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A Landscape-Scale Approach to Refuge System Planning

Team (PIT) was chartered to address this recommendation from Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 21st century strategic vision for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Our charge was to investigate how Refuge System planning will address large-scale conservation challenges such as climate change, while maintaining the integrity of management and conservation delivery within our boundaries.

by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service


USFWS Refuge System Planning


This report is our proposal for “A Landscape-Scale Approach to Refuge System Planning.” It recommends that we focus the next generation of planning on Landscape Conservation Designs (LCDs), developed by the greater conservation community through partnership in Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs). LCDs are consistent with Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC) and are a partnership-driven conservation strategy that identifies desired future conditions and management prescriptions at multiple scales across jurisdictions. Key to our recommendation is incorporating LCDs into the preplanning phase of every Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and Land Protection Plan (LPP). With limited exceptions, no CCP or LPP should be developed until after an LCD has been completed. We envision that LCDs would include multiple refuges within a defined geographic area that leads to a single, broader CCP with step-down management plans to address site-specific management.

Many refuges already employ a landscape-scale conservation approach, but we need to increase these efforts and incorporate the LCD approach across the entire Refuge System. The Refuge System can be a catalyst for change throughout the greater conservation planning community and become a primary partner in the LCC network’s design efforts. We also need to incorporate and more clearly communicate biological, social, and economic science into Refuge System plans at all scales.

In addition to recommending an approach for landscape-scale planning, the report also addresses: CCP revisions and amendments, plan schedules and tracking, standardized templates, and some policy changes required to fully implement these recommendations. While some of the strategies will result in streamlining and efficiencies, others require more technical expertise, training, and staff.

Our recommendations apply only to the Refuge System, but it is our hope that other Service programs join us in basing their program-specific management plans on LCDs.

Published June 2013

About the Author


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the oldest federal conservation agency, tracing its lineage back to 1871, and the only agency in the federal government whose primary responsibility is management of fish and wildlife for the American public. The Service helps ensure a healthy environment for people by providing opportunities for Americans to enjoy the outdoors and our shared natural heritage.

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