Conservation triage or injurious neglect in endangered species recovery

Edited by James A. Estes, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, and approved February 11, 2016 (received for review December 23, 2015)
March 14, 2016
113 (13) 3563-3566

Significance

Although government funding available for species protection and recovery is one of the best predictors of successful recovery, government spending is both insufficient and highly disproportionate among groups of species. Here I demonstrate that expenditures for recovery in excess of the recommended recovery budget would not necessarily translate into better conservation outcomes. More importantly, elimination of the budget surplus for “costly yet futile” recovery plans can provide sufficient funding to offset funding deficits for more than 180 species. Using a return on investment analysis, I show that triage by budget compression provides better funding for a larger sample of species, and that a larger sample of adequately funded recovery plans should produce better outcomes even if by chance.

Abstract

Listing endangered and threatened species under the US Endangered Species Act is presumed to offer a defense against extinction and a solution to achieve recovery of imperiled populations, but only if effective conservation action ensues after listing occurs. The amount of government funding available for species protection and recovery is one of the best predictors of successful recovery; however, government spending is both insufficient and highly disproportionate among groups of species, and there is significant discrepancy between proposed and actualized budgets across species. In light of an increasing list of imperiled species requiring evaluation and protection, an explicit approach to allocating recovery funds is urgently needed. Here I provide a formal decision-theoretic approach focusing on return on investment as an objective and a transparent mechanism to achieve the desired recovery goals. I found that less than 25% of the $1.21 billion/year needed for implementing recovery plans for 1,125 species is actually allocated to recovery. Spending in excess of the recommended recovery budget does not necessarily translate into better conservation outcomes. Rather, elimination of only the budget surplus for “costly yet futile” recovery plans can provide sufficient funding to erase funding deficits for more than 180 species. Triage by budget compression provides better funding for a larger sample of species, and a larger sample of adequately funded recovery plans should produce better outcomes even if by chance. Sharpening our focus on deliberate decision making offers the potential to achieve desired outcomes in avoiding extinction for Endangered Species Act-listed species.

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Supporting Information

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 113 | No. 13
March 29, 2016
PubMed: 26976572

Classifications

Submission history

Published online: March 14, 2016
Published in issue: March 29, 2016

Keywords

  1. endangered species
  2. conservation triage
  3. conservation prioritization
  4. return on investment
  5. cost

Notes

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

Authors

Affiliations

Leah R. Gerber1 [email protected]
Center for Biodiversity Outcomes and School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287

Notes

Author contributions: L.R.G. designed research, performed research, contributed new reagents/analytic tools, analyzed data, and wrote the paper.

Competing Interests

The author declares no conflict of interest.

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    Conservation triage or injurious neglect in endangered species recovery
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 113
    • No. 13
    • pp. 3407-E1964

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