NCEAS Project 2179

Prospectus for an analysis of recovery plans and delisting

  • Dee Boersma
  • Peter Kareiva

Recovery plan review project synopsis and data

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Meeting23rd—26th January 1999Participant List  
Working Group13th—15th May 1999Participant List  
Working Group17th—19th September 1999Participant List  

Members Only Area


The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) are undertaking a national review of recovery plans for species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The purpose of the Act is to protect and restore populations of threatened and endangered plants and animals and ecosystems and habitats on which they depend. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) are responsible for the administration of the Act and for developing and implementing recovery efforts for listed species. Typically a recovery plan is written that outlines a number of actions that, when completed, are expected to enable the species to be delisted. About 500 final recovery plans have been written, of which 420 cover single species. In recent years increasing effort has been directed toward producing multi-species recovery plans. In total, 926 species are covered by existing plans.

The SCB and NCEAS, with the full cooperation of the Fish and Wildlife Service, has undertaken to review and characterize existing recovery plans. The project began in September 1998 with preparation of a draft detailed questionnaire that will be used as the primary tool for characterizing the plans. In mid-December FWS biologists, members of the regulated community, representatives of environmental NGOs, and people who will lead the seminars at which recovery plans will be evaluated, participated in a workshop in Washington, DC. Participants fine-tuned an extremely detailed questionnaire and established the procedures to govern the comprehensive review process that will take place this winter.

The goal of the review, which will be carried out by 19 graduate student seminars at 18 different universities, is: To compile a database and conduct exploratory analysis of the information in recovery plans in a manner that: facilitates communication among students, faculty and the FWS; contributes toward developing training programs and guidance to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of producing recovery plans based on sound science.

Each seminar will review about 10 recovery plans selected in a stratified random manner so that the roles and consequences of the following five factors can be assessed: (1) date the plan was prepared, (2) type of plan (single vs. multiple species), (3) how, when, and why recovery plans are revised, (4) evolutionary lineage; i.e., taxon of the focal species; and (5) life history of the species, in particular, whether it is narrow/endemic versus wide-ranging.

To complete the detailed questionnaire, students will need to answer hundreds of questions about each recovery plan. The sources of information they will use are the listing document, the recovery plan, FWS biannual reports to Congress and the resource person who the FWS will provide for each seminar group to help answer questions about its focal recovery plans. To keep seminars interactive and in touch with one another, a webpage and website is being set up. One person from each seminar will be designated to interact with the webczar, but all participants will be able to read what is happening, and students will be able to communicate easily with one another via an e-mail discussion list.

Each seminar class will start by reviewing one recovery plan previously scored by experts from the FWS. This initial exercise is intended to help standardize procedures and to assess the significance of potential individual and regional differences in ways of answering the questionnaire. When the review team completes its analysis of a recovery plan, the team leader will enter the data onto the website, which translates into 200+ plans nationally used in the analysis. These data will serve as the basis for a broad characterization and analysis of Recovery Plans that will be done at NCEAS in Santa Barbara, April 10-13, 1999. A draft paper based on the results of the analyses will serve as the basis for a workshop, attended by people from the academic community and FWS, to be held at NCEAS on May 13-16. The goal of the workshop is to produce a manuscript for publication in Conservation Biology that will synthesize the suggestions and recommendations for ways to improve recovery planning for species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Both activities at NCEAS will be led by Dee Boersma and Peter Kareiva.

The universities participating in the SCB-FWS recovery plan review are:

  • Arizona State University
  • Colorado State University
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University
  • Iowa State University
  • Notre Dame University
  • Texas A & M University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California, Davis (2 seminars)
  • University of California, Santa Barbara
  • University of Idaho
  • University of Maine
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Montana
  • University of Nevada
  • University of Washington
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Utah State University

