to the Data-collection Instrument and Key

The following is a master reference document containing all official clarifications and interpretations to the data-collection Instrument and Key. These clarifications were made to maintain consistent data-collection by the participating university groups.

Tan text identifies questions and concerns raised by project participants. Italicized white text identifies the "official response." General clarifications are presented first, followed by specific clarifications regarding individual questions in the Instrument. (Row and column identifiers correspond to specific questions in the Instrument.)

General clarifications

Counting tasks in multi-species plans: If a task is ONLY for another species in the plan (i.e., NOT for the species we are examining), do we omit it from the count of tasks in the plan? Since the FWS saw fit to divide the costs and tasks up by species, we figured it made sense to not count tasks for a different species, but we would appreciate a clarification.
YES. In multispecies plans, if a task is solely intended for a species other than the one under review, don't count it in your total. Likewise with costs.

Dealing with "general" categories: Should terms such as "general" and "basic" be considered to sum all the categories that are broken down in other appropriately described categories within a subsection? (e.g., Form 3, #89-99, subsection Habitat ["general" in 89]; Form 3, 114-118, subsection Genetics ["basic" in 114]).
If information presented in the plan "fits" into a more specific category, record the information there. The "general habitat" and "basic genetics" categories are meant to catch habitat and genetic information when specific partitioning or foci are not distinguished.

Naming 'other' factors: should we be retyping a title of the factor in the text box instead of other? Really applicable to Form 8, which has no box to enter a description of the 'other factor'.
NO. The data management processes for the instrument can't handle such entries. The best thing to do when you fill in data under an "other" category is to record a brief description of what the "other" category is in an accompanying text file. That way we have the pertinent details on file even though it can't be explicitly recorded in the instrument

Cost calculations: For calculating the cost of tasks: If one of the tasks has a ? for cost - what do we then put in the box? If there are multiple tasks, how do we incorporate "?" costs into the sum?
If the plan says "?" then you'd have to answer "-1". In cases where you are summing multiple tasks, you can sum the costs of those tasks for which values are estimated if you have good reason to expect the ? to contribute relatively little to the total. Better to be conservative, though.
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Specific clarifications (by rows then columns)

#17: Isn't this redundant with #13-16, since we're always supposed to review the latest revision?
This question is meant to identify whether you are completing the instrument for revision X or the original plan. Remember that you must fill out the instrument twice for revised plans: once for the latest revision and once for the original version.

#18: What constitutes a scheduled revision and how would we know if the revised plan is one?
The plan should be identified as such, e.g. it should say something like "this plan is a 5-year revision as prescribed by the original plan."

#20: Does "made modifications" count as "actively participated"? If not, how do we draw the line between "made comments", "made modifications" and "actively participated"?
"Making comments" is specifically excluded from our working definition of "actively participated" (see the KEY). Determining whether "making modifications" constitutes "active participation" will require some judgment on your part. If someone personally made modifications to the plan, then they would seem to be actively participating. However, if someone submits a comment that results in someone else making a modification, then I would not consider the commentor to have "actively participated".

#32: What constitutes a "species expert"? Is it someone who's published in a peer-reviewed arena, someone who's done a dissertation on the species, someone who's studied it in the field/greenhouse but hasn't published, etc.?
See the KEY!

#32: This question suggests that we should be concerned only with those authors that are "species experts". However, the "Clarification" accompanying the question implies that we should be counting individuals that were not authors but were cited in the drafting of the plan. Which is the correct interpretation?
The Clarification for #32 states that a "species expert" is a) someone explicitly identified as such in the recovery plan, or b) someone who is cited in the plan or listing document as an author of one or more publications about the species (exclusive of the recovery plan and listing document). DO NOT count someone as a species expert just because they helped draft the recovery plan. However, if they qualify as a species expert under definitions 1) or 2), AND they were consulted during plan development, then you should count them.

#33: The plans we have discussed so far include a list of reviewers at the end. One plan (Kokia) also had *'s by each person that submitted 'public comments'. Would the list of reviewers then count as an 'index of public comment'? In other words, how do we know if the list of reviewers actually submitted comments? Are you specifically looking for public comments included in the recovery plan?
We don't really care what was said in any public comments, just who submitted them. In the case of Kokia, the list of reviewers is just a list of who FWS sent plans to. Those individuals/groups identified with an asterisk submitted comments, so they're the one's that need to be tallied for #33. Some plans actually contain an index in which much of the counting has already been done for you.

