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New Jersey Wildlife Action Plan Comment Form - Selecting Focal Species

Previously in the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) update process, we identified New Jersey's Species of Greatest Conservation Need (pdf, 720kb) (SGCN). The 657 species on this list include birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates with low, declining, or vulnerable populations, and for whom conservation actions are needed to prevent or reverse declines over the next ten years.

This is a long list, however, for a Wildlife Action Plan that aims to be focused and achievable in its goals. To refine our scope, we used the SGCN list as the foundation for a tiered "filtering" process to determine our Focal Species (see flow chart illustrating this process).

At every stage, a "taxa team" of experts within each taxonomic group reaches consensus on their assessment of each species' conservation need and the feasibility of successful conservation action. Ultimately, our updated SWAP will be based upon evaluations of the threats facing the Focal Species and their habitats and the development of conservation actions directed at addressing those threats.

Priority SGCNs

We first narrowed the SGCN list down to a subset, the Priority SGCNs. Priority SGCNs consist of those listed as an Endangered, Threatened, or Candidate Species in New Jersey and/or on the federal level, those included on the Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need (RSGCN) list for the Northeast Region, and those that advanced through a "fatal flaw" justification by the expert taxa team, taking into account practical knowledge of the species as well as New Jersey's importance to its regional and global population status.

The Priority SGCN list thus includes 351 species that we recognize are in clear and immediate need of conservation action.
Priority Species of Greatest Conservation Need and Criteria (pdf, 72kb).

Focal species flowchart
Click to enlarge
Click for PDF (320kb)

"Upper Tier" Priority SGCNs

The next "filter" looked more closely at each Priority SGCN's conservation need as well as the feasibility of successful actions to address the threats to each of these species. Conservation need was measured by two criteria: one reflecting the level of concern for the species across its northeast range, and the other reflecting New Jersey's responsibility within the species' range. Most species' regional scores deferred to a Northeast Regional Conservation Synthesis ranking of "Very High" to "Low" based on the percentage of northeastern states within the species' range where it meets criteria for conservation concern.

For species not ranked by the Northeast Regional Conservation Synthesis (particularly insects), scores were based on population trends and the risk of extirpation from NJ. New Jersey's responsibility scores were based on the percentage of a species' North American range that occurs within the northeast, and/or the risk of regional extirpation or extinction if the species should be lost from our state.

Feasibility was measured by two criteria as well: first, whether actions or strategies have been identified and shown to benefit the species, and second, the likelihood of success in applying those actions or strategies to positively affect the species' New Jersey population. A high likelihood of success assumes, too, that the tools, manpower, ability, funding, and collective will to act exist.

This exercise produced an "Upper Tier" list of 107 priority species of greatest conservation need in our region and state, for whom our capacity to affect conservation is also the greatest. Our target number of "Upper Tier" species was around 100, presuming that such a list would represent the broad taxonomic groups, habitat types, and landscapes across New Jersey. To get a snapshot of this representation, the taxa teams attributed each "Upper Tier" species with a taxonomic sub-class (if applicable; for example, birds were divided into landbirds and waterbirds, invertebrates into insects and non-insects, etc.) and indicated which of New Jersey's six Landscape Regions and nine broad habitat classifications each species occurs in.
New Jersey's "Upper Tier" Priority Species of Greatest Conservation Need (pdf, 51kb).

Focal Species

The "Upper Tier Priority SGCN" list underwent a final "fatal flaw" analysis to critique the merits of each of the species which were advanced via the ranking filters to be among the final list of "Focal Species" upon which New Jersey's revised Wildlife Action Plan will primarily focus. The "fatal flaw" review resulted in a few Upper Tier Priority SGCN being dropped from consideration as final "Focal Species," as well as a few other Priority SGCN species being added on. In the end, 107 Focal Species remain.

Recognizing that synergies exist among species with overlapping niches and needs, the 107 Focal Species were then grouped by the expert Taxa Teams into guilds reflecting similarities in the species' taxonomies, ecological requirements, threats, and actions needed to conserve them. This assessment allowed for 76 of the Focal Species to categorized into 18 groupings, while the other 31 individual species will remain ungrouped.

This leaves us with a final list of 49 Focal Species and/or Species Groups. These Focal Species and Species Groups (below) will serve as a basis for assessing threats and developing actions in our revision of the State Wildlife Action Plan.
Focal Species and/or Species Groups (pdf, 130kb)

Back to Wildlife Action Plan (WAP).

Please use the form below to submit comment on Selecting Focal Species only; there are separate comment forms for each aspect of the Plan. Make sure to complete fields that are designated as "* = required".
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Thank you for reviewing the NJ Wildlife Action Plan and submitting your comments.

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Last Updated: June 17, 2015