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A Biological Survey for the Nation 5 IMPLEMENTATION The purpose and objectives of the National Biological Survey and the National Partnership for Biological Survey are broad and ambitious. They will not be reached quickly or easily. The Department of the Interior already has acknowledged that the internal reorganization leading to the establishment of the NBS on October 1, 1993, is only the first step toward a fully functional NBS. The committee strongly believes that specific implementation steps for both the NBS and the National Partnership should be phased in over a multiyear period according to a well-planned strategy. Otherwise, it is likely that too many tasks will be initiated at once with insufficient personnel and budgetary resources, that programs will be started before clear goals have been established, and that the results will therefore fall short of the high expectations for providing the effective and credible scientific information needed by decision-makers. A set of clear priorities for implementation should be established that emphasize prudent and tested actions and provide some early results. That
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A Biological Survey for the Nation course of action will help both the NBS and the NPBS to produce quickly the kinds of results that are essential if they are to show their value to the nation. Most of the recommendations in this chapter apply specifically to the NBS. However, other members of the Partnership will need to be strongly involved in various aspects of the fulfillment of the research and information needs described in previous chapters, including many of those for which specific recommendations are made here for the NBS. STRATEGIC IMPLEMENTATION PLAN Recommendation 5-1: Development of the National Partnership and National Biological Survey should be guided by a single Strategic Implementation Plan developed under the leadership of the Department of the Interior with the full participation of NPBS partners. The plan should provide for a phased approach, including specific milestones and priorities for implementation, in recognition that the effort will be subject to both budget and personnel constraints. It should identify specific near-term (immediately to within one year), intermediate (within 3 years), and longer-term (within 5 years) priorities regarding personnel and administrative management, research, inventory, and data management. DOI should take the lead in development of the implementation plan, because many of the steps will focus on the NBS. The plan should encompass the entire scope of the Partnership and should be developed in conjunction with other participants, through the proposed coordination mechanisms. The process for development and coordination of the implementation plan should be used as an opportunity to build a consensus among all the participants in the NPBS and to establish priorities. The plan should identify specific near-term actions that will provide early results. It should also include mechanisms to ensure accountability among the many participants in the Partnership.
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A Biological Survey for the Nation Finally, it should incorporate a process for continuing assessment of the work of the NPBS. The proposed coordination mechanisms should be used to ensure accountability and assess the progress of implementation of the Partnership. The initial draft of the implementation plan should be developed and released quickly for public comment, at least in outline form, if possible within 90 days after the establishment of a coordination mechanism. The plan should be updated annually for at least the next 2 years. IMPLEMENTATION PRIORITIES IN PERSONNEL AND ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGEMENT Near-Term Priorities Recommendation 5-2: The following issues should be addressed as rapidly as possible so that the NBS can begin substantive work in the last quarter of calendar 1993: appointment of key leaders, establishment of coordination mechanisms, phased personnel transfers, and development of an FY 1995 budget initiative for DOI, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other agencies involved in the Partnership. Provided below are more details related to this recommendation: Personnel appointments. The Secretary of the Interior should appoint three key leaders for the NBS: the director, the chief scientist, and an assistant director for data management. Until they are in place, effective direction and planning of the NBS cannot begin. Coordination mechanisms. Appropriate steps should be taken to implement mechanisms for coordination within the National Partnership, described in Chapter 4. Phased personnel transfers. The proposed transfers of peo-
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A Biological Survey for the Nation ple to NBS programs from the existing bureaus of DOI should be phased in over time and not implemented all at once as DOI currently plans. The committee is concerned that the transfers might leave the other bureaus, such as the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, without adequate scientific capabilities for them to carry out their management responsibilities. Phased transfers would result in a more orderly process and would provide a better opportunity to assess their impacts on the management agencies. It appears likely that Congress will appropriate funding to the NBS for full transfers of personnel effective at the start of FY 1994. However, the committee believes that the phased transfer process referred to above can be implemented consistently with such an appropriation. The bulk of the transfers would take place immediately. The cost of personnel not transferred to the NBS in the initial phase could be reimbursed through the NBS appropriations. Alternatively, revisions to the current plans for personnel transfer could be incorporated into a budget reprogramming. FY 1995 budget request. DOI, NSF, and other appropriate agencies should develop initiatives for their FY 1995 budgets to obtain additional funding needed to carry out recommendations in this report. The committee recommends that the NBS FY 1995 budget be increased by about the same percentage as in the DOI budget request for FY 1994. We further recommend that NSF research programs related to the work of the National Partnership, as described in Chapter 4, be assigned a high priority for a budget increase, and that relevant programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Forest Service, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Environmental Protection Agency also receive funding increases. The committee also recommends funding of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act to provide increased resources for state wildlife programs concerned with native wildlife that are not consumptively used (i.e., nongame programs). As discussed in Chapter 4, the committee believes that these near-term budget increases are necessary if the National Partnership is to be launched successfully.
