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Implementing endangered species recovery policy: learning as we go? (applications).


Endangered species recovery programs face many challenges; chief among them is the implementation challenge. Implementation is a complex, dynamic, and multifaceted task requiring skilled leadership, an effective problem solving heuristic, and the capacity to learn and change course as feedback suggests. In contrast, too often technically-oriented participants often assume that endangered species recovery is a purely biological problem and thus overlook the many extra-biological dimensions. For example, these participants and the overall recovery programs may not pay attention to critical policy and organizational variables that ultimately determine if the program succeeds or fails. Examples from the endangered black-footed ferret recovery program identify and describe four aspects of recovery programs that directly complicate implementation challenges. First is the inherent "complexity of cooperation" among multiple participants involved. They often have distinct, different perspectives and use contradictory criteria by which success is measured. Second is "goal displacement" wherein the species conservation task is replaced by bureaucratic imperatives such as control and power goals. Third is the use of "inappropriate organizational structures" to interrelate the work, workers, and the species/environment. And fourth is "intelligence failures and delays" wherein key information is overlooked, underappreciated, or not obtained and used at all. This and other factors lead to costly delays. Learning from these four kinds of problems and avoiding them requires professionals and leaders to use knowledge from policy process and organizational design fields, subjects typically not taught in conventional conservation biology programs. A commitment to learning and problem solving can help recovery programs avoid common implementation mistakes and achieve a successful species conservation outcome.


Those involved in endangered species recovery programs often face extremely complex situations as they tackle the nuts-and-bolts work of saving species. Recovery programs that have developed over the last 15 years have had to deal with technically demanding biological tasks and uncertainties, limited resources, numerous participants, and intense public scrutiny and involvement, among many other difficulties. These factors combine to make species recovery a complicated, interactive, technical, and administrative challenge. Professionals working in these programs often view recovery primarily as a biological problem. They have generally given much less explicit attention to policy and organizational variables in recovery programs, instead attributing problems simply to bad luck, lack of resources, "politics," or uncommitted individuals in other organizations. Yet the organizational arrangements, decision-making processes, and other policy variables affecting recovery programs can be as critical to success as technical and biological tools. A better understanding of the policy and organizational dimensions of endangered species work could greatly enhance the effectiveness of many recovery programs.

Participants in recovery programs often view the problems they encounter as unique to their species and their program. But problems stemming from inappropriate organizational and decision-making arrangements may be more generic and prevalent than is currently recognized in recovery efforts. By looking at these programs through a policy and organizational framework, common patterns may be detected which would otherwise remain underappreciated or invisible. Lack of attention to these aspects of recovery can result in ineffective and inefficient programs, and ultimately in species extinction. With so much at stake, it is imperative to develop a framework for analysis and to learn from past and ongoing recovery efforts in order to improve future programs.

Notable successes have been achieved in many recovery programs. For example, the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) recovered rapidly in many parts of its range as a result of federal and state protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (Endangered Species Technical Bulletin 1985). Yet many accounts of endangered species recovery programs refer to implementation difficulties encountered by participants (e.g., Duff 1976; Carr 1986; Askins 1987). In this paper, we discuss four common features of recovery programs that have led to implementation problems. First, species recovery is a tremendously complicated task, often involving numerous participants who must somehow integrate their diverse perspectives into a workable program. Second, these participants often have conflicting goals, some of which have more to do with controlling the recovery coalition than saving the species. Third, explicit consideration of organizational structure appropriate to the task of saving species is rare; recovery programs tend to develop into traditional hierarchical bureaucracies. Fourth, intelligence failures and program delays often occur because of preconceptions held by decision makers and the large number of "clearances" required in programs with multiple participants.

