [PDF] narrates one example of what this might look like.

The Department has other monitoring tools that will complement or integrate well with the WWAP Implementation Projects. One of those is the USFWS Tracking and Reporting Actions for the Conservation of Species (TRACS [exit DNR]), which tracks outcomes for projects throughout the United States that are carried out with Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration funds. Another tool, the Land Management System (LMS), is the Department's database for information on habitat and property management related activities (e.g., controlled burns, site maintenance, habitat restoration), which can be used as indicators to measure benefits to wildlife and habitat.

Last revised: Tuesday December 20 2016