ASPN is a Web-based decision tool that assists natural resource managers and planners in identifying and prioritizing social and economic planning issues, and provides guidance on appropriate social and economic methods to address their identified issues.
ASPN covers the breadth of issues facing natural resource management agencies so it is widely applicable for various resources, plans, and projects.
ASPN also realistically accounts for budget and planning time constraints by providing estimated costs and time lengths needed for each of the possible social and economic methods.
ASPN is a valuable starting point for natural resource managers and planners to start working with their agencies’ social and economic specialists. Natural resource management actions have social and economic effects that often require appropriate analyses. Additionally, in the United States, Federal agencies are legally mandated to follow guidance under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires addressing social and economic effects for actions that may cause biophysical impacts. Most natural resource managers and planners lack training in understanding the full range of potential social and economic effects of a management decision as well as an understanding of the variety of methods and analyses available to address these effects. Thus, ASPN provides a common framework which provides consistency within and across natural resource management agencies to assist in identification of pertinent social and economic issues while also allowing the social and economic analyses to be tailored to best meet the needs of the specific plan or project.
ASPN can be used throughout a planning process or be used as a tool to identify potential issues that may be applicable to future management actions. ASPN is useful during the pre-scoping phase as a tool to start thinking about potential social and economic issues as well as to identify potential stakeholders who may be affected. Thinking about this early in the planning process can help with outreach efforts and with understanding the cost and time needed to address the potential social and economic effects. One can use ASPN during the scoping and post-scoping phases as a way to obtain guidance on how to address issues that stakeholders identified. ASPN can also be used as a monitoring tool to identify whether new social and economic issues arise after a management action occurs.
ASPN is developed through a collaborative research effort between the USGS Fort Collins Science Center’s (FORT) Social and Economic Analysis (SEA) Branch and the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ASPN’s technical development is led by the USGS FORT’s Information Science Branch. An updated release, which will extend ASPN’s functionality and incorporate feature improvements identified in ongoing usability testing, is currently in the planning stages.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging and devastating disease of hibernating bats in North America. WNS is caused by a cold-growing fungus (Geomyces destructans) that infects the skin of hibernating bats during winter and causes life-threatening alterations in physiology and behavior. WNS has spread rapidly across the eastern United States and Canada since it was first documented in New York in the winter of 2006. This new disease is causing mass mortality and detrimentally affecting most of the 6 species of bats that hibernate in the northeastern United States. Particularly hard-hit are the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii), and federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). Several more species are also now known to be exposed to the fungus in the Midwest and Southeast. The sudden and widespread mortality associated with white-nose syndrome is unprecedented in any of the world’s bats and is a cause for international concern as the fungus and the disease spread farther north, south, and west. Loss of these long-lived insect-eating bats could have substantial adverse effects on agriculture and forestry through loss of natural pest-control services.
Tracking a Deadly Disease
Because WNS is spreading so rapidly, field surveillance data and diagnostic samples must be managed efficiently so that critical information can be communicated quickly among State and Federal land managers, as well as the public. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which plays a primary role in coordinating the Federal response to WNS, worked with the USGS Fort Collins Science Center’s Web Applications Team to develop the White-nose Syndrome Disease Tracking System. Version 1.0 of this system, released for Beta testing in May 2011, addresses two critical objectives:
enable state-level resource managers to effectively manage WNS field and laboratory data, and
provide customizable map and data reports of surveillance findings. The WNS Disease Tracking System subsequently was demonstrated to resource managers involved in the WNS response, and system users are assisting with in-depth testing. Once resource-management users are all trained (autumn 2011), they will begin populating the system with surveillance data, much of which will be immediately available to the public.
WNS version 1.0 was released into production in November, 2011 and state points-of-contact are currently being trainined. New users are providing ciritical feedback for WNS version 2.0, which is currently being planned with Fish and Wildlife Region 5 and the National White-nose Syndrome Data Management Team.
Key System Components
Disease Tracking: Customizable disease tracking maps and data exports for all U.S. states and counties
Disease Reporting: Tissue sample database management for authorized resource managers as well as a publicly accessible database of disease reporting contacts for all U.S. States and Federal resource management agencies
Diagnostic Labs: Directory of laboratories involved in white-nose syndrome diagnostic analyses
Visitor and community survey results for Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge: Completion report
Sexton, N.R., S.C. Stewart, L. Koontz, P. Ponds, and K.D. Walters
This study was commissioned by the Northeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in support of the Comprehensive Conservation Planning at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge (Prime Hook NWR or Refuge). The National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-57, USC668dd) mandates a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for every refuge in the system. A refuge CCP outlines goals, objectives, and management strategies for all refuge programs over the next 15 years, while providing opportunities for compatible, wildlife-dependent public uses. The plan evaluates refuge wildlife, habitat, land protection, and visitor service priorities during the planning process.
A decision support framework for water management in the upper Delaware River
Bovee, K.D., T.J. Waddle, J. Bartholow, and L. Burris
The Delaware River Basin occupies an area of 12,765 square miles, in portions of south central New York, northeast Pennsylvania, northeast Delaware, and western New Jersey (fig. 1). The river begins as two streams in the Catskill Mountains, the East and West Branches. The two tributaries flow in a southwesterly direction until they meet at Hancock, N.Y. The length of the river from the mouth of Delaware Bay to the confluence at Hancock is 331 miles. Approximately 200 miles of the river between Hancock, N.Y., and Trenton, N.J., is nontidal.
