A Structured Decision Process for Revising the US Fish and Wildlife Service Policy on Double-crested Cormorant Management

The problem we addressed was how to design a national policy that provides for effective management of Double-crested Cormorant (DCCO) populations within the United States. Primary management objectives surrounding DCCOs are at times in conflict and include protecting DCCO populations as required under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act while resolving DCCO conflicts with impacts to private property, the aquaculture industry, and natural resources. Ultimately, the USFWS will decide on a national management strategy by 30 June 2014, at which time existing regulations expire. We developed a framework to characterize decisions at the national scale, with explicit consideration of the process by which such decisions are linked hierarchically to those made at other scales. We identified a list of fundamental objectives, the potential means for achieving each objective, and attributes with which to measure progress. The objectives represented a mixture of both biological and human dimension aspects as important considerations in DCCO management. Several alternative management actions were considered, representing a range of alternatives. We evaluated the final suite of alternatives in a consequences table (where each cell within this table represents the result from a predictive model) using a constructed scale for the objectives. We used the simple multi-attribute ranking technique for comparing predicted consequences across objectives on a universal scale to optimize the highest ranking alternative and conduct sensitivity analyses. We applied swing weighting, a ratio-based technique used to quantify the relative importance of each objective, to determine weights for the set of means objectives. These techniques will be used to inform the process of revising the DCCO National Environmental Policy Act documents and associated regulations.

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