Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16BRINGING BUSINESS FUNDAMENTALS TO THE BIRDS In the last three decades, several shore- bird species in the Atlantic Flyway appear to have declined by 50 to 90 percent. Shorebird biologists and their supporters are feeling the pressure to turn this narrative around. In 2003, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which handles the federal budget, pressed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) with targeted questions about the projects they were funding. Burdened by hun- dreds of other national funding needs, the OMB declared that they would only invest more money in shorebird conser- vation if projects spelled out how many birds would be saved per dollar spent. A few years later, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Board began asking similar questions about its conservation funding. While the projects NFWF traditionally fund- ed were critical, the Board wanted their grants to produce measurable success.To address these concerns, NFWF decided to restructure their major projects by mimicking the strategies that investors were familiar with—business plans. Drawing on the fundamental concepts behind traditional busi- ness plans, the idea was to come up with conservation plans that put outcomes (in this case, an increase in shorebirds), costs, and imple- mentation at its core. “In essence,” explains Scott Johnson, the Chief of Bird Population Programs at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a major architect of the strategy, “the move toward a business approach to conserva- tion is a philosophical change to the way shorebird conservation projects have been typically structured. Focusing on a set of well-developed actions that link funding to specific, measurable conser- vation outcomes—business plans would answer the question we kept hearing: how many shorebirds can I expect to be saving with my investment?” NFWF’s Board was encouraged by this new approach and gave the orga- nization the green light to put business planning into practice. HOW DO YOU ACTUALLY CREATE A BUSINESS PLAN FOR SHOREBIRDS? Once NFWF’s Board approved the approach, the Foundation pooled together some of the best minds in shorebird conservation to map out their road to success. The scientists knew that to test the utility of a business approach to con- servation, they needed to focus on just one species first. Focusing on one spe- cies would allow resources to be more concentrated, both scientifically and financially. The American Oystercatcher was the bird for the job. “Most shorebirds are these little brown birds that are hard to see or iden- tify,” explained Manomet’s Coordinator for the American Oystercatcher Recovery Program Shiloh Schulte. “When people see oystercatchers, they don’t forget them. They’re a good flag- ship species and, at the same time, a great 'umbrella' species. When you improve conditions for oystercatchers you improve conditions for many differ- ent shorebird species.” The next step was to pick an appro- priate recovery goal and figure out how much it would cost to reach it. Luckily, the population dynam- ics of the American Oystercatcher were already well understood before the business plan was established. The American Oystercatcher Working Group, which Manomet helped found, had been monitoring the distinctive shorebird up and down the Atlantic Seaboard since 1997. A groundbreaking survey of the entire Atlantic and Gulf Coasts by Manomet showed that the population size was about 11,000 birds. The Working Group had already made much progress on determining where the birds were nesting and what actions would help the birds recover. With years of science and research backing them, the architects of the plan outlined the key threats to the American Oystercatcher: disturbance, predator control, and habitat loss, as well as the key actions necessary to their recovery: habitat management, public education, predator control, and social networking. From there the group set an ambi- tious goal: to increase the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coast population of American Oystercatchers by 30 percent in 10 years—estimating a total cost of success at $10 million over that time. NFWF took the lead in support- ing the initiative by investing $5 mil- lion in matching funds over 10 years, and Manomet led the coordination efforts among 35 different organiza- tions including USFWS, many state wildlife agencies, the National Audubon Society, and the Nature Conservancy to develop and implement strategically identified projects that would help the population rebound. The results were remarkable. In six years, oystercatcher populations increased by 10 percent—a huge swing from the 12 percent declines pre- dicted at the start of the project. A mixed flock of shorebirds gather at a spring stop- over site. 4 | Manomet Partnerships for Sustainability • Spring / Summer 2016