#62, #79: We got responses from the USFWS web page. Is this an allowable information source in addition to the plan and the Federal Register, or is it off limits? (i.e., if the plan and FedReg doesn't have it, should we put "-1"?)
To maintain our information standards, DO NOT consult the USFWS web pages. If the recovery priorities and responsible regions are not identified in the plan or listing document, then code them as "-1". If this information is lacking for many plans, we will compile this data separately.

#67: Could we possibly replace predator with carnivore, which would exclude consumers of plants (included in the strict definition of "predator"), yet still encompass scavengers? This usage would be more consistent with the other terms in this list. In the constraints of the Instrument, we assume scavengers should be classified as predators. Additionally, we assume "herbivores" encompasses fungivores, nectarivores, etc.
Again, we won't be making any more revisions to the instrument. Scavengers seem to fit adequately under predators. Yes, for our purposes, herbivores include fungivores, nectarivores, etc.

#69, #70, #96-97(A-F), #137-138(G-K): Regarding range, should we infer habitat considerations, i.e., whether or not the range contains unusable habitat? Or is range in this context simply that portion of geography that encompasses all populations (including non-habitable landscapes)?
See the clarifications already made in the KEY. A definition of range based on the distribution of individuals is given there. Make sure you're consistent with that definition.

#69, #70 and #80: Are we allowed to estimate these from the maps provided, or is the plan supposed to spell these out?
DO glean this information from the maps provided. We used broad bins for the answer codes to facilitate such efforts.

#73: A point raised by a botanist: who's definitions of these ecotypes should we use?
We had hoped that the ecotypes were general enough to not require additional definition and description. If more info is needed, you should probably post specific issues. As a start, though, the categories were loosely based on The Nature Conservancy's system.

#73: There is still no desert ecotype.
Under the scheme used to define general ecotypes (modified from The Nature Conservancy's system), there is no explicit desert ecotype. Generally, desert ecotypes would be classified somewhere under either shrubland or dwarf-shrubland depending on the specific desert community. You'll have to judge where your particular beast best fits.

#73: Should we assume tropical dry forests are encompassed under the category "tropical deciduous forest"?
I would also place a tropical dry forest under "tropical deciduous forest" since they generally drop leaves during the dry season.

#73: Ecotype is not the appropriate terminology. An ecotype is: a genetically and phenotypically differentiated subpopulation that is restricted to a specific habitat (modified from Ricklefs 1990), i.e., prevented from interbreeding. We assume that 'community association' is the intended terminology for #73. Please clarify.
The (apparently-not-so)-obvious intent of #73 is to identify the general habitat type in which the species is found. It is certainly reasonable to think of it as "community association" given the definitional conflict with Ricklefs.

#75: We find a problem with the question about successional stage of principal habitat. The three categories that are given are insufficient and, hence, ecologically naive. This leads to individual interpretation, which in turn may lead to variability in the answers for this question. We understand that the problem of variability may be addressed in the short term by simply using the code -1 when a successional stage is not explicitly given in the plan. However, this does not solve the real problem. The use of the above short term solution may lead to the loss of important data if the plan references successional processes or related disturbance regimes that may be of critical importance to the plan, but do not fit into those three categories. We recommend abandoning the complex concept of succession , and substituting instead a description of the species itself. This approach may allow the inclusion of data that does not fit into one of the three successional stages given. We suggest the following:
  • a) Disturbance dependent
  • b) Disturbance tolerant
  • c) Disturbance averse
Alternatively, we suggest using the above three descriptions as working definitions for the successional language used in the plan.
Your suggested categorizations of species for #75 are interesting, but would require a revision to the instrument to include them. As announced last week, we can't/won't be doing such. To allay your concern that the current categorizations are insufficient/naive, I offer the following perspective: #75 (as with most questions on Form 2) is NOT intended to create a detailed description of the species' biology (i.e. we're not really trying to collect the detailed data that your seem afraid of losing). Rather, they are intended to be "binning" questions by which species in the various recovery plans can be grouped. By grouping together species found in early, mid, and late successional habitats, we can ascertain whether there are any meaningful differences in how their recovery plans were developed or constructed. Your suggestions would provide an equally, if not more, interesting binning scheme than that currently defined in #75, however, we just can't add any more questions to the instrument. That said, you should be able to determine whether a species' habitat is characteristic of the early, middle, or late stages of any successional dynamics. If you can't tell from the plan, answer "-1". If the habitat doesn't undergo successional changes, you could also answer "-2".

