Impacts management: An approach to fulfilling public trust responsibilities of wildlife agencies


  • Associate Editor: Brennan


In many states, case law, statutes, or constitutions establish a “public trust in wildlife,” a derivative of the public trust doctrine. Although interpretation differs across jurisdictions, the underlying principle of wildlife as a public trust resource, explicitly expressed or not, carries with it broad obligations and standards of trust administration by government to ensure benefits of wildlife are available to all citizens, present and future. The standards for execution of responsibilities by trustees (elected officials or their appointees, such as commissions) and trust managers (e.g., wildlife professionals working for state wildlife agencies) require understanding beneficiaries' varied interests in the wildlife resource, which in turn requires effective public input and involvement, following the precepts of good governance, such as inclusiveness, openness, fairness, transparency, and accountability. Managing wildlife resources as public trust assets entails providing sustainable net benefits from the existence of wildlife and its co-existence with humans. Wildlife managers need an approach to wildlife management that is philosophically consistent with the benefits-production focus of trust administration. We explain that impacts management is such an approach, essentially tailor-made for fulfilling trust-management responsibilities because of its focus on diverse, stakeholder-value-defined outcomes (desired impacts) and its reliance on stakeholders' input for identifying and weighing competing outcomes desired by them. Impacts management is a wildlife resource management approach for providing sustainable, highly relevant public trust administration. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.