Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
During the committee's deliberations and interactions with managers, it became obvious that the consequences of many management actions are not well understood. In some cases, managers were conducting activities to favor certain species, but at least some experts thought that the actions could be detrimental to those species. In other cases, consequences to target species, as well as nontarget species, were simply unknown. For some actions, effects on target species were understood, but influences on other species were not. And for some practices, immediate effects were known but the long-term ones were not. Effects of some practices differ markedly by geographic region or time (usually related to weather features); such spatial and temporal variation needs to be comprehended. Because the costs of various actions differ, the expected results should be quantified so that alternative courses can be objectively considered.
The committee views the uncertainty about the effects of management practices with concern. We recognize that we live in an imperfect world and decisions must be based on incomplete knowledge. Nonetheless, we strongly recommend two general courses of action. First, research should be conducted on proposed management activities. Particularly in need of study are actions that meet one or more of the following conditions: 1) they are expected to influence large areas of lands, 2) they have dramatic effects where they occur, 3) they are to be applied in areas where sensitive species occur, or 4) they have little previous history on which to base conclusions.
The second general course of action recommended is that monitoring of responses be done after management is implemented. Previous research should lead to some expectation of results, which managers desire. Follow-up monitoring will assess whether or not the actual results meet those expectations. If not, further evaluation of the management action is warranted. Careful monitoring will also help define the geographic and temporal influences on the results of management practices.
It might be argued that research and monitoring are too expensive, that problems are immediate, and that action must be taken without delay. The committee believes that the issues--and the resources--are too important not to evaluate carefully.
Specific research recommendations that were suggested by members of the team included the following: