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accessibility – The state or quality of being easily approached or entered, particularly as it relates to complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

accessible facilities – Structures accessible for most people with disabilities without assistance; facilities that meet Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards; ADA-accessible parking lots, trails, pathways, ramps, picnic and camping areas, restrooms, boating facilities (e.g., docks, piers), fishing facilities, exhibits, audiovisual programs, and wayside sites.

adaptation – Adjustment to environmental conditions.

adaptive management – The process of treating the work of managing natural resources as an experiment, making observations and recording them, so the manger can learn from the experience.

alternative – A reasonable way to fix an identified problem or satisfy a stated need [40 CFR 1500.2 (cf. ?management alternative)].

animal unit month (AUM) – Amount of forage needed to sustain an animal for one month.

appropriate use – A proposed or existing use on a refuge that meets at least one of the following three conditions:

1. the use is a wildlife-dependent one;

2. the use contributes to fulfilling the refuge purpose(s), the Refuge System mission, or goals or objectives described in a refuge management plan approved after October 9, 1997, the date the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act was signed into law; or

3. the use has been determined appropriate as specified in section 1.11 of that act.

aquatic – Growing in, living in, or dependent upon water.


best management practices – Land management practices that produce desired results; usually describing forestry or agricultural practices effective in reducing non-point source pollution, like reseeding skidder trails or not storing manure in a flood plain. In a broader sense, practices that benefit target species.

biological diversity or biodiversity – The variety of life and its processes; includes the variety of living organisms, the genetic differences among them, and the communities and ecosystems in which they occur.

biological integrity – Biotic composition, structure, and functioning at genetic, organism, and community levels comparable with historic conditions, including the natural biological processes that shape genomes, organisms, and communities.


C3 plant – A plant that utilizes the C3 carbon fixation pathway in photosynthesis.

C4 plant – A plant that utilizes the C4 carbon fixation pathway in photosynthesis.

compatible use – The term “compatible use” means a wildlife-dependent recreational use or any other use of a refuge that, in the sound professional judgment of the Director, will not materially interfere with or detract from the fulfillment of the mission of the System or the purposes of the refuge. (National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 [PublicLaw 105-57; 111 Stat. 1253]).

compatibility determination – A required determination for wildlife-dependent recreational uses or any other public uses of a refuge.

comprehensive conservation plan – Mandated by the 1997 Refuge Improvement Act, a document that provides a description of the desired future conditions and long-range guidance for the project leader to accomplish purposes of the Refuge System and the refuge. CCPs establish management direction to achieve refuge purposes. (P.L. 105-57; FWS Manual 602 FW 1.4).

concern – see ?issue.

connectivity – Community occurrences and reserves have permeable boundaries and thus are subject to inflows and outflows from the surrounding landscape. Connectivity in the selection and design of nature reserves relates to the ability of species to move across the landscape to meet basic habitat requirements. Natural connecting features within the ecoregion may include river channels, riparian corridors, ridgelines, or migratory pathways.

conservation – Managing natural resources to prevent loss or waste. Management actions may include preservation, restoration, and enhancement.


designated wilderness area – An area designated by Congress as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System (FWS Manual 610 FW 1.5).

desired future condition – The qualities of an ecosystem or its components that an organization seeks to develop through its decisions and actions.

disturbance – Any relatively discrete event in time that disrupts ecosystem, community, or population structure and changes resources, substrate availability, or the physical environment.


ecological system – Dynamic assemblages of communities that occur together on the landscape at some spatial scale of resolution, are tied together by similar ecological processes, and form a cohesive, distinguishable unit on the ground. Examples are spruce-fir forest, Great Lakes dune and swale complex, Mojave desert riparian shrublands.

ecoregion – A territory defined by a combination of biological, social, and geographic criteria rather than geopolitical considerations; generally, a system of related, interconnected ecosystems.

ecosystem – A natural community of organisms interacting with its physical environment, regarded as a unit.

emergent wetland – Wetlands dominated by erect, rooted, herbaceous plants

endangered species – A Federal- or State-listed protected species in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range

endemic – A species or race native to a particular place and found only there.

environment – The sum total of all biological, chemical, and physical factors to which organisms are exposed.

environmental education – Curriculum-based education aimed at producing a citizenry that is knowledgeable about the biophysical environment and its associated problems, aware of how to help solve those problems, and motivated to work toward solving them.