To illustrate our points, we draw on examples from the ongoing blackfooted ferret recovery effort, which has much public and professional attention. Even though we focus on the recovery effort in the years 1981 through 1986, from the discovery of the Meeteetse population until its extinction in the wild, the four implementation themes addressed in this paper were apparent throughout the past 15 years. Our use of the ferret case history could be misunderstood as blame finding and negative, and in fact, we have been urged to forget past, acknowledged implementation mistakes. We feel strongly, however, that unless these persistent features of implementation are scrutinized and given some meaning through a policy and organizational framework, they will never be recognized for what they are and managed effectively. By using the ferret example as illustration, we are not implying that it is an especially good or bad program. Rather, we suggest that the examples may be representative of the implementation problems found in many recovery programs, and that the lessons to be learned from examining them can be useful in many other cases.

In the second section of the paper we suggest ways to improve the policy, organizational, and individual dimensions of recovery program implementation. Recovery programs are an implementation device in the larger policy process, and participants must have knowledge of this process. The organizational dimension involves the structure and management of the recovery program itself, including such factors as who is permitted to participate, how information is gathered and used, how authority and control over the program are allocated, how decisions are made, and how disagreements within the recovery coalition are resolved. The individuals who make up recovery teams are part of these policy and organizational dynamics and can have roles of influence. Careful attention to all these overlapping and interactive elements is essential.

The black-footed ferret story

The black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) is the most critically endangered mammal in North America. It was listed in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS)Redbook of Endangered Species in 1964, and it was placed in the FWS endangered species priorities list in 1976. It is a solitary, nocturnal carnivore preying almost exclusively on prairie dogs (Cynomys sp.). The ferret spends almost all of its time below ground in prairie dog burrows where it hunts and finds shelter. In the 137 years since the ferret's scientific discovery, only two small populations have ever been studied--one in South Dakota (1964-1974) and the second near Meeteetse, Wyoming (1981-1987). Both wild populations are now extinct.

In 1920, an estimated one million ferrets existed in 40 million hectares of habitat (prairie dog colonies) over 12 states and two Canadian provinces (Anderson et al. 1986). Widespread and long-lasting prairie dog poisoning programs, with the goal of rangeland improvement, destroyed ferret habitat. This loss, combined with other factors, such as diseases, pushed ferrets to the edge of extinction by 1980. In fact, many people and agencies considered the ferret extinct by that time.

The Meeteetse ferrets were discovered serendipitously: a ranch dog killed a dispersing male. The source population of ferrets was found nearby occupying 37 prairie dog colonies (about 3,000 ha) scattered over about 260 square kilometers on nine ranches in a mix of private and public lands. The presence of this ferret population surprised everyone. A few months after the discovery, the FWS transferred authority for the ferret recovery program to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Ferret ecology and behavior were extensively studied, as ferrets were observed directly, tracked in snow, and radio-collared. Spotlight surveys each summer revealed peak annual numbers (1984, 129 ferrets including 25 litters). Annual ferret losses were high, about 50-90+ % (Forrest et al. 1988). By early July 1985, counts showed a much lower population than in all previous years (58, including 13 litters). By early September, mark/ recapture population estimates showed that the population had declined to 31 [+ or -] 8 ferrets. By early October, the population had declined to 16 [+ or -] 5. And by November, only about six ferrets were thought to remain in the wild. The catastrophic loss of about 150 ferrets between fall 1984 and fall 1985 was documented. During July to September 1985, ferrets were lost at the rate of one every two to three days. The decline was thought to be caused by canine distemper, a disease 100% fatal to ferrets. Techniques were developed to locate ferrets and extensive searches were conducted over several states. No ferrets or recent sign were found.

