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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Habitat Needs Assessment

Background to approach


Framework For Considering Desired Future Conditions

The three bases for describing significance of environmental resources in Corps planning processes are defined below (Apogee 1997):


Much of the significance protocol developed in the Corps to date has merely focused on identifying significance of resources as a whole. The significance of the UMRS as a whole is obvious, so more will be needed for this effort. The HNA must, to the extent possible, identify the relative significance of resources within the UMRS in a way that contributes to developing the "desired future conditions" for the UMRS.

Approaches For Describing Public And Institutional Significance For The EMP HNA

A number of approaches could be taken for the EMP HNA depending on budget and priorities. Some possibilities are presented below.

Using Existing Data

Task: Collect and organize existing data regarding public and institutional significance for the UMRS. Identify all relevant organizations and their mission statements, position papers, etc. which identify priorities for the UMRS. Synthesize the information collected and present conclusions.

Institutional Significance: Agencies and Laws

Public Significance: Groups and the general public

Collecting New Data:

Several approaches exist for collecting data, each having different purposes, techniques, and outcomes:

 Institutional Analysis - In addition to gathering existing information, we could interview or otherwise query institutional representatives to get more specific and more consistent information regarding the institutional identification and prioritization of significant resources in the basin. A variant to this approach is known as the "Key informant interview" where topical experts are interviewed, and they provide additional contacts (snowball sampling) until no new names emerge.

Group process - public meetings: Public meetings vary in their design, effectiveness and usefulness but can be an important component of ecosystem management. Extensive series of meetings in the Everglades employing large group techniques (2,000 participants) asked basic questions to identify public preferences and help shape desired future conditions: What are the significant resources? What problems and opportunities are associated with these resoureces? How do we identify success? Planners felt they got "lots of good ideas" that contributed to the overall planning goals.

Focus groups - could be used to ask similar questions as group process, above. Advantage is that researchers can target the types of interest groups represented, so small groups that might be overlooked in large group or survey approaches can be independently analyzed.

Survey instruments - Questionnaires provide quantitative information, but I have serious reservations about their applicability to the EMP HNA. This relates both instrument design and validity (that is, how well could we measure what we are trying to get; would the level of specificity or scale be useful, etc.) as well as to cost. I have spoken with survey experts in the Corps Districts, labs, and DNR's who are all cautious or skeptical about the appropriateness of a survey approach for the HNA. However, good examples may exist (Texas - see Dan Wilcox) so this approach warrants further consideration as well.

Next Steps:

We need the ideas and brainstorms of more experts who have done work in these areas (ecosystem management, desired future conditions) before we can make a decision to draft a scope of work for the public and institutions.


Apogee Research Inc. 1997. "Resource Significance Protocol for Environmental Project Planning," IWR Report 97-R-4, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resource Center, Alexandria, VA.

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