#82: Which FWS reports to Congress should we look at, where do we find these, and does this info have to be in the recovery plan or are we "allowed" to look at FWS/Congress web pages?
To my understanding, we are still trying to get the latest Congressional reports so that they can be sent to each group. Do NOT consult FWS/Congressional web pages at this time.

#89/130: What are "habitat affiliations?"
There's nothing deep here. Habitat affiliations are just what they sound like: affiliations of a species with particular habitats or parts thereof. For example, some plant might be found in association with light gaps in the canopy of oak-pine forest. Or, some bird might nest on small ledges on the sides of cliffs. That kind of information would fall under "general habitat affiliations".

#90/131: What exactly is "general habitat"?
"General habitat" is just general habitat stuff, as opposed to specific habitat stuff like breeding habitat or migration habitat.

#91-93/#132-134: None of these rows are applicable to plants, and some plans may not break the habitat down into these divisions. Can we just assume that if we're looking at a plant plan or a plan that doesn't break this down, to include all of this under "general habitat", and indeed, is this was "general habitat" is supposed to include?
YES. Since plants don't have feeding, breeding, and migration habitat, these categories are not applicable (i.e. "-2"). General habitat (#90/#131) encompasses any and all aspects of habitat so that's what you can/should think about for plants and other species for which specific habitats aren't broken down.

#99 (and all "Other" rows): Are we to make sure that all information in the plan is included in this form? It's more obvious when looking at tasks...should every task be "accounted for" (and that's why these other columns are here), or are these columns simply to give you a sense of how much info was not captured by this form. In terms of the "tasks" forms, it would help us if we could include a column where we recorded which task numbers are included in that row.
Regarding the rows for "other information": We are certainly trying to capture and characterize the full range of information used in recovery plans. Therefore, the "other" categories were included as "catch-all"s for any types of information presented in a recovery plan but not anticipated in the row categories. They're not meant to evaluate how comprehensive the form is.
Regarding the task number issue: Task numbers have no external meaning or analytical value, so we didn't include any mechanisms for recording them explicitly in the instrument.

#105: Can we assume that Column A is indicating something more substantial than just general background information? For example, what if background information about PVA models was included, but nothing was particular to this species?
Even if there is nothing particular to the species, you should recognize that the plan discussed this issue. The general nature of the information and how it was used in the recovery plan should emerge from the answers to subsequent questions in Forms 3 and 4.

#110: Does life history information "count" if it is from a closely related species? (e.g., the Kokio plan gives this info for a related species.)
You'll have to use some judgment here, but if the recovery plan treats the information as though it is relevant or useful for Kokia, then you should recognize it. If data for a related species is all they've got and if they use it in the Kokia plan, it seems to me that it should "count".

#114/155: Should we consider "basic genetics" to characterize examination and study of a whole genome for evidence of hybridization, the determination of reproduction strategy, and/or sex determination all at a descriptive level?
To be consistent with the intent of the "basic genetics" category, a better paraphrase would be that: "Examination and study of a whole genome for evidence of hybridization, the determination of reproduction strategy, and/or sex determination all at a descriptive level would be considered "basic genetics"."

#211-213, #272/274: These things can be tightly connected. For instance, many insects can be vectors for parasites or pathogens. Should we "double-count" these things (one task may address the insects, which would count for disease vector and pathogen)?
If the task addresses the insect, that seems most appropriately placed under "disease vector" while if the task addresses the fungus, that seems most appropriately placed under "pathogen". However, you'll need to use judgment to know where the emphasis is placed. It is certainly OK to record information under both categories if a task is relevant to both.

#221/283: Can we have a herbivory category? Herbivory doesn't really fit into "competition", "predation" (which we take to mean eating seeds or entire individuals), or "parasitism."
No. We won't be adding any more categories into the instrument, so you'll have to put herbivory under "Other". In addition, though, you should note that you're talking about herbivory in an accompanying text file. That way, if there are lots of cases of herbivory, we can extract the appropriate records later in the analysis stage.

#294-304: Don't these ranking options exclude some very important information, while at the same time introducing a bias into the instrument? We believe that these problems would be solved by ranking each of the categories according to their potential impact, without consideration for their relative importance when compared to the other categories. A ranking of 0-2, where 0=not a threat; 1=minor threat; 2=major threat. We could also propose a simple yes/no response, however this may not give as much resolution as the other solution.
The purpose of #294-304 is to identify, and to the extent possible, rank, the three general types of threats that the recovery plan considers to be most important. Your proposal to eliminate the relative ranking defeats the purpose of these questions. Additionally, the alternative data you propose to collect is already collected in the main matrix (see column P). I'm not sure what bias will be introduced, since the rankings recorded must be based on the recovery plan, not the reviewer's opinions. If plans have biases, then the data should reflect it.

