which any conclusion or decision is supported by science. Because some of the decisions in question were made many years ago, the committee felt that it was important to ask whether they were supported by the existing science at the time they were made. For that purpose, the committee asked, in addition to the questions above, whether the decision makers had access to and made use of state-of-the-art knowledge at the time of the decision.
The population viability analysis (PVA) developed by the committee was constrained by the short study period. It did not include systematic sensitivity analyses and did not base stochastic processes and environmental variation on data from the Platte River region. A more thorough representation of environmental variation in the Platte River could be developed from regional records of climate, hydrology, disturbance events, and other stochastic environmental factors. Where records on the Platte River basin itself are not adequate, longer records on adjacent basins could be correlated with records on the Platte to develop a defensible assessment of environmental variation and stochastic processes. In addition, a sensitivity analysis could demonstrate the effects of wide ranges of environmental variation on the outcomes of PVAs. In its analysis, the committee did not consider methods and techniques that are under development by researchers such as the new SEDVEG model. SEDVEG is being developed, but is not yet completed or tested, by USBR to evaluate the interactions among hydrology, river hydraulics, sediment transport, and vegetation for application on the Platte River. The committee did not consider USGS’s in-progress evaluation of the models and data used by USFWS to set flow recommendations for whooping cranes. The committee did not consider any aspects of the Environmental Impact Statement that was being drafted by U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) agencies related to species recovery, because it was released after the committee finished its deliberations. The Central Platte River recovery implementation program proposed in the cooperative agreement by the Governance Committee also was not evaluated, because it was specifically excluded from the committee’s charge.
The committee’s experience with data, models, and explanations led us to the identification of three common threads throughout the issues related to threatened and endangered species. First, change across space and through time is pervasive in all natural and human systems in the central and lower Platte River. Change implies that unforeseen events may affect the survival or recovery of federally listed species. Land-use and water-use changes are likely in the central and lower Platte River region in response to market conditions, changing lifestyles, shifts in the local human population, and climate change; such changes will bring about pressures on wildlife populations that are different from those observed today. For example, riparian vegetation on the central Platte River has changed because of both natural and anthropogenic impacts. Regardless of its condition and