During the fall of 1985, six Meeteetse ferrets were captured to prevent loss of the species. These ferrets were housed in close proximity, and two ferrets infected with canine distemper transmitted it to the other four. All six died shortly thereafter. Another six were hastily captured and housed individually; all survived. These six, added to the six thought to exist in the wild, constituted the world's known population--about 12 individuals in early 1986. In 1986, the six captive ferrets did not reproduce, but the six wild ferrets produced 10 young in two litters, and most were added to the captive population. This brought the world's known population to 18, all in captivity. The captive ferrets produced seven surviving young in two litters in 1987. No more wild ferrets were found. Breeding success was better in 1988, with 44 young in 13 litters being produced. Ten of the 44 young born in 1988 died. The fate of the species now depends on the captive ferrets and any wild ferrets that may exist (Maguire et al. 1988).

In late 1985, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources' (IUCN) Captive Breeding Specialist Group entered the ferret recovery program in an advisory role, bringing considerable technical information and expertise to the captive breeding program. The captive population is presently held in a single location in Wyoming. The agencies responsible for the ferrets are planning to divide the population in order to minimize the chances of the entire population being eliminated by a disease epidemic or other catastrophe (Oakleaf 1988). The participants in the ferret program hope to use captive-bred ferrets to establish a second or third captive breeding colony in other states in late 1988, and an Interstate Coordinating Committee has been formed to identify potential reintroduction sites (Thorne 1988).

Implementation problems in recovery programs

1. Complexity of cooperation: multiple participants and perspectives Like most endangered species programs, the ferret program includes a number of governmental and nongovernmental participants, who became involved--formally and informally--for a variety of reasons. More than 20 organizations and 100 individuals have participated in the ferret program since 1981. The primary participant groups are the FWS, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, ranchers, and the conservation community. The management complexities involved in coordinating the actions of multiple participants in wildlife programs can compound an already difficult biological task (Harvey 1987). This is not to argue that participation should be limited to only a few. To the contrary, a multiplicity of participants provides an essential diversity of knowledge, skills, and perspectives as well as a useful system of checks and balances that contribute significantly to recovery. But to capture these needed interests and skills and meld them into productive, coordinated action requires a carefully constructed and managed program and an explicit and effective decision and policy process.

Each participating organization in a recovery program possesses a distinct perspective from which it sees the program, its operation, and other actors. Each organization may differ from the others in its sense of urgency about recovery of a species and in its thoughts about the best location and means for recovery. For example, conflict arose between participants in the ferret case over the question of when and where to initiate a captive breeding program.

Because perspectives vary so much, the participating organizations may have contradictory criteria by which each measures program success. For example, some agencies gauge success primarily by increases in a species' numbers, successful captive breeding, or gains in data collection leading to letter understanding of the species' ecological requirements. For others, the major criterion of success is the degree to which they can prevent public controversy or effectively control key aspects of the program. Disagreement over these criteria has led to conflicts in recovery programs, as technicians, scientists, managers, and administrators seek to impose their readings of the "facts" and their values on other participants (see Latour 1987).

2. Goal displacement: task goals versus control goals

All participants in endangered species programs genuinely seek species recovery. Despite this common goal, however, program participants often disagree about the means to achieve it, for a variety of reasons: professional disagreements; legal and procedural differences; differences of opinion on leadership and proper organizational roles; and direct incompatibility of the suggested actions with other goals held by their organization (or simply a preference for these other goals) (see Pressman and Wildavsky 1973). Participants may try administratively to redefine the recovery program to fit their own agencies' perspectives and priorities, which can be quite inflexible (Yaffee 1982).

In some cases, a very obvious conflict arises between the "task goal" (i.e. saving the species) and the "power/control goal" of some agencies (i.e. gaining and maintaining control of the recovery program). "Goal displacement" occurs when an agency becomes more focused on power/control goals than on substantive biological task goals. A program driven by power/control goals is likely to compromise the biological task goals when the two come into conflict, as they invariably will. If the organization relies on a bureaucratic top-down style of decision making, control and power goals tend to dominate, whereas if goals are set from the bottom up, by those individuals most directly in contact with the species, task goals tend to dominate (Daft 1983).

