Science Principles and Framework

Greater Sandhill Cranes have been identified as a priority waterbird species in the Intermountain West.

Abstract. The Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV) is among the largest and most ecologically diverse habitat Joint Venture in North America, encompassing all or significant portions of 11 western states and 10 Bird Conservation Regions.   In landscapes as large and complex as the Intermountain West unfocused strategies make it difficult to determine whether conservation investments at local scales have an aggregated effect on conservation goals at the regional and continental scale.  Thus, embracing a strategic approach is imperative to the success of the IWJV given the scarce availability of resources and the immense scale of conservation needs for four avian guilds (waterfowl, shorebirds, waterbirds, landbirds) throughout the region.   

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Joint Ventures have long recognized the need for a strong biological foundation to strategically inform conservation efforts and they rely on a core set of scientific principles and values to guide decisions and conservation strategies.  The IWJV has adopted this strategic and science-based philosophy toward avian habitat conservation with the expectation this will result in increased programmatic and conservation efficiencies that maximizes benefits to avian populations while minimizing cost.

A fundamental principle associated with a strategic approach to conservation is an evaluation of alternative priorities and objectives within the context of system restraints (e.g, budget, time, staff capacity) in order to effectively allocate resources.  The IWJV adopts four broad elements of strategic resource allocation (identified from the conservation science literature) as a general framework to evaluate relative conservation actions and priorities; these include

  1. Values
  2. Ecological Benefit
  3. Probability of Success
  4. Cost  

These elements are defined broadly and interpreted at a landscape scale to evaluate contributions to regional or continental goals.  In short, conservation actions that contribute to regional and continental population goals at greater rates are favored over those that do not.    

In 2008 the IWJV officially adopted, by executive authority, a strategic conservation framework as presented in the National Ecological Assessment Team Final Report termed strategic habitat conservation (SHC) as its operational framework, or business model.  This approach is an interactive cycle that encompasses four broad elements to inform conservation implementation in a strategic manner:

  1. Biological Planning 
  2. Conservation Design
  3. Conservation Delivery
  4. Monitoring and Evaluation.  

Integration of strategic resource allocation principles with SHC as an operational framework will result in focused strategies that target resources of high biological value or population limiting factors that increase the probability of successful outcomes and high biological returns.

To standardize and better integrate ecological considerations into conservation strategies the IWJV has adopted the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s (CEC) ecoregional classification system where the spatial extent of ecoregions are stratified in a nested hierarchy based on ecological similarities.  The CEC was preferred because of its use by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative as the basis for delineating Bird Conservation Regions.  Incorporating the CEC classification system into IWJV biological planning efforts will ensure future avian conservation outcomes are easily summarized within Bird Conservation Regions.

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Executive Summary of IWJV Technical Plans:

  1. Science Principles and Framework
  2. Habitat Prioritization
  3. Wetland Focal Strategies
Download IWJV Technical Plans

Visit our Resources section to download the plans.