Breath of Clarity

Endangered Species and Wildlife- Planning Strategies

Collaborative Adaptive Management (CAM) incorporates the best current science to save endangered species because it operates via a feedback loop and integrates stakeholders into all stages of the process. Adaptive management (AM) is specifically designed to understand the complexities inherent in ecosystem processes and structures (Gardner 2013). Further, it is particularly recognized for its usefulness in addressing the impacts of climate change on wildlife species (Gardner 2013). The approach is essentially learning-based management of natural resources (Department of Interior 2012). Under AM, conservation strategies are implemented as a deliberate experiment (Wilhere 2002). There is a major emphasis on scheduled monitoring through data collection, which I think is a major key to improving endangered species management. AM can establish cause-and-effect relationships and point the way toward optimal strategies going forward (Wilhere 2002). From there, AM facilitates refining a conservation strategy to inform its future iterations. It is a flexible decision-making process that allows a conservation project to be adjusted as the results of various actions become better understood. CAM builds on the strengths of AM and collaborative planning by including multiple stakeholders in the learning about and development of management goals, objectives, and decisions to improve resource management outcomes. CAM is founded on the idea that adaptive management is most effective when it is collaborative.

The example of CAM in the Las Cienages National Conservation Area (LCNCA) highlights mechanisms to incorporate new information into decision making. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acquired the land in 1988, and community engagement has been an important tool in its resource management. The BLM created the Sonoita Valley Planning Partnership (SVPP), an “ad hoc group with participants from more than a dozen communities in southeastern Arizona and representatives of conservation organizations, grazing interests, recreational user groups, and federal, state, and local agencies” (Caves et al. 2013). The stakeholders meet semi-annually to discuss updates and new information and are given increased access to certain technical teams in their areas of concern (Caves et al. 2013). Consequentially, contentious issues in the LCNCA have been resolved without legal actions and the management plan has been used as a model for other public lands (Caves et al. 2013). However, one issue with CAM is that reliable scientific data relies on historical benchmarks. Researchers suggest that natural resource managers incorporate scenario planning into the CAM process to better explore the variety of potential situations and anticipate future changes (Caves et al. 2013).


Caves, J. K., G. S. Bodner, K. Simms, L. A. Fisher, and T. Robertson. 2013. “Integrating collaboration, adaptive management, and scenario-planning: experiences at Las Cienegas National Conservation Area”. Ecology and Society. 18(3): 43.

Department of the Interior. 2012. Adaptive Management: The U.S. Department of the Interior Applications Guide. Washington D.C.: US Department of the Interior. Chapters 1-3, 5-6. Accessed Nov. 5, 2019.

Gardner, Emily. 2013. “Adaptive Management in the Face of Climate Change and Endangered Species Protection”. Ecology Law Quarterly. 40(2): 229-270.

Wilhere, George. 2002. “Adaptive Management in Habitat Conservation Plans”. Conservation Biology. 16(1): 20-29.

Comment by Fenton Kay:

Great question. I appreciate the concern Nora brought up about whether or not CAM is truly best for saving a given species. Since CAM is grounded in scientific principles, it takes on the Policy Specialism approach which many of us perceived as the most beneficial to advance the ESA. It also involves constantly adjusting management practices to make them aligned with the overall goals of a given T&E species conservation project. That said, CAM does not necessarily involve compromise. It does, however, cultivate the sharing of knowledge amongst experts in the field. Compromise would be more so a problem with the conventional multiple-use and sustained yield management approaches.