Environmental Assessment (EA) a public document that discusses the purpose and need for an action, its alternatives, and provides sufficient evidence and analysis of its impacts to determine whether to prepare an environmental impact statement or a finding of no significant impact (40 CFR 1508.9).

exotic species – A species that is not native to an area and has been introduced intentionally or unintentionally by humans; not all exotics become successfully established.


fauna – All animal life associated with a given habitat, country, area, or period.

federal land – Public land owned by the Federal government, including national forests, national parks, and national wildlife refuges.

federal-listed species – A species listed either as endangered, threatened, or a species at risk (formerly, a ?candidate species) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended.

fen – A type of wetland that accumulates peat deposits. Fens are less acidic than bogs, deriving most of their water from groundwater rich in calcium and magnesium.

Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) supported by an environmental assessment, a document that briefly presents why a Federal action will have no significant effect on the human environment, and for which an environmental impact statement, therefore, will not be prepared (40 CFR 1508.13).

fire regime – The characteristic frequency, intensity, and spatial distribution of natural fires within a given ecoregion or habitat.

fish passage project – Providing a safe passage for fish around a barrier in the upstream or downstream direction.

flora – All the plants found in a particular place.

flyway – Any one of several established migration routes of birds.

focal species – A species that is indicative of particular conditions in a system (ranging from natural to degraded) and used as a surrogate measure for other species of particular conditions. An element of biodiversity selected as a focus for conservation planning or action. The two principal types of targets in conservancy planning projects are species and ecological communities.

forest association – The community described by a group of dominant plant (tree) species occurring together, such as spruce-fir or northern hardwoods.

forested land – Land dominated by trees.

fragmentation – The disruption of extensive habitats into isolated and small patches. Fragmentation has two negative components for biota: the loss of total habitat area; and, the creation of smaller, more isolated patches of habitat remaining.


geographic information system (GIS) – a computerized system to compile, store, analyze and display geographically referenced information. GIS can overlay multiple sets of information on the distribution of a variety of biological and physical features.

groundwater – Water in the ground that is in the zone of saturation, from which wells and springs and groundwater discharge are supplied.

guild – A group of organisms, not necessarily taxonomically related, that are ecologically similar in characteristics such as diet, behavior, or microhabitat preference, or with respect to their ecological role in general.


habitat fragmentation – The breaking up of a specific habitat into smaller, unconnected areas. A habitat area that is too small may not provide enough space to maintain a breeding population of the species in question.

habitat conservation – Protecting an animal or plant habitat to ensure that the use of that habitat by the animal or plant is not altered or reduced.

habitat – The place or type of site where species and species assemblages are typically found and/or successfully reproduce. An organism‘s habitat must provide all of the basic requirements for life, and should be free of harmful contaminants.

historic conditions – The composition, structure, and functioning of ecosystems resulting from natural processes that we believe, based on sound professional judgment, were present prior to substantial human-related changes to the landscape.

hydrologic or flow regime – Characteristic fluctuations in river flows.

hydrology – The science of waters of the earth: their occurrences, distributions, and circulations; their physical and chemical properties; and their reactions with the environment, including living beings.

