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Research Team: We Need a National Habitat Conservation System

August 10, 2016

Research led by the University of Idaho indicates the U.S. needs a comprehensive plan to protect our ecosystems and the variety of plant, animal and insect species that live in them. Led by Jocelyn Aycrigg, a conservation biologist in the College of Natural Resources, and including J. Michael Scott, UI emeritus professor, the large research team published these findings last week in the journal BioScience.

The U.S. has done an enormous amount of conservation work, including establishing over 300 million acres of conservation areas. Numerous groups across the country are working hard to conserve and restore natural habitats and species. However, as our population grows, the demands on our land and water resources grow as well. This creates additional concerns of potential loss of ecosystems, plant and animal species and recreation areas.

“I worry that without a comprehensive vision and strategy, these efforts will not be sufficient in halting or even slowing the current rate of biodiversity loss,” Aycrigg said.

“In the U.S., we have created a good foundation of conservation over the last 100 years,” Scott said. “This provides a real opportunity in the next 100 years for us to manage these efforts in a comprehensive network. We can then figure out how to better share resources, and understand the gaps within the protected areas that we can address, all the way from the east coast to the west coast.“

The research team found three successful models in different parts of the world that could be used to develop a plan for the U.S.:

They propose four key actions in creating a national habitat conservation system:

  1. Develop a common vision and establish measureable goals.

  2. Complete an assessment of the current state of conservation in the U.S.

  3. Set standards and use an adaptive management framework to monitor progress.

  4. Implement strategies to complete the national habitat conservation system.

Collaboration is the key to success, and the team believes participation from a diverse group of state and federal agencies, tribal and territorial groups, researchers, non-profit organizations and private landowners is the only way to succeed.

“The key to conserving our country’s natural heritage is having a national vision for its conservation,” Aycrigg said. “We want our research and our paper to start the conversation.”

The paper, “Completing the System: Opportunities and Challenges for a National Habitat Conservation System,” is available online and includes information about the entire research team.

Media Contact:
Kim Jackson
Marketing and Communications Manager
College of Natural Resources

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at