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A Biological Survey for the Nation Intermediate-Term Priorities Recommendation 5-3: During the first 3 years, broadening the mix of scientific disciplines in the NBS and developing a multiyear authorization should have high priority. Broadening the mix of scientific disciplines in the NBS. In view of the broad scientific needs of the NBS, the expertise of DOI scientists that are expected to make up the initial staff is inadequate. All possible sources of scientific expertise available in institutions, organizations, and government agencies should be drawn to provide information. At the same time, every effort should be made to enhance the capabilities of the NBS by increasing the numbers and proportions of scientists with expertise pertinent to the overall objectives of the NBS, rather than merely attempting to build expertise by reassigning personnel. Key subjects of expertise include taxonomy and systematics, ecology, botany, population biology, invertebrate zoology, social sciences, statistical design and analysis, and information sciences. In addition, it is vital that each survey research unit have full capability in geographical information system (GIS) technology. Such competence is not available throughout the proposed network of NBS facilities. Multiyear authorization: The federal agencies involved in the National Partnership should develop a multiyear strategy and budget for federal NPBS programs as a means to ensure their effective coordination. In addition to the National Biological Survey, other involved agencies should seek multiyear legislative authorizations for their NPBS programs beginning in FY 1996. A multiyear authorization would be an important expression of legislative and executive support for the National Partnership and could help to provide a measure of funding stability and program continuity, although the programs would still be subject to the standard appropriations process.
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A Biological Survey for the Nation Long-Term Priorities Recommendation 5-4: Within 5 years, the NBS should develop a strong capability in ecological analysis. Over the longer term, the NBS should continue to add scientists who are able to fill major gaps in biological knowledge, who have skills in the analysis of ecological systems at all levels, and who are familiar with the geographic locations in greatest need of evaluation vis-a-vis degree of conflict with human activities. Evaluating existing and probable future human activities—whether metropolitan growth, sustainable land use, or nonrenewable extraction—is crucial to making a determination as to the potential ecological impact of such activities. IMPLEMENTATION PRIORITIES IN RESEARCH AND INVENTORY PROGRAMS The broad scope of the National Partnership requires an unprecedented research and inventory effort to understand the nation's biological resources. The overall objectives of NPBS systematic and ecological research and inventory programs are to create a strong information base about the nation's biological resources and to analyze the status and trends of those resources. To achieve these objectives, major short-term program-planning decisions regarding research and inventory activities must be made. Near-Term Priorities Recommendation 5-5: During its first year, the NBS should give high priority to assessing existing national biological
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A Biological Survey for the Nation databases and identifying priorities for additional information, assessing collections, establishing a register of taxonomic specialists and identifying gaps, developing a national research plan, and initiating regional collaborative pilot projects. These research priorities are described further below: Assessment of the existing national biological databases and identification of priorities for additional information. Initiation of a major effort to assess the whereabouts, availability, and quality of existing data and expertise and development of a plan to fill key gaps. Assessment of collections. Initiation of a national assessment to identify collection-holding institutions and the extent of their coverage. On the basis of the assessment, a national strategy should be developed for new survey and inventory work to fill gaps and for curation