Discovery Institute's Environmental Policy Initiative

Recovery Plans under the ESA are founded on the premise that we have some capacity to manage the populations. Therefore, the process that connects the decision to list a population under ESA with the decision to remove it from the list should include an evaluation of what was broken, implementation of actions to fix what was broken, and an assessment of the fix performance. If the "fix" is not included in the de-listing criteria, then we have no assurance that the problem will not recur. Therefore, the score keeping system for monitoring progress must include an assessment of management actions being taken and of the effect they are having on the target population. This will require that the score keeping incorporate population dynamics and the factors influencing it through each stage of life. This is best expressed in the form of a life-cycle model that is linked to effects of the 4 H's (habitat, harvest, hatcheries, and hydro) that people can manage. We describe a framework for data gathering, analysis, monitoring, and adaptive management that can be used to estimate probability that an ESU will persist into the future. We present examples from West Coast populations of salmonids to demonstrate how density-dependent survival operates in freshwater, how survival and carrying capacity can be linked to habitat features, how the probabilities of environmental catastrophes can be estimated, and how adaptive management can alter probabilities of population persistence during the implementation of recovery plans. We also review the spatial and temporal variability in populations and the environment, and describe how that variation can be accounted for in estimating persistence of an ESU.