Experts Call for National Network for Wildlife Conservation

October 18, 2012

Tim Lucas, 919-613-8084,

DURHAM, NC – It’s time to establish a national network for wildlife conservation to coordinate state, federal and private initiatives.

That’s the message of an article published this week by 11 prominent wildlife biologists and policy experts in the journal BioScience

Lynn McGuire, professor of the practice of environmental decision analysis at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, is second author of the new article. 

“To date, state programs have been inconsistently and incompletely integrated into regional and national networks,” she and her colleagues write. “In this era of reduced financing and increased threats (to wildlife), better, more consistent coordination of state-based efforts is increasingly necessary to maximize the effectiveness of limited conservation funds.”

A new federal agency or oversight function wouldn’t be needed to implement the new network, the authors say; instead, it could be built using existing state wildlife action plans, or SWAPs, as its building blocks.  They point to NatureServe, a nonprofit that receives funding from state and federal agencies to produce a national species-and-ecosystems database, as a possible model.

In their commentary, the 11 experts argue that the current state-by-state approach isn’t sufficient for protecting ecosystems and habitats that cross state boundaries; nor does it allow for concerted action to protect species that are declining throughout their ranges but not yet endangered or threatened.  Voluntary regional collaborations have had some success, the authors say, but are limited by uneven funding and capacities in different regions, and by difficulties in sharing information

A national wildlife conservation network could address these shortcomings by helping state-based programs establish a common habitat classification map suitable for wildlife conservation, identify at-risk species, and coordinate capacity-building opportunities.  It could also help facilitate and enhance the dissemination of information and new data tools.

Vicky Meretsky, associate professor in the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, is lead author of the new paper. Other authors are Frank Davis and David Stoms of the University of California-Santa Barbara; Michael Scott and Dale Goble of the University of Idaho; Dennis Figg of the Missouri Department of Conservation; Brad Griffith of the Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and the University of Alaska; Scott Henke of Texas A&M University-Kingsville; Jacqueline Vaughn of Northern Arizona University; and Steven Yaffee of the University of Michigan.