#340: Does any funding by the state constitute "State management programs"? Or is this category meant for specific programs which would theoretically be described in the plan and identified as such?
The category is intended to get at specific programs administered by States. If a State is spending some money or involved in one or more tasks, you should not assume that to be a State program. A program should be identified as such in the recovery plan.

#347, #348: If the number of individuals is assessed, won't presence/absence will automatically be determined even if the plan does not call for it? Should we consider presence/absence a "1" or a "0" in this situation?
DO NOT INFER STUFF. While presence/absence may logically be derived from counting data, you are to record the information presented in the plan. If the plan talks about counting individuals, but not assessing presence/absence, then the latter gets a "0" (=No).

#374-376: How should we define 'public'? Does this include all non-agency folk (including private landowners) or a more general public that are people not directly involved with management of the species and have no financial interest in the species?
By "public" we mean anybody and everybody outside FWS. It doesn't matter if they have any particular interest in the species or not. It could include affected landowners, concerned citizens, or anyone.

#384-394: When multiple agencies of the SAME CATEGORY are responsible for a single task, should one be added to this category regardless of how many agencies are involved (e.g., two or more "other federal agencies" assigned one task)? We think it is clear that only one should be added to the tally of any category for any single task. Since it came up in discussion, we wanted to make sure that others arrived at the same conclusion.

#395: Does "recovery" in this context refer to downlisting or delisting if both criteria are mentioned in the plan?
If the plan identifies times for both downlisting and delisting, record the time to delisting.

#399: We are only aware of reports from '89-'95 which report money spent in those individual fiscal years. Therefore, we cannot report total money spent to date. We can only report total money spent on the species during those years. Is this what you want?
The responses to this question will have to based on the information available to us (i.e. the available reports). FWS is still working to compile all of the fiscal reports that have been made, as well as the biennial status reports. They'll hopefully be forthcoming.

Columns B-E (Form 3): Do we have to have a primary and secondary type and source of info, and how are we to judge which is primary and which secondary?
In addressing columns B/C and D/E, it is less important that you discriminate primary from secondary, and more important that you identify the two principal sources or types of information. (In other words, don't worry if you are unsure how to order the two answers in each case.)

Columns D/E, V/W, MMM/NNN: We assumed "privately published" material was gray literature, but what about books that are privately published?
Books are books!

Columns F, G, OO: In general, when a task calls for "more research", is that a "call for more information" only or does that also include "monitoring"? Should we be picky and require the task to specify "monitor"?
In the context of Forms 3 and 4, a "call for more information" should have a data collection component that is relevant to a particular category. This does not have to be mutually exclusive of monitoring, but you cannot simply infer that all monitoring tasks constitute "calls for more information". Likewise, don't infer that all "calls for more information" are also monitoring tasks. Your judgment on this issue must be based clearly and solely on what the plan states and discusses.

Column J: What are we supposed to put if there's a mix of completion among the tasks (i.e. of 5 tasks, 2 have been completed and three are ongoing).
In answering this question, choose the answer that reflects the furthest along that any of the tasks are. In your example, that would be "completed" since some of the tasks are done. We want to identify the extent of progress in completing recovery tasks. We can't do this task by task, so this is the best we can do.

Columns L-Q: Should potential threats (i.e. threats that have been explicitly indicated in the plan as having an effect on the species or habitat of concern IF the threat presents itself in the future) be included in column L and M? Our class has decided to include them and substantiate their inclusion with responses in columns N and Q. (Although in column Q, "3 = Anticipated" still is not completely correct for this case.)
YES. Your interpretations are exactly consistent with the intent of the instrument.

Columns TT, UU, SSS, TTT: Can we suggest that the terms "very clear" connote "stated in the plan"; "somewhat clear" connote "implied in the plan"; and "unclear" connote "not in the plan"?
The categories are meant to present a coarse range of options for describing the logic and justification for relationships between biological information and some aspect of the recovery plan's decision making process. "Not in the plan" would certainly fall under "unclear." Discriminating among the other two options may be facilitated by consideration of your suggestion (i.e. they're good starting points).

Column EEE: Does "census" indicate a COMPLETE population count, as distinguished from a sampling estimate?
YES. Sampling estimates would fall under either the "single estimate" or multiple estimates" options.
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Last updated: April 2, 2001.