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Presentations Boersma, Dee. 1999. Recovery plan review. Convention For Conservation Biology.
Journal Article Boersma, Dee; Kareiva, Peter; Fagan, William F.; Clark, James S.; Hoekstra, Jonathan. 2001. How good are endangered species recovery plans?. BioScience. Vol: 51. Pages 643-649.
Journal Article Boersma, Dee; DeWeerdt, S. 2001. Tapping the ivory tower: How academic-agency partnerships can advance conservation. Conservation Biology in Practice. Vol: 2. Pages 28-32.
Data Set Boersma, Dee; Kareiva, Peter; Fagan, William F.; Miller, Julie; Bradley, Jeff; Hoekstra, Jonathan; Regetz, Jim; Crouse, Debby; Orians, Gordon. 2004. The science of recovery plans database. (Online version)
Journal Article Brigham, Christy; Power, Alison G.; Hunter, Alison. 2002. Evaluating the internal consistency of recovery plans for federally endangered species. Ecological Applications. Vol: 12. Pages 648-654.
Journal Article Campbell, Steven P.; Clark, Alan; Crampton, L.; Guerry, Anne D.; Hatch, Leila; Hosseini, Parviez R.; Lawler, Joshua J.; O'Connor, Raymond J. 2002. An assessment of monitoring efforts in endangered species recovery plans. Ecological Applications. Vol: 12. Pages 674-681.
Journal Article Clark, Alan; Hoekstra, Jonathan; Boersma, Dee; Kareiva, Peter. 2002. Improving U.S. Endangered Species Act recovery plans: Key findings and recommendations of the SCB recovery plan project. Conservation Biology. Vol: 16(6). Pages 1510-1519.
Journal Article Clark, J. A.; Harvey, Erik. 2002. Assessing multi-species recovery plans under the Endangered Species Act. Ecological Applications. Vol: 12. Pages 655-662.
Journal Article Crouse, Debby; Mehrhoff, Loyal; Parkin, Mary; Elam, Diane R.; Chen, Linus Y. 2002. Endangered species recovery and the SCB study: A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service perspective. Ecological Applications. Vol: 12. Pages 719-723.
Journal Article Gerber, Leah R.; Perry, S. L.; DeMaster, D. 2000. Measuring success in conservation. American Scientist. Vol: 88. Pages 316-324.
Journal Article Gerber, Leah R.; Schultz, Cheryl B. 2001. Authorship and the use of biological information in Endangered Species Recovery Plans. Conservation Biology. Vol: 15. Pages 1308-1314.
Journal Article Gerber, Leah R.; Hatch, Leila. 2002. Are we recovering? An evaluation of recovery criteria under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Ecological Applications. Vol: 12(3). Pages 668-673.
Journal Article Harvey, Erik; Hoekstra, Jonathan; O'Connor, Raymond J.; Fagan, William F. 2002. Recovery plan revisions: Progress or due process?. Ecological Applications. Vol: 12. Pages 682-689.
Journal Article Hatch, Leila; Uriarte, Maria; Fink, Daniel; Aldrich-Wolfe, Laura; Depue, Richard A.; Webb, Colleen T.; Zamudio, Kelly; Power, Alison G. 2002. Jurisdiction over endangered species' habitat: The impacts of people and property on recovery planning. Ecological Applications. Vol: 12. Pages 690-700.
Journal Article Hoekstra, Jonathan; Clark, Alan; Fagan, William F.; Boersma, Dee. 2002. A comprehensive review of Endangered Species Act Recovery Plans. Ecological Applications. Vol: 12. Pages 630-640.
Journal Article Hoekstra, Jonathan; Fagan, William F.; Bradley, Jeff. 2002. A critical role for critical habitat in the recovery planning process? Not yet. Ecological Applications. Vol: 12. Pages 701-707.
Journal Article Kareiva, Peter. 2002. Applying ecological science to recovery planning. Ecological Applications. Vol: 12. Pages 629.
Journal Article Lawler, Joshua J.; Campbell, Steven P.; Guerry, Anne D.; Kolozsvary, Mary Beth; O'Connor, Raymond J.; Seward, Lindsay C.N. 2002. The scope and treatment of threats in endangered species recovery plans. Ecological Applications. Vol: 12. Pages 663-667.
Journal Article Lundquist, Carolyn; Diehl, Jennifer M.; Harvey, Erik; Botsford, Louis W. 2002. Factors affecting implementation of recovery plans. Ecological Applications. Vol: 12. Pages 713-718.
Journal Article Morris, William F.; Bloch, Philip; Hudgens, Brian; Moyle, Leonie C.; Stinchcombe, John R. 2002. Population Viability Analysis in endangered species recovery plans: Past use and future improvements. Ecological Applications. Vol: 12. Pages 708-712.
Journal Article Schultz, Cheryl B.; Gerber, Leah R. 2002. Are recovery plans improving with practice?. Ecological Applications. Vol: 12(3). Pages 641-647.