A conflict between task and control goals was evident over all the years of the Wyoming ferret recovery program. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department, which had been given lead agency status by the FWS, wanted to keep the ferrets within the state and carry out captive breeding only after the state had developed facilities to do so. Weinberg (1986: 65) wrote, "As [Wyoming] officials acknowledge, they never seriously considered allowing ferrets to leave the site [for captive breeding]. `We'd have no control over them.'" Analysis indicates that Wyoming's insistence on controlling the program created unproductive conflict and caused delays (Carr 1986; May 1986).

3. Organizational structures

One major cause of a program's failure to meet its goals is the use of inappropriate organizational structures (Hall 1987). Most recovery challenges go well beyond the boundaries of any single organization. Coalitions are formed which must integrate diverse structures, ideologies, and standard operating procedures to meet the common task goal. But agencies setting up a new recovery program rarely give explicit thought to how the recovery coalition should be structured. Programs are often set up along standard bureaucratic lines, not because such an arrangement has proven to be the most effective, but because no other structure is considered. This limits the set of ideas that seem plausible, and that are tried. In the first 15 months of the ferret recovery program, the recovery coalition's organizational structure evolved from a simple matrix to a traditional bureaucratic arrangement, where remained (See Figure 1).


Organizational structure has profound effects on task divisions, resource allocations, distribution of information, and controls, and hence on the overall effectiveness of the program. If task goals cannot be met or are stifled because of structural constraints, then the program will falter or fail. Bureaucratization is implicated as a root cause of implementation problems (War 1975). Those who implement recovery programs should give explicit consideration to other organizational structures, such as horizontally-coordinated task forces and project teams (Clark and Cragun 1994).

Program structure is both a detriment and an outcome of organizational power. A structure that concentrates decision-making authority and control in the hands of one agency makes it easy for that agency to reduce or eliminate the role of other organizations, and to control information for its own benefit. The lead agency in the ferret program used several widely recognized bureaucratic mechanisms (Salancik and Pfeifer 1977) to consolidate its power. For example, it filled positions of power in its "advisory" team with its own personnel (e.g., "chairman and secretary"). By restricting permits and limiting contact with the press, it also controlled data generation and public access to that data. The bureaucratic structure chosen by Wyoming helped to solidify its top-down control over decision making, allocation of resources, definition of participant roles, and the timing and location of recovery activities. Unfortunately, this structure also closed the decision-making process to significant available information and suggestions for solutions from both inside and outside participants, and reduced the program's ability to be creative and responsive (see Etheredge 1985).

4. Intelligence failures and delays

Intelligence failures and delays have been common problems in recovery programs, resulting in part from conflicts among participants, goal displacement, and use of inappropriate organizational structures. Quality decision making depends on intelligence (i.e. the use of information or the "acquisition, analysis, and appreciation of relevant data." (Betts 1978:61, emphasis in original)). Even when information is available to decision makers, a variety of factors may lead them to dismiss it as erroneous, inaccurate, or misleading. In the ferret program, agency officials at first discounted 1985 field data indicating that the ferret population was in a rapid decline. Officials took the most sanguine view of the situation, arguing that it was just a normal population fluctuation, that the field methods and data were in error, or that the ferrets had migrated elsewhere (Weinberg 1986; Randall 1986; Zimmennan 1986).

A root cause of intelligence failures, according to Betts (1978), is that decision and policy makers operate under policy premises that constrict perceptions and lead to "selective inattention" to facts and outfight "blindness" in some instances (Lasswell 1971; Schon 1983). These preconceptions can block learning, change, and adaptation (Etheredge 1985). Organizational arrangements that stifle legitimate dissenting views exacerbate intelligence failures.

In such a difficult and uncertain task as recovering species, where numerous participants are involved, disagreements over the best course of action are to be expected. When dealt with constructively, such disagreements and conflicts have been valuable to recovery programs by providing alternative ideas and solutions for the group to consider. But the need to reach agreement on these points of contention has often caused delays. In some cases a participant who was intensely opposed to a program, and who had adequate resources to block it, has held up recovery actions until major concessions were made.