The Delaware River decision support system: version 2.11 [computer software]
Bovee, K.D., T.J. Waddle, J. Bartholow, and L. Burris
This prototype software consists of five Excel ® spreadsheets, linked by a system of Visual Basic Macros. The driver for the Delaware River Decision Support System (DRDSS) is a systems operations program called OASIS, used extensively by the Delaware River Basin Commission to simulate the effects of different reservoir operating rules on water exports, reservoir storage, and discharges at downstream locations...
Socioeconomic Considerations for Public Lands Management and Planning
DOI and other public land managers require clear and objective guidance on the use of socioeconomic information in their land management and planning. Many agencies are required by law to develop a plan for each unit or complex of public land (e.g., refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plans (CCPs), BLM resource management plans). These plans generally must contain an analysis of social and economic conditions and evaluate social and economic results from likely management scenarios. Moreover, public land managers, planners, and policy makers are generally responsible for including social and economic assessments in the long-term plan in such a way that understanding these factors aids planning decisions and helps guide management actions. Providing a better understanding of these social and economic considerations in planning is the goal of this task. FORT social scientists have worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge System and the Bureau of Land Management to provide social and economic assessments in support of their long-term planning. Techniques used to make these assessments include surveys, focus groups, non-market valuation, stakeholder analysis, interviews, demographic analysis, and regional economic analysis.
Upper Delaware River Basin Environmental Flows Study
USGS involvement in the Upper Delaware River Basin is the result of Congressional funding directed towards the study of instream habitat needs. The study is supported by the Delaware River Basin Commission, made up of the governors of Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania as well as an appointed federal representative. The goal is to develop ecological flow requirements for the maintenance and restoration of healthy, self sustaining, and managed aquatic ecosystems in the Delaware Basin. This goal must be accomplished in the context of legal requirements for export of water from the rivers and downstream water-delivery requirements for municipal water supplies. Objectives of this study are to (1) quantify habitat metrics over a range of discharges and seasons at selected locations in the mainstem Delaware River and its three tributaries; (2) develop and calibrate a network-wide temperature simulation model for the upper Delaware basin, and (3) develop a prototype decision support system to assist the Commission and other stakeholders in analyzing and interpreting water management and reservoir operation alternatives.
Social Science Research to Assist with FWS Region 5 Comprehensive Conservation Plans
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is required by law to develop a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for each unit of the national refuge system. The CCP for each refuge must contain an analysis of social and economic conditions and evaluate social and economic results from likely management scenarios. The refuge manager and regional planning staff of the FWS are responsible for including social and economic assessments in the CCP in such a way that understanding these factors aids planning decisions and helps guide management actions. This study will identify the likely social and economic results of implementing each of several options for managing the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge in New Hampshire and the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware.
North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat)
North American Bat Monitoring Program Working Group
Despite their importance and the many threats facing their populations [e.g., white-nose syndrome (WNS), climate change, wind energy development, and habitat loss and fragmentation], there are currently no national programs to monitor and track bat populations in North America. A statistically rigorous and nationally coordinated bat monitoring program is critical for determining the impacts of the many stressors on bat populations, as well as for determining the efficacy of management actions taken to conserve bat populations (i.e., adaptive management). The objectives of the North American Bat Monitoring Program (or NABat) are to: 1) provide the architecture for coordinated bat monitoring to support local, regional and range-wide inferences about trends in bat populations and abundances in response to WNS, climate, wind energy, and habitat loss, and 2) provide managers and policy makers with the information they need on bat population trends to effectively manage bat populations, detect early warning signs of population declines, and estimate extinction risk. Three workshops were held in 2013 and 2014 to develop the monitoring program. These workshops were attended by scientists and researchers from multiple agencies including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, University of Calgary, Canadian Wildlife Service, and the University of Tennessee, National Institute of Mathematical and Biological Synthesis. The protocol for NABat entitled “A Plan for a North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat)” is currently in review and will be published summer of 2014. For Additional Information: Bat Population Database, https://my.usgs.gov/bpd/ and Bat Population Data Project Page: https://www.fort.usgs.gov/science-tasks/2217
National Park Service Visitor Spending Effects
Photo source: John Brooks, Biscayne National Park, NPS.
The National Park System covers more than 84 million acres and is comprised of 401 sites across the nation, and serves as recreational destinations for visitors from across the nation and around the globe. On vacations or on day trips, park visitors spend money in the gateway communities surrounding park sites, which then generates and supports a considerable amount of economic activity within the local, regional, and national economies. The National Park Service requires estimates of the effects of visitor spending on these economies as key indicators of how parks benefit communities and the American public through visitation. This information is important for planning, management, budget formulation, policy analysis, and public outreach.
The objective of this project is to estimate the economic effects of spending by park visitors, and how this spending cycles through local gateway economies, generates business sales, and supports jobs and income. USGS economists have constructed a database of existing spending data for sampled park units, extrapolated this data to parks without existing spending data, compiled a database with park visitation estimates, and built a model to estimate the economic effects of visitor spending at the local, state, regional, and national level. USGS economists prepared the first two annual reports in 2014, presenting the 2012 and 2013 visitor spending estimates, respectfully, along with the associated estimates of local, state, regional, and national level economic effects. This is an ongoing project, and an analysis and report will be prepared annually. This project has a data visualization companion website, to access it please go to http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/vse.cfm.
Partners: Lynne Koontz, Bret Meldrum, and Bruce Peacock. Environmental Quality Division, Social Science Branch, National Park Service, Fort Collins, CO.