Cost-effective and transparent spending promotes species recovery

October 18, 2018

Initiatives like the U.S. Endangered Species Act have successfully prevented the extinction of many species worldwide. However, due to a shortfall in funding, very few species have rebounded sufficiently to have their threatened or endangered status removed. According to a Policy Forum by Leah Gerber and colleagues, the total funding available for species recovery is less than what is needed to recover all listed species, necessitating a better strategy for allocating limited resources. While many nations have implemented legislation designed to identify and protect and restore threatened and endangered species, limited funding has made achieving these goals a challenge. As a result, federal agencies responsible for recovery programs are presented with difficult decisions: Should limited funding be used primarily to prevent imminent extinction - triage for the most critical cases - or should it be allocated to maximize overall species recovery in the long term, potentially abandoning species with little hope of recovery? Right now, Gerber et al. say, because the objectives for recovery programs at the national level are generally not explicitly outlined, decisions concerning recovery goals are often left to the implementing agencies. Complicating matters is the combination of diverse social, economic and environmental values of competing stakeholders, as well as consideration of many hundreds of federally protected species and conservation actions. This complex landscape often leads to decisions on how to allocate funding being approached in an ad hoc and implicit fashion. Gerber et al. propose a structured, logical and transparent approach to allocating limited resources to conservation and recovery efforts. Gerber et al.'s proposed framework improves the quality and transparency of these decisions by identifying which objectives are most important and how best to allocate funds to save the most species for a given budget. Transparent and cost-effective resource allocation can instill greater confidence in funding agencies and conservation partners in the impact and success of their spending, a process that, when implemented outside the U.S., has led to overall increases in investment, the authors say.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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