There is evidence that this occurred in the ferret case. Because Wyoming initially had no captive breeding facility, resources to build one, or staff to man one, and because of their agency's strong opposition to sending ferrets to other facilities outside Wyoming, captive breeding could not move forward when first called for. Extensive bargaining over several years between Wyoming and other participants and the dramatic collapse of the wild population ensued before Wyoming initiated captive breeding in 1985 (Weinberg 1986; Randall 1986).

Not all delays are intentional. Some delays result from the time required to formulate and approve plans and funding requests or from competing demands on participants' time. Regardless of the source, program delays are often difficult to separate from program failures (Pressman and Wildavsky 1973). Does Wyoming's move to breed ferrets in captivity, which occurred a year or two later than recommended by field teams and conservationists (Weinberg 1986) and after the wild population had sharply declined, count as failure or as success? In view of the captive breeding program's results in 1988, some observers may reasonably argue, "better late than never." Although the outcome of the captive breeding program to-date gives cause for optimism, we should not assume that the program's delays were of no significance. If we can learn from past mistakes, we collectively can be more responsive to such crises in the future.


How can participants in recovery programs begin to deal with these implementation problems and others? To improve future performance in conserving species and the ecosystems on which they depend, appreciation of the actual complexity of the work to be done is required. This means developing a broad understanding of the interactive web of biological, organizational, and policy components involved. Such a "systems perspective" can be very different from the conventional views held by traditional biologists and bureaucrats, views which are rooted in single university disciplines and reinforced in certain agency cultures and loyalties (Brewer 1988).

Improvements in recovery programs are possible in three areas: policies, organizations, and individuals--in addition to the constant striving to improve technical biological work. The ideas presented below are a brief look at some analytical and problem solving techniques and approaches that could help to broaden participants' perspectives and improve their ability to adapt quickly to the demands of species recovery. We are aware that many recovery programs face extreme resource shortages, and that participants may view some of these suggestions as being too time consuming and expensive to be practicable. We argue that these ideas and techniques can help recovery programs anticipate and avoid common pitfalls that have hindered efficient and effective action in the past. Since we can give only the briefest introductions to these ideas and techniques, we urge readers to delve into the literature cited for more thorough explanations.

1. Improvements in the policy process

By policy, we mean the complex set of interactive decisions and actions by which societies and governments establish goals based on their values and establish the means to reach those goals (Ham and Hill 1987). It is essential in defining a recovery challenge to explore thoroughly its history, scientific and management context, and trends, and to identify all factors which may have a beating on the success of the program. Evidence suggests that some of these factors, particularly policy and organizational variables, are underappreciated or "invisible" to some participants. Organization and management structures, resource limitations, uncertainty, and jurisdictional and control issues are just a few of the variables which can fundamentally affect the decision and policy processes and ultimately the outcome of a recovery program. Many of these variables involve participants' values. The policy sciences offer analytical tools that can minimize the subjective distortions and simplifications that cause many implementation problems (Lasswell 1971). The policy sciences' problem-solving tools are specifically designed to address both technical and value-laden issues. Policy scientists look at how knowledge is used in the decision and policy processes, and simultaneously, at how well these processes are working. By contrast, technical experts tend to generate basic knowledge and pay little attention to complex decision processes.