and maintenance of the collections and their associated data. Register of taxonomic specialists. Establishment of a national register of taxonomic specialists, identification of which high-priority groups lack specialists, and institution of training or retraining programs to fill the gaps in expertise. Research plan. Convening workshops of specialists to determine which taxonomic groups and ecosystems meet criteria for intermediate-term, near-term, or long-term attention; establishment of a national plan for corresponding research; and evaluation of taxonomic groups, communities, and ecosystems according to criteria recommended in Chapter 2 with establishment of priorities and identification of responsible parties. Research plans will be needed by both the NBS (for DOI's needs) and the NPBS (for overall national needs). Regional collaborative pilot projects. Planning and initiation of pilot projects (Recommendation 2-13) to study species biology, community processes, and ecological interactions to determine which taxa, ecosystems, and geographical areas warrant highest
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A Biological Survey for the Nation priority and use of the results to design larger-scale and long-term studies. As with the research plans, these actions need to be taken by both the NPS and other NPBS participants. Intermediate-Term Priorities Recommendation 5-6: By its third year, the NBS should establish or expand its research programs in environmental indicators and inventories of areas rich in biological diversity, of unique ecosystems, and of potential candidate areas for restoration, and it should develop a series of manuals, monographs, and atlases and a system of ecological classifications based on attributes. Environmental indicators. Expansion and intensification of research to identify the most useful indicators of environmental trends. Inventories of areas rich in biodiversity. Initiation of activities for a substantial number of biogeographic areas or habitats that have high species richness or assemblages of unique species. Such areas might include California, Hawaii, and Florida. These inventories would provide resource managers and policy-makers a much better base of information to guide future decisions on multiple-use management. Inventories of unique ecosystems. Thorough inventory of a small number of communities and ecosystems that are unusually threatened so that conservation plans can be developed before the situation is critical. Inventories to guide restoration. Inventory of a subset of the nation's ecosystems (e.g., rivers) for the purpose of identifying ecosystems where restoration efforts are likely to provide the greatest benefit for a moderate cost.
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A Biological Survey for the Nation Information services. Preparation of a series of manuals, monographs, atlases, and field guides for the taxa and ecological units studied in both print and electronic format. Ecosystem classifications. Definition of core ecosystem attributes and development of functional ecosystem classification schemes. Long-Term Priorities Recommendation 5-7: By its fifth year, the NBS should broaden its scientific priorities to include research efforts in restoration biology and expanded inventories, should develop models to predict the status and trends of ecological systems, and should work to fill remaining gaps. Restoration biology. An expanded program of research in restoration biology. Expanded inventories. Gradual expansion of the inventory of the nation's biodiversity to less well-known groups. Development of predictive models. Broadening programs to ascertain the power of data to predict the status and trends of ecosystems and species so as to anticipate species declines and community perturbations resulting from human activities. In addition, modeling efforts should seek to develop methods for applying the knowledge gained from model systems to a broad range of habitats. The completion of DOI's terrestrial Gap Analysis Program and the initiation of aquatic gap analysis are important steps in the development of such models. Filling gaps. Broadening of research programs to initiate research on neglected species, populations, communities, and ecosystems that are judged to be of special importance for scientific, economic, recreational, or cultural reasons.
