Objective-setting is a necessary component of conservation practice because it promotes strategic and efficient conservation actions. In plain terms, setting population objectives is a key step of Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC) because it answers the fundamental question that faces all conservation organizations – “How much is enough?” Further, basing conservation actions on population objectives provides the additional benefits of:
- Providing a metric of success that keeps efforts focused on biological outcomes (as opposed to dollars and acres),
- Providing a common currency (e.g., number of individuals) across geographies within the Central Hardwoods Bird Conservation Region (CHBCR) (and possibly in relation to other BCRs), and
- Increasing scientific credibility, transparency, and accountability.
Open Woodland & Forest Birds
In 2010, the CHJV Upland Science Team set breeding-season population objectives for priority forest-associated birds. These objectives were similar to those developed by Partners in Flight in that they were based on Breeding Bird Survey data (1966-2007) and were expressed as changes in abundance (e.g., increase populations by 50%). However, they differed in that CHJV population objectives were based on CHBCR-specific changes in relative abundance (when available), which can be different from the range-wide changes used by Partners in Flight. The current Population Objectives for each priority species are listed in Table 1 of the CHBCR Population and Habitat Objectives Report. These objectives will be revisited after habitat objectives are finalized. The development of a BCR-scale population viability model by CHJV partners at the University of Missouri opens the door to redefining population objectives in terms of demographic rates (e.g., trends, extinction probabilities) instead of abundance. This option will be considered as more viability models are developed.
The CHJV Upland Science Team has not set population objectives for breeding grassland birds at this time. We are waiting on results from our Grassland Bird Monitoring Project to enable an assessment of current carrying capacity of CHBCR landscapes. Thus, we expect to set breeding grassland bird objectives in late 2013 or early 2014. Setting wintering and/or migration objectives will be considered at that time.
The CHJV Wetland Science Team has not set population objectives for waterfowl, shorebirds, or waterbirds at this time. The Team is finalizing the priority species lists and conducting an assessment of the carrying capacity of public lands. It is likely that population objectives for wintering and migrating waterfowl developed by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan will be accepted without change. However, those objectives do not cover all waterfowl, so additional objectives will need to be developed. Regional objectives have not been set for migrating shorebirds, and neither continental nor regional objectives have been set for waterbirds. Objective-setting will be a primary focus of the Wetland Science Team after the habitat assessment has been completed.