Hypsithermal Period – The period about 4,000 to 8,000 years ago when the Earth was apparently several degrees warmer than it is now. More rainfall occurred in most of the subtropical desert regions and less in the central Midwest United States.


impoundment – A body of water, such as a pond, confined by a dam, dike, floodgate, or other barrier, which is used to collect and store water for future use.

indicator species – A species used as a gauge for the condition of a particular habitat, community, or ecosystem. A characteristic or surrogate species for a community or ecosystem.

indigenous – Native to an area.

indigenous species – A species that, other than a result as an introduction, historically occurred or currently occurs in a particular ecosystem.

interjurisdictional fish – Populations of fish that are managed by two or more States or national or tribal governments because of the scope of their geographic distributions or migrations.

interpretive facilities – Structures that provide information about an event, place, or thing by a variety of means, including printed, audiovisual, or multimedia materials (e.g., kiosks that offer printed materials and audiovisuals, signs, and trail heads.)

interpretive materials – Any tool used to provide or clarify information, explain events or things, or increase awareness and understanding of the events or things. Examples include printed materials like brochures, maps or curriculum materials; audio/visual materials like video and audio tapes, films, or slides; and, interactive multimedia materials, CD-ROM or other computer technology.

invasive species – An alien or native species whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.

inventory – A list of all the assets and liabilities of an organization, including physical, financial, personnel, and procedural aspects.

invertebrate – Any animal lacking a backbone or bony segment that encloses the central nerve cord.

issue – Any unsettled matter that requires a management decision (e.g., a Service initiative, an opportunity, a management problem, a threat to the resources of the unit, a conflict in uses, a public concern, or the presence of an undesirable resource condition). A CCP should document, describe, and analyze issues even if they cannot be resolved during the planning process (FWS Manual 602 FW 1.4).


lacustrine – Of, relating to, formed in, living in, or growing in lakes.

Lake – an inland body of fresh or salt water of considerable size occupying a basin or hollow on the earth‘s surface, and which may or may not have a current or single direction of flow

Land Protection Plan (LPP) – A document that identifies and prioritizes lands for potential Service acquisition from a willing seller, and also describes other methods of providing protection. Landowners within project boundaries will find this document, which is released with environmental assessments, most useful.

landscape – A heterogeneous land area composed of a cluster of interacting ecosystems that are repeated in similar form throughout.

landscape approach – An approach to managing for species communities that focuses on landscape patterns rather than processes and manages landscape elements to collectively influence groups of species in a desired direction. This approach assumes that by managing a landscape for its components, the naturally occurring species will persist.

late-successional – Species, assemblages, structures, and processes associated with mature natural communities that have not experienced significant disturbance for a long time.

limiting factor – An environmental limitation that prevents further population growth.

limits of acceptable change – A planning and management framework for establishing and maintaining acceptable and appropriate environmental and social conditions in recreation settings.

local land – Public land owned by local governments, including community or county parks or municipal watersheds.

local agencies – Generally, municipal governments, regional planning commissions, or conservation groups.

long-term protection – Mechanisms like fee title acquisition, conservation easements, or binding agreements with landowners that ensure land use and land management practices will remain compatible with maintaining species populations over the long term.


macroinvertebrates – Invertebrates large enough to be seen with the naked eye (e.g., most aquatic insects, snails, and amphipods).

management alternative – A set of objectives and the strategies needed to accomplish each objective (FWS Manual 602 FW 1.4).

management concern – Issue (e.g., migratory nongame birds of management concern).

management plan – A plan that guides future land management practices on a tract. In the context of an environmental impact statement, for example, management plans may be designed to produce additional wildlife habitat along with primary products like timber or agricultural crops.

management strategy – A general approach to meeting unit objectives. A strategy may be broad, or it may be detailed enough to guide implementation through specific actions, tasks, and projects (FWS Manual 602 FW 1.4).

mesic soil – Sandy-to-clay loams containing moisture-retentive organic matter, well drained (no standing matter).

Mesonet – A combination of the words “mesoscale” and “network.” Mesonet is a network of environmental monitoring stations designed and implemented by scientists at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.

mission statement – A succinct statement of the purpose for which the unit was established; its reason for being.

mitigation – Actions to compensate for the negative effects of a particular project . For example, wetland mitigation usually restores or enhances a previously damaged wetland or creates a new wetland.mosaic – An interconnected patchwork of distinct vegetation types.


