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

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.

Attached document 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.

More articles by this author

More articles in this category

Sustaining Wildlife With Recreation on Public Lands

posted Nov 25, 2023

Humans and wildlife interact in multifaceted ways on public lands with both positive and negative outcomes for each group. When managed well, wildlife-based tourism and other forms of recreation can benefit conservation goals.

Environmental Impacts of Winter Recreation

posted Nov 25, 2023

Regardless of our intentions, many species perceive humans as a threat and respond accordingly. In general, animals respond to threats by first increasing vigilance (time spent looking around versus foraging), and running away if the threat is perceived to be imminent.

Modeling Large-Scale Winter Recreation Terrain Selection with Implications for Recreation Management and Wildlife

posted Nov 24, 2023

Winter recreation is a rapidly growing activity, and advances in technology make it possible for increasing numbers of people to access remote backcountry terrain. Increased winter recreation may lead to more frequent conflict between recreationists, as well as greater potential disturbance to wildlife.

Guidelines for Managing and Restoring Natural Plant Communities along Trails and Waterways

posted Sep 18, 2023

These guidelines are designed to assist resource managers in conducting management activities that enhance the quality of natural plant communities, wildlife habitat, regional landscape integrity and visual quality, particularly as related to planning, development, and maintenance of trails, water trails, and water access sites.

310 views • posted 07/28/2020