One model that could be very useful for recovery programs is the "decision seminar," a technique designed to allow a group of specialists and decision makers to integrate their knowledge to solve complex problems (Lasswell 1960; Brewer 1975). A core group of 10 to 15 participants must be willing to commit the time needed to understand the problem (over months or years, if necessary), although the seminar is also open to outsiders. An explicit problem-solving orientation is used. The group maps the context of the problem and determines its vast trends, probable future outcomes, and options available to solve the problem. The process by which decisions are made is also explicitly and continuously considered. Participants' independent assessments of the problem are compared, common views are discussed, and discrepancies are considered. All relevant methods for analysis of the problem are used, and new methods are encouraged. When the group arrives at a decision, responsibilities for carrying it out are assigned. Documentation of participants' activities becomes the group's "institutional memory" (Brewer 1975). An interdisciplinary approach is essential. Many recovery programs incorporate some aspects of the decision seminar model. But, for the most part, they lack the explicit attention to multiple methods and the breadth of analysis that characterize decision seminars. Recovery programs, which fully adopt a decision seminar format, could be expected to improve both their openness to problem-solving techniques and their awareness of their own decision-making processes.

Another specific tool that has proven useful in species recovery programs is decision analysis which allows managers to integrate ecological theory, objective data, subjective judgments, and financial concerns in making decisions under conditions of uncertainty (Maguire 1986). Probabilistic models are developed relating the outcomes of alternative actions to random events in the environment, and probability values are assigned to each possible outcome of a decision. For example, the probability of extinction of a species can be estimated under current management conditions and then compared with extinction probabilities under different management scenarios. The probabilities and effects of random events such severe weather and disease, and the costs of different management actions can be explicitly considered. Parties that dispute the facts can see where they agree and disagree and suggest ways of assembling information to resolve disputes. Analysts have applied decision analysis to the critically endangered Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumarensis) and other species (Maguire et al. 1987; Maguire et al. 1988).

"Adaptive management" (Hollings 1978) is a third way of guiding recovery group actions. From this perspective, decision making should be treated explicitly as a process of making mistakes and correcting errors (Brewer 1988). Instead of seeking and relying on a single "best answer," managers should consider many plausible approaches and solutions, adapting to changes in the problem and its context. The key to adaptive management is to monitor the outcomes of decisions carefully so as to learn from each and to cut losses when solutions are not working. Since recovery programs almost always involve risk and uncertainty, managers should use contingency planning to anticipate the possibility of failure.

Through the decision seminar process, using decision analysis and adaptive management, an explicit understanding can be gained not only of the substantive problem but of the processes most useful for solving it. Some movement in this direction has occurred in the ferret program. The participation of the IUCN Captive Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) in the ferret recovery program since 1985 has improved the program's technical capabilities and broadened discussion of a range of ideas and problem-solving approaches. This has brought the program a little closer to the decision seminar model than it was before. Although the program still functions under several policy and organizational constraints dictated by Wyoming, CBSG's participation to-date has resulted in a more focused problem-solving orientation and has contributed greatly to the success of the captive breeding effort.

2. Organizational improvements

The second kind of improvements needed in recovery programs is organizational. Organizations are more than just a collection of individuals; they persist over time and have established norms, traditions, and activities above and beyond the individuals who direct and staff them. They are major determinants of the behavior of those individuals and major actors in policy implementation. The nature of endangered species recovery programs--complex, rapidly changing, and highly uncertain--requires organizational arrangements that fit these task properties. Highly bureaucratized organizations with rigid standard operating procedures probably lack the flexibility needed. Recovery program managers should question whether the program's organizational structure is hindering the recovery effort. Organizational development consultants could provide valuable expertise in matching recovery program structures to organizational tasks and environments.

An effective organization should process information well and learn rapidly from its own mistakes. Useful organizational models for endangered species recovery include task forces and project teams operating under adaptive management and decision seminar guidelines. (Task forces tackle temporary problems, and project teams address problems that need long-term, continuous coordination; Daft 1983). A recovery team should ideally be composed of professionals with formal training and experience, who are focused on completing the job successfully and willing to accept the uncertainty and risk inherent in endangered species challenges.