National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) – Requires all Federal agencies to examine the environmental impacts of their actions, incorporate environmental information, and use public participation in planning and implementing environmental actions. Federal agencies must integrate NEPA with other planning requirements, and prepare appropriate NEPA documents to facilitate better environmental decision-making (40 CFR 1500).

National Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System) – All lands and waters and interests therein administered by the Service as wildlife refuges, wildlife ranges, wildlife management areas, waterfowl production areas, and other areas for the protection and conservation of fish and wildlife, including those that are threatened with extinction.

native – A species that, other than as a result of an introduction, historically occurred or currently occurs in a particular ecosystem.

native plant – A plant that has grown in the region since the last glaciation, and occurred before European settlement.

natural disturbance event – Any natural event that significantly alters the structure, composition, or dynamics of a natural community: e.g., floods, fires, and storms.

natural range of variation – A characteristic range of levels, intensities, and periodicities associated with disturbances, population levels, or frequency in undisturbed habitats or communities.

niche – The specific part or smallest unit of a habitat occupied by an organism.

Neotropical migrant – Birds, bats, or invertebrates that seasonally migrate between the Nearctic and Neotropics.

non-consumptive, wildlife-oriented recreation – Wildlife observation and photography and environmental education and interpretation.

non-native species – See ?exotic species.

non-point source pollution – A diffuse form of water quality degradation produced by erosion of land that causes sedimentation of streams, eutrophication from nutrients and pesticides used in agricultural and silvicultural practices, and acid rain resulting from burning fuels that contain sulfur.

Notice of Intent (NOI) – An announcement we publish in the Federal Register that we will prepare and review an environmental impact statement (40 CFR 1508.22).

nutrient cycling – A concept that describes how nutrients move from the physical environment into living organisms, and subsequently are recycled back to the physical environment.


objective – A concise statement of what we want to achieve, how much we want to achieve, when and where we want to achieve it, and who is responsible for the work. Objectives are derived from goals and provide the basis for determining strategies, monitoring refuge accomplishments, and evaluating the success of strategies. Objectives should be attainable, time-specific, and measurable.


partnership – A contract or agreement among two or more individuals, groups of individuals, organizations, or agencies, in which each agrees to furnish a part of the capital or some service in kind (e.g., labor) for a mutually beneficial enterprise.

passive management – Protecting, monitoring key resources and conducting baseline inventories to improve our knowledge of the ecosystem.

payment in lieu of taxes – Revenue Sharing Act of 1935, Chapter One, Legal Context

pH – A measure of acidity, based on the concentration of hydrogen ions in solution.

point source – A source of pollution that involves discharge of waste from an identifiable point, such as a smokestack or sewage-treatment plant.

population – An interbreeding group of plants or animals. The entire group of organisms of one species.

population monitoring – Assessing the characteristics of populations to ascertain their status and establish trends on their abundance, condition, distribution, or other characteristics.

prescribed fire – The application of fire to wildland fuels, either by natural or intentional ignition, to achieve identified land use objectives (FWS Manual 621 FW 1.7).

priority public use – A compatible wildlife-dependent recreational use of a refuge involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, or environmental education and interpretation.

private land – Land owned by a private individual or group or non-government organization.

private landowner – See ?private land.

private organization – Any non-government organization.

proposed wilderness – An area of the Refuge System that the Secretary of the Interior has recommended to the President for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

public – Individuals, organizations, and non-government groups; officials of Federal, State, and local government agencies; Native American tribes, and foreign nations—includes anyone outside the core planning team, those who may or may not have indicated an interest in the issues, and those who do or do not realize that our decisions may affect them.

public involvement – Offering an opportunity to interested individuals and organizations whom our actions or policies may affect to become informed; soliciting their opinions. We thoroughly study public input, and give it thoughtful consideration in shaping decisions about managing refuges.

public land – Land owned by the local, State, or Federal government.

pyric herbivory – Herbivory promoted through the use of fire. The fire-grazing interaction is critical in maintaining heterogeneity of grassland ecosystems and that heterogeneity increases biodiversity and maintains system sustainability.


