Conservation and recovery plans for endangered species around the world, including the US
Endangered Species Act (ESA), rely on habitat assessments for data, conclusions and planning of short and
long-term management strategies. In the Pacific Northwest of the United States, hundreds of millions of
dollars ($US) per year are spent on thousands of restoration projects across the extent of ESA-listed Pacific
salmon—often without clearly connecting restoration actions to ecosystem and population needs.
Numerous decentralized administrative units select and fund projects based on agency/organization needs
or availability of funds with little or no centralized planning nor post-project monitoring. The need
therefore arises for metrics to identify whether ecosystem and species level restoration needs are being met by the assemblage of implemented projects. We reviewed habitat assessments and recovery plans to
identify ecological needs and statistically compared these to the distribution of co-located restoration
projects. We deployed two metrics at scales ranging from the sub-watershed to ESA listing units; one
describes the unit scale match/mismatch between projects and ecological concerns, the other correlates
ecological need with need treated by projects across units. Populations with more identified ecological
concerns contained more restoration effort, but the frequency of ecological concerns in recovery plans did
not correlate with their frequency as restoration targets. Instead, restoration projects were strongly biased
towards less expensive types. Many ESA-listed salmon populations (78%) had a good match between need
and action noted in their recovery plan, but fewer (31%) matched at the smaller sub-watershed scale.
Further, a majority of sub-watersheds contained a suite of projects that matched ecological concerns no
better, and often worse, than a random pick of all project types.