Platte River Recovery Implementation Program - SDM Process

Structuring value-based trade-offs in Adaptive Management planning

The Project 

Adaptive management is a key element of many species recovery planning efforts. It involves developing hypotheses about how management actions will affect the target species, designing monitoring or experiments to test those hypotheses, and then adjusting management actions in response to what is learned. A key challenge has been this Adjust stage – new information reduces uncertainty but it doesn’t eliminate the need to make value-based trade-offs, especially when there are multiple species at risk, water users, management costs and risks that must be balanced. The Platte River Recovery Implementation Program is a basin-wide effort to achieve compliance with the US Endangered Species Act. The Program is led by a governance committee consisting of state and federal agencies, water users and environmental groups. In 2014, the Program initiated a decision process to re-evaluate recovery actions for interior least tern and piping plover, based on new information from studies and monitoring.

Our Role 

We designed and facilitated a structured decision making process to help the governance committee work through the Adjust stage of their adaptive management plan. The process was credited with helping the committee build a common understanding of key technical findings, work constructively through longstanding value-based conflicts, and make an informed, efficient and transparent decision. It helped them to critically examine the value of continued monitoring and make difficult choices about ongoing investments in learning.