Certain characteristics are key to the effective functioning of recovery teams. As the recovery task and its larger context change, the team must be able to respond quickly and adaptively, using all available information. Communication practices, which facilitate high creativity, such as emotional supportiveness, brainstorming, and non-personally directed evaluation of ideas, are helpful. A willingness to examine any and all alternatives is essential. Teams must avoid "groupthink," in which disagreements and conflicting perspectives are muted in the interest of maintaining group cohesion (Janis 1972). A strong, mutually supportive atmosphere in which mistakes will not result in withdrawal of the group's support is important. Mistakes and failures should be viewed as occasions for learning and for improving the system.

Clark and Cragun (1994) provide a framework for analyzing organizational problems and for implementing change in species recovery programs. This 14-step procedure includes four major stages: problem identification, development of alternative strategies, development of an action plan, and implementation and evaluation of the action plan. It can guide participants in defining problems and objectives, identifying forces that could help or hinder movement toward objectives, analyzing strategies to overcome obstacles, outlining specific tasks to be accomplished, and evaluating the success of their efforts. It provides an explicit method for recovery programs to use in solving both technical and organizational problems.

3. Individual improvements

Improvements can also occur at the individual level. Many participants and observers believe the root cause of faltering programs is misguided or selfish individuals. This "human relations" view of organizations oversimplifies the many complex organization, management, and policy aspects introduced here (see Hall 1987; Ham and Hill 1987.) Individuals are molded and constrained by conventional experience and established policy prescriptions. Analysis is often less important than values and preconceptions as a basis for decision making, and agency structures and procedures. Nevertheless, individual performance in a recovery program is an important factor in the success of the program and it can, in many cases, be improved.

An admonishment often heard is that if only individuals would act with more professional integrity, a program could significantly be improved. But as Betts (1978:82) noted, "Integrity untinged by political sensitivity courts professional suicide." Betts suggests that individuals can try to improve programs by asking hard questions of their superiors, acting as socratic agnostics, nagging decision makers into awareness of the full range of uncertainty, and making authorities' calculations harder rather than easier. But most leaders will not appreciate these approaches by individual professionals (e.g., Craighead 1979; Homocker 1982; Clark 1986). Simply providing more reliable facts or new arguments to decision makers will not reverse their basic beliefs. Analysis is often less important than values and preconceptions as a basis for decision making (Betts 1978). Real solutions depend on the openness of decision makers and their understanding of the premises they use in accepting or rejecting intelligence. Individuals should continue trying to improve their programs, but they should do so with an understanding of the potential politic consequences of their efforts.

The sheer complexity of endangered species and ecosystem conservation tells us there is no single, straightforward, technocratic recipe for success. The essential challenge in species and ecosystem conservation, as in complex situations, has always been addressing unbounded problems successfully when our analytical resources are bounded (Ascher 1986). Real improvements will come about by refining the conceptual tools that enhance understanding of complex conservation problems and by developing practical tools that allow the problem to be dealt with realistically. A number of conceptual and practical tools already exist but go largely unused. Improvements will not come quickly, even with increased use of these tools. There are many barriers to learning and improvement (Etheredge 1985), but with so much at stake in every recovery program, we must learn to recognize and overcome those barriers. The full extent of these problems across all endangered species recovery programs is unknown. But we hope that this paper will stimulate further documentation, discussion, and analysis, and we are hopeful that improvements will ensue.


We would like to thank Thomas. M. Campbell III, Leonard Carlman, Archie Carr III, Denise Casey, Pamela Parker, Debra Patla, Chris Servheen, John Weaver, Michael B. Whitfield, Dusty Zaunbrecher, and three anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. We acknowledge that not all the reviewers endorse the content of this paper, but such is the nature of policy process in which we all work in trying to protect and restore endangered species.

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Reprinted from Endangered Species UPDATE: 1988, 5(10):35-42.
Tim W. Clark
Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 301
Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511, Northern Rockies Conservation
Cooperative, Box 2705, Jackson, WY 83001

Anne H. Harvey
Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, Box 2705, Jackson, WY 93001
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Clark, Tim W.; Harvey, Anne H.
Publication:Endangered Species Update
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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