DoD Biodiversity Conservation Handbook
Chapters:Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11IntroductionCase StudiesAcknowledgements
Chapter 6: Managing for Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Species

The Five-S Framework

Jet overflights by the U.S Air Force and the German Air Force stationed at Holloman afb, New Mexico, have the potential to disturb the endangered Mexican Spotted Owl in the Gila National Forest, NM (top). German and U.S. Air Force officers and various scientists (above) have worked closely to monitor the effects of jet noise on the owl in accordance with a Biological Opinion rendered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (Photos: top, Arlene Ripley; above, Douglas Ripley)

The 1994 Department of Defense memorandum, "Implementation of Ecosystem Management in the DoD," issued by then Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Environmental Security) Sherri W. Goodman, stated, in part, "I want to ensure that ecosystem management becomes the basis for future management of DoD lands and waters. Ecosystem management is not only a smart way of doing business; it will blend multiple-use needs and provide a consistent framework to managing DoD installations, ensuring the integrity of the system remains intact." The memo further states that the DoD will use an ecological approach by continuing to "shift its focus from protection of individual species to management of ecosystems." But individual listed species must be protected under the esa. The full text of the document can be found at

An excellent device for implementing ecosystem management, and also protecting listed species, is the Site Conservation Planning (scp) process. It is a tool for transferring the science-based, adaptive framework of ecosystem management into a clear set of goals and strategies for a base's conservation program (TNC 2000). The process is outlined in detail in The Nature Conservancy's publication, The Five-S Framework for Site Conservation: A Practitioner's Handbook for Site Conservation Planning and Measuring Conservation Success, which can be downloaded at Also included is a case study of the application of this process at AAFB. The "Five Ss" are Systems, Stresses, Sources, Strategies, and Success (TNC 2000).

The Nature Conservancy developed the planning framework as a means for:

  • selecting conservation targets and determining the functional site or landscape they require,
  • identifying the human context and the threats it poses to the conservation targets,
  • outlining strategies to protect those targets and their functional landscape, and
  • developing measures of success related to the conservation goals for the site.

At Arnold AFB this process is used as a planning tool to develop goals and objectives for the INRMP. The planning process involves stakeholders to insure that realistic conservation goals are developed, all threats are considered, and strategies for achieving goals are feasible (TNC 2000). At AAFB, stakeholders are involved in a series of meetings for which they are prepared ahead of time with the topics to be discussed. Among others, the local USFWS Ecological Services Field Office and state wildlife agency are included as stakeholders in the planning process, particularly when discussing threatened or endangered species. When these organizations receive draft copies of the INRMP for review, they are already familiar with the content, as they had assisted in its development. This made the required INRMP Sikes Act coordination a smoother process.

Central to the conservation planning process is the selection of focal targets (the ecological systems, species, or species groups to be managed) for the site of interest. Focal targets are best defined based on ecological systems (the first "S"), but can also include particular ecological communities or threatened or endangered species (TNC 2000). In many cases, managing for system focal conservation targets acts as a management "umbrella" for rare species and/or communities. Rare species and/or communities are grouped as nested conservation sub-targets under the focal conservation targets and should be protected through the management of the broader focal conservation targets. This approach also benefits state listed or common species; thus it enhances biodiversity. For example, at AAFB, Eggert's sunflower was classified as a threatened species prior to its delisting; however, it was not identified as a focal target. It, along with high priority non-federally listed fauna and flora, are nested sub-targets in the grassland and woodland/savanna/shrubland focal targets. The USFWS was aware of this concept because they were involved in the planning process.4

Before proceeding further, it is important to assess the focal targets' current health. The assessment is based on three factors: size, condition, and landscape context (TNC 2000). Thus the first "S" is systems, which TNC defines as "the conservation targets occurring at a site, and the natural processes that maintain them, that will be the focus of site-based planning."

Threats to the conservation targets must be identified after assessing their viability. Threats are defined by the stresses (the second "S") affecting the targets and the active and/or historical sources (the third "S") of those stresses. The stresses and their sources are combined to define the threats to the conservation targets – e.g. mowing instead of burning lands where Eggert's sunflower grows.

Developing strategies (the fourth "S") for abating all the stresses affecting the focal targets may not be practical. It's best to review the sources, many of which are common to multiple stresses and targets. Next, rank the active threats (i.e., active sources of stress) for focal targets; next, determine how each active threat affects focal conservation targets, and then begin developing strategies for reducing primary threats. Developing strategies for the highest ranked threats should provide the greatest return on investment (TNC 2000). Strategies are implemented as goals, objectives, and projects in the INRMP.

Success (the fifth "S") is measured though monitoring (populations, acres burned, wetlands restored, etc.). Monitoring is a subject that can and has filled numerous volumes and is too broad a subject to cover here. However, the importance of this last step cannot be overemphasized. It serves as the primary feedback mechanism in an adaptive management program.

In the case of threatened or endangered species, monitoring is needed to justify the substitution of the INRMP for critical habitat designation and to show progress towards achieving delisting. These monitoring steps should be spelled out in an approved recovery plan for a specific listed species. Additionally, when or if a species is delisted; monitoring is a continuing requirement for five years. These requirements will be spelled out in a post-delisting monitoring plan. (Visit for details regarding the delisting process.)

Proceed to Next Section: Cooperative Conservation

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About This Chapter's Author
John Lamb is a conservation biologist.

Kevin Willis is a plant ecologist.

George R. Wyckoff is a wildlife ecologist at Arnold AFB, Tennessee.

Literature Cited
Click here to view literature cited in this chapter.

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