Conservation Partners connecting working lands conservation from the Gulf of Mexico to the High Plains with the vision of a sustainable landscape of natural resources resilient to the threats and stressors associated with our changing world.

(903) 570-9626
Conservation Coordinator 

    Pelicans Breton NWR

    Pelicans at Breton National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Establishing Explicit Biological Objectives to Guide Strategic Habitat Conservation for the Gulf Coast

Formal Title: Establishing Explicit Biological Objectives to Guide Strategic Habitat Conservation for the Gulf Coast

Research Focus: Biological Planning

Conservation & Management Challenges:

The RESTORE Act (33 U.S. Code § 1321) directs 80% of Clean Water Act penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (likely to be in the billions) to Gulf of Mexico restoration.  Gulf partners profess a common goal of “restoring and protecting the natural resources…and economy of the Gulf Coast region” (Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council 2013:2), yet specific and explicit objectives that quantify what it means to actually achieve this goal remain undefined.  Despite the presence of numerous conservation partnerships along the Gulf of Mexico, there is concern that this unprecedented opportunity will lack a coordinated response (NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program 2013). The success of the RESTORE Act will hinge on a common vision for conservation framed by explicit biological objectives for specific conservation targets – particularly for fish and wildlife.

Research Overview:

This is a National Landscape Conservation Cooperative Project.  National funds are providing needed capacity to the four Gulf LCCs (Gulf Coast Prairie, Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks, Peninsular Florida, and South Atlantic) to effectively meet the demand from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Gulf Program for a suite of conservation targets across the Gulf representative of broader habitat sustainability and for which explicit biological objectives have been identified – all without sacrificing work on the other important priorities of these partnerships.

Project Goals, Objectives, and Justification:  

Goal.—The goal of this project is to develop explicit biological objectives for a common suite of conservation targets representative of sustainable Gulf habitats across the four “Gulf” LCCs.

Objectives.—The objectives of this project are to:

  1. Identify a suite of conservation targets (i.e., species) for 13 of the Vision Focal Areas on or adjacent to the Gulf Coast,

  2. Establish explicit biological objectives for each of these conservation targets,

  3. Develop  a set of Bayesian network models (subject to the availability of existing knowledge and subject experts) to link these conservation targets to habitat characteristics that can be affected by/considered in restoration projects,

  4. Apply these Bayesian belief networks to geospatial datasets (subject to the availability of appropriate data) characterizing  current and future habitat conditions to assess the practicality of established objectives, and

  5. Propose habitat objectives specific to achievement of explicit biological objectives



This project was initiated in October 2014. It is scheduled to be completed in September 2018.

Access Biological Objectives project reports on ScienceBase


Pending completion in fall 2016.


Principal Investigator:  John Tirpak, GCPO LCC Science Coordinator and FWS Gulf Program Science Coordinator,


Landscape Conservation Cooperative Point-of-Contact: Bill Bartush, Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative, National Wetlands Research Center, 700 Cajundome Boulevard, Lafayette, LA 70506

For more information, visit the Gulf Coast Prairie LCC.

« Back to Science Projects