recharge – Refers to water entering an underground aquifer through faults, fractures, or direct absorption.

recommended wilderness – Areas studied and found suitable for wilderness designation by both the Director (Service) and Secretary (Department of the Interior), and recommended by the President to Congress for inclusion in the National Wilderness System (FWS Manual 610 FW 1.5 [draft]).

refuge goals – Descriptive, open-ended, and often broad statements of desired future conditions that convey a purpose but do not define measurable units.

refuge purposes – The terms ?purposes of the refuge‘ and ?purposes of each refuge‘ mean the purposes specified in or derived from the law, proclamation, executive order, agreement, public land order, donation document, or administrative memorandum establishing, authorizing, or expanding a refuge, refuge unit, or refuge subunit (National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997).

refuge lands – Lands in which the Service holds full interest in fee title or partial interest like an easement.

riparian – Referring to the interface between freshwater habitats and the terrestrial landscape.

runoff – Water from rain, melted snow, or agricultural or landscape irrigation that flows over a land surface into a water body.


species – The basic category of biological classification intended to designate a single kind of animal or plant. Any variation among the individuals may be regarded as not affecting the essential sameness which distinguishes them from all other organisms.

species assemblage – The combination of particular species that occur together in a specific location and have a reasonable opportunity to interact with one another.

species of concern – A species not Federal-listed as threatened or endangered, but about which we or our partners are concerned.

sport rappelling – Sport rappelling is hiking or walking to the top of or edge of any rock formation or structure and rappelling downward.

state agencies Natural resource agencies of State governments.

state land State-owned public land.

state-listed species – A species listed either as endangered, threatened, or a species at risk.

step-down management plan – A plan for dealing with specific refuge management subjects, strategies, and schedules, e.g., cropland, wilderness, and fire (FWS Manual 602 FW 1.4).

stopover habitat – Habitat where birds rest and feed during migration.

strategy – A specific action, tool, technique, or combination of actions, tools, and techniques for meeting unit objectives.

surface water – All waters whose surface is naturally exposed to the atmosphere, or wells or other collectors directly influenced by surface water.


terrestrial – Living on land.

territory – An area over which an animal or group of animals establishes jurisdiction.

threatened species – A Federal-listed, protected species that is likely to become an endangered species in all or a significant portion of its range.

trust resource – A resource that the government holds in trust for the people through law or administrative act. For example, a Federal trust resource is one for which responsibility is given wholly or in part to the Federal government by law or administrative act. Generally, Federal trust resources are nationally or internationally important no matter where they occur, like endangered species or migratory birds and fish that regularly move across state lines. They also include cultural resources protected by Federal historic preservation laws, and nationally important or threatened habitats, notably wetlands, navigable waters, and public lands like state parks and national wildlife refuges.


vision statement – A concise statement of what the unit could achieve in the next 10 to 15 years.


watershed – The geographic area within which water drains into a particular river, stream, or body of water. A watershed includes both the land and the body of water into which the land drains.

wilderness study areas – Lands and waters identified by inventory as meeting the definition of wilderness and being evaluated for a recommendation they be included in the Wilderness System (see ?recommended wilderness). A wilderness study area must meet these criteria: 1. generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man‘s work substantially unnoticeable; 2. have outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; 3. have at least 5,000 contiguous, roadless acres, or sufficient size to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition. (FWS Manual 610 FW 1.5 [draft]).

wilderness – See ?designated wilderness.

wildfire – A free-burning fire requiring a suppression response; all fire other than prescribed fire that occurs on wildlands (FWS Manual 621 FW 1.7).

wildland fire – Every wildland fire is either a wildfire or a prescribed fire (FWS Manual 621 FW 1.3).

wildlife-dependent recreational use – A use of a national wildlife refuge involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, or environmental education and interpretation (National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966).

wildlife management – Manipulating wildlife populations, either directly by regulating the numbers, ages, and sex ratios harvested, or indirectly by providing favorable habitat conditions and alleviating limiting factors.

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