Prioritizing aquatic conservation and restoration in the Pacific Northwest

The Challenges

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wanted to prioritize conservation and restoration activities across a broad area. Specifically, they wanted to know where to target their work, in order to maximize conservation and restoration objectives for fish species while accounting for other factors such as watershed condition, climate change and aquatic invasive species. What USFWS needed was a process for data compilation, analysis and interpretation that could be streamlined and made available to the organization’s managers.

Our Approach

Ecotrust partnered with the Pacific region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to first compile a broad range of existing data on aquatic species, watershed conditions, climate change projections, and the spread of invasive species. We then designed a prioritization model utilizing Marxan that would identify priority areas given a set of broad objectives for each species.

After the prioritization model and suite of GIS datasets were created they were then packaged into a web-based decision support tool that leