Ecosystem management involves the integration of ecological, economic, and social objectives.  Two important ecological objectives are the conservation of biological diversity and ecosystem integrity.  The development of specific conservation measures, through the ecosystem management planning process, should meet these ecological objectives while also allowing economic and social uses within the landscape.  The planning process helps define the ecological sustainability of the landscape, or the extent of goods and services that the landscape can supply in perpetuity while conserving biological diversity and ecosystem integrity.  The members of the Association have taken the lead in initiating this approach to management of lands and resources while coordinating their efforts with the appropriate local, state, and federal entities.

The Association has conducted an ecological assessment and is about to complete the initial ecosystem management planning process, developing appropriate conservation measures in support of a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances or CCAA.  Appropriate conservation measures will be identified in conjunction with each member in support of the Association's goals and will be included in each member's Certificate of Inclusion.  The Certificate of Inclusion, or CI, allows each member to participate in the CCAA.


Ecological Assessment
The ecological assessment involved acquiring or developing the best available data and state-of-the-art knowledge of the landscape.  The development and description of these data and information was coordinated by the Ecosystem Management Research Institute and occurred through an open process, protecting the privacy of landowner members where appropriate.  The Association led this process, using the best available experts and natural resource managers with knowledge pertinent to the landscape. 

The ecosystem assessment used a historical reference approach to address the ecological objectives. This approach attempts to identify the array of ecosystems in the landscape that occurred under historical disturbance regimes, and subsequently identify threshold levels for amounts of each ecosystem that must be represented and distributed within the landscape to meet the ecological objectives. The appropriate distributions and amounts of each ecosystem were checked using an assessment of the viability of selected species to assure that adequate threshold levels have been identified. This approach should provide the required habitat conditions for all native species within the landscape.  A downloadable copy of the Assessment can be found in the Library section.


Ecosystem Management Planning
The ecosystem management planning process has two major functions. First, it must develop a view on ecological sustainability, specifically, what are threshold levels of ecological conditions needed to conserve biological diversity and ecosystem integrity. Second, it must identify desired economic and social activities that are important components of human use of the landscape.

Identifying threshold levels for ecological sustainability requires both science and value decisions. Science strives to define a range of representation levels required to meet the ecological objectives as well as the possible range of socio-economic activity and productivity levels, while still providing for the ecological objectives. Important considerations include:

  • The amount of each ecosystem needed to meet the ecological objectives, at an acceptable level of risk;
  • The desired characteristics of each ecosystem in terms of its composition, structure and ecological function;
  • Recommended sizes and spacing for representative areas of each ecosystem that will meet the ecological objectives;
  • Recommendations for levels and distributions of land management activities;
  • Levels of resource use compatible with representative areas of each ecosystem; and
  • Other appropriate types of land use, and recommendations for their occurrence across the landscape.


Conservation Measures
The ecosystem management planning process identifies the desired conditions for the landscape in terms of amounts, sizes, and distribution of specific ecosystems, as well as conservation measures to meet specific species needs.  It identifies suitable areas within the landscape that could provide each of the desired conditions.  It also identifies appropriate types and levels of grazing, energy development and production, and other economic and social uses of the landscape compatible with meeting specific ecological objectives. It does not specify where individual conservation measures should take place. This is the responsibility of the landowners and the Association in cooperation with landscape management and wildlife professionals and other stakeholders.  Each will have different abilities and viewpoints to contribute to the planning process as overall amounts and distributions of the desired conservation measures are determined. 

It is expected that lands owned by different landowners or agencies may play different roles in the overall ecosystem management plan.  Where desired conservation measures are best located on private lands, private landowners or companies will recognize these needs.  In cases where these actions should occur on non-private lands, the Association will work with the appropriate agency and will encourage development of Candidate Conservation Agreements that are compatible with the Association's CCAA.  Incentive programs will be identified to make private land contributions to the ecological objectives feasible to the landowner or company.


Copyright 2003-2013 Thunder Basin Grasslands Prairie Ecosystem Association
Updated: 04/13/2013