Rural System's

Modern Wild Faunal Resource System Management
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Adaptive Management

In the mid-1970's, but more boldly in the mid-1990's, a phrase adaptive management became popular. It symbolized a complex working idea related to natural resource management. The idea is still discussed (and even debated) but in the context of present understand and use within this course material and elsewhere within the systems being discussed and presented, we hold that adaptive management is primarily an emphasis on the feedback component of general systems theory. As such, and with useful emphases, it has the characteristics of: There is a sense that it is may be better to manage land units (forests, ecosystems, etc.) using localized, idiosyncratic, and particular approaches rather than uniform, institutionalized standards and guides in order to make practices fit the needs of local conditions. There is growing awareness that after a century of "scientific forestry" and similar activity, an alternative is needed, one that deals with unique places and events, extreme and diverse values, multiple outcomes, and often unexpected results of actions.

Wildland and rural area management problems are always large and complex. They are called by some wicked problems. They are not readily solved or even approached well by classical science that usually insists on tight controls and reducing variables. They are rarely answered by addressing parts of systems or problems. Many points of view are needed and analyses based upon several of those points of view need to be displayed.

Different knowledge and beliefs shape some views and to the extent that a document can present the best current knowledge about a wildland, some debates and misunderstandings may be centered elsewhere than on the apparent conflict. Nevertheless, beliefs and values are strongly held, are valid, and need to be addressed. Several alternative values are usually displayed within reports showing the options from which a selection was made (or may be made).

Adaptive management has been tried and has flaws, but they can be overcome. We respond to the flaws noted throughout the system, in particular by working to achieve:

  1. Creating sound study designs
  2. Clarifying measured objectives
  3. Monitoring adequately
  4. Connecting results of past studies as well as monitoring to (a) model improvement and (b) corrective action to achieve the objectives
  5. Developing long-term funded efforts
  6. Assuring adequate funding (or not starting into "adaptive management")
  7. Assuring adequate risk-taking levels to allow provisions for test actions
  8. Being willing to be suboptimal in some work to achieve information for improving the system over a longer planning period
  9. Being willing to be financially competitive (to tackle "threats to existing interests" when appropriate)
  10. Stepping outside of a classical scientific paradigm into a rationally robust paradigm.

Decisions are potential learning experiences.
Because of the act-then-observe and adjust nature of this policy, there must be excellent records for existing conditions so that legitimate conclusions can be made about the nature of the changes that did occur and those that were hypothesized. This may be the fatal flaw in the concept for there are few long range studeies, few secure document sources, files are purged thoughtlessly, and staff turnover rates are excessive. Without a clear history both of the area and the hypothesized change, then adpative may be questioned "as compared to what?" We have to be sure or this is another group of journal articles ... little more.

Adaptive management as a part of comprehensive sophisticated wildland management, when seen as intensive feedback, can have profound effects on wildlands. We recommend such a point of view, but recognize with Stankey and Shindler that it is at odds with the stronger view of present programs with their well-developed reward systems for managers. These systems themselves will eventually be adapted towards whether measured production matches well with that which is desired.

Adaptive management is feedback which can be applied at different levels of intensity. We do not see it as being appropriate for only some types of problems, but active throughout all systems.

Critical to management action is gaining local knowledge and values. In few places do people realize that there must be a responsible decision maker to integrate or simply to decide to use such information. When a person is given the authority and responsibility of decisions, then that person needs to be able to decide and assume the risks of such decisions. Conflicting opinions are common, but decisions do have to be made and some one or some group must be held, will be held, responsible and rewarded or sued. Opinions without willingness to take the responsibility for them are valueless. As we engage experts, consultants, local people and advisors of all types, we are continually evaluating the levels of their beliefs and their willingness to take praise but also the responsibility for any negative consequences of using their thoughts or knowledge. Responsibility for an input in which we believe, has been omitted from discussions about public participation in resource decisions. We intent to make it prominent again.

Decisions are potential learning experiences.


Halbert. C. 1993. How adaptive is adaptive management? implementing adaptive management in Washington State and British Columbia. Reviews in Fisheries Science 1:26l-283.

Hariman.G. and C. Schrivener. 1990. Impacts of forestry practices on a coastal slream ecosystem. Camation Creek. Brilish Columbia. Canadian Bulletin of Fisheries and Aqualic Sciences 223:1-148.

Holling, C. S. editor. 1978. Adaptive environmental assessment and management. John Wiley and Sons. New York. New York. USA.

Lee. K. 1994. Compass and gyroscope: integrating science and politics for the envirnnment. Island Press. Washington. DC, USA.

Walters. C. J. 1986. Adaptive management of renewable resources. Macmillan Publishing Company. New York. New York. USA.

Walters. C. J. 1991. Dynamic models and large scale field experiments in environmental impact assessment and management. Australian Journal of Ecology IX: 53-61.

Walters. C.J. and R. Hilborn. 1976. Adaptive control of fishing systems. Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada 33:145-159.

Walters. C.J., J.S. Collie, and T. Webb. 1988. Experimental designs for estimating transient responses to management disturbances. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 45:530-538.

Walters. C.J.. L Gunderson, and C.S. Holling. 1992. Experimental policies for water management in the Everglades. Ecological Applications 2:189-202.

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