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A Framework for the 21st-century Natural Resource Manager

chuurman, G. W., C. Hawkins Hoffman, D. N. Cole, D. J. Lawrence, J. M. Morton, D. R. Magness, A. E. Cravens, S. Covington, R. O’Malley, and N. A. Fisichelli. 2020. Resist-accept-direct (RAD) — a framework for the 21st-century natural resource manager. Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/CCRP/NRR—2020/ 2213. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado. An assumption of stationarity—i.e. “the idea that natural systems fluctuate within an unchanging envelope of variability” (Milly et al. 2008)—underlies traditional conservation and natural resource management, as evidenced by widespread reliance on ecological baselines to guide protection, restoration, and other management. Although ecological change certainly occurred under the relatively stable conditions of the recent past, the nature of change under intensifying global change is different; it is unidirectional, and rapidly pushing beyond the bounds of historical variability. In the past, a manager could plausibly work to reverse or mitigate many stressors or their impacts to approximate pre-disturbance ecological conditions, but now accelerated warming, changing disturbance regimes, and extreme events associated with climate change reduce that potential. Indeed, even ‘holding the line’ in the face of inexorable human-caused change is ever more difficult and costly. Thus, the convention of using baseline conditions to define goals for today’s resource management is increasingly untenable, presenting practical and philosophical challenges for managers. As formerly familiar ecological conditions continue to change, bringing novelty, surprise, and uncertainty, natural resource managers require a new, shared approach to make conservationdecisions. How, for example, should a manager respond to projections of loss of the Joshua tree from much of its current range, or to the emergence of new and different vegetation communities after a large fire event? The RAD (Resist-Accept-Direct) decision framework has emerged over the past decade as a simple tool that captures the entire decision space for responding to ecosystems facing the potential for rapid, irreversible ecological change. It assists managers in making informed, purposeful choices about how to respond to the trajectory of change, and moreover, provides a straightforward approach to support resource managers in collaborating at larger scales across jurisdictions, which today is more urgent than ever.”

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