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A Biological Survey for the Nation IMPLEMENTATION PRIORITIES IN DATA MANAGEMENT At a 1985 symposium on the need for a national biological survey (Kim and Knutson, 1986), those in attendance agreed that massive computerized data collection was essential. Computerized databases on the nation's ecosystems and biota are vital components of the NPBS. A program that did not involve an extensive, easy-to-use, computerized data network would be unable to accomplish its goals. Near-Term Priorities Recommendation 5-8: During its first year, the National Partnership, under the lead of the NBS, should develop a strategic plan for information management, and the NBS should establish a data-management office headed by a senior official. Plan for information management. Development of a strategic plan for information management should be developed as part of the overall NPBS implementation plan. The plan should identify the user groups to be served, the functions to be provided, and the kinds of products needed to meet user needs. The plan should also document and evaluate relevant activities and information resources that are pertinent to the NPBS. DOI should take the lead in this effort, with the initial focus of information management being within the NBS. However, the plan should encompass all data-management activities of the Partnership, and all its participants should be involved. Oversight and assessment of the implementation of the strategic plan should be performed through the proposed coordination mechanisms. Data-management organization. Establishment of a separate data-management office at the NBS headed by a senior-level official (assistant director or higher). The office should be
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A Biological Survey for the Nation provided with personnel and equipment dedicated to distributing regional and national NBS data sets and supporting NBS activities. Intermediate-Term Priorities Recommendation 5-9: By its third year, the National Partnership, under the leadership of NBS, should establish the foundations of a networked, distributed, National Biotic Resource Information System. Because the essential data on biological resources are maintained in a variety of private, local, state, and federal sources, the development of a national network of distributed databases is a critical objective. The NBS should take the lead in developing a national data network by Establishing a moderate-sized data management facility, the primary mission of which is to manage NBST data, but which will also include a directory service to help NPBS users locate and/or access information available through the national network. Identification of appropriate linkages with other database sources. Coordination of a series of workshops involving potential contributors and cooperators in the network to coordinate and standardize collection and management of data. Major expansion of online access to biological-resource data and expediting of creative use of Internet, user interfaces, and graphical communication. Support of existing private, local, and state efforts to develop regional and statewide databases. Detailed study of several model systems as pilot projects to evaluate approaches to data collection, interpretation, and application. Active cooperation with federal interagency initiatives to coordinate and manage data on biological resources.
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A Biological Survey for the Nation Moderate expansion of the database facility and staffing to handle the increased activities. Substantial increase in the NBS capabilities for publication and electronic communication. The data management facility should focus on archiving and distributing data sets and meeting the goals of DOI's proposed National Biological Status and Trends program. Long-Term Priorities Recommendation 5-10: By its fifth year, NPBS should develop programs to deploy new information technology, expand its publication capabilities, and evaluate its data-management programs. Deployment of new information technology. Implementation of a continuing program to use newly discovered and enhanced information technologies in data collection, management, and dissemination. Expansion of publication capability. Increased online access to information and publication of related data sets, atlases, and summaries. Program evaluation. NBS leadership in developing the capability to evaluate the success of completed and continuing studies and to design new ones. Overall evaluation and assessment of data-management activities should be accomplished through the proposed mechanisms for coordination. SUMMARY This chapter has discussed the steps needed to implement the actions in this report. The first key step is the development of a single strategic implementation plan that would guide the develop-
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A Biological Survey for the Nation ment of the National Partnership for Biological Survey and National Biological Survey. This plan should be developed under the leadership of DOI and with the full participation of NPBS partners. As part of this plan, priorities need to be set. The following list summarizes all the near-term, intermediate-term, and long-term priorities noted in this chapter. Near-Term Priorities (Immediately to within 1 Year) NBS Appoint key leaders Phase in personnel transfers Assess existing national biological databases Identify priorities for additional information Assess collections Establish register of taxonomic specialist Develop national research plan Initiate regional collaborative pilot projects Establish data-management office headed by senior official NPBS Establish national coordination mechanisms Develop FY 1995 budget initiative for DOI, NSF, and other agencies involved Develop strategic plan for information management Develop national research plan Initiate regional collaborative pilot projects
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A Biological Survey for the Nation Intermediate-Term Priorities (within 3 Years) NBS Broaden mix of scientific disciplines Establish or expand research programs in environmental indicators Establish or expand research programs in inventories of areas rich in biological diversity, unique ecosystems, and potential candidate areas for restoration Develop series of manuals, monographs and atlases and system of ecological classifications based on attributes Establish moderate-size data-management facility NPBS Develop multiyear authorization Establish national data network Long-Term Priorities (within 5 Years) NBS Develop strong capability in ecological analysis Broaden scientific priorities to include research efforts in restoration biology Expand inventories Develop predictive models Fill information gaps
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A Biological Survey for the Nation NPBS Develop programs to deploy new information technology Evaluate data-management programs. Although priorities might change over time, the committee believes that phasing the steps outlined above according to a well-planned strategy will lead to a successful NBS and National Partnership. If a clear strategy is not developed, it is likely that the results will fall short of providing the effective and credible scientific information needed by decision-makers. Establishing the priorities outlined here will help both the NBS and the NPBS to provide quickly the kinds of results that are essential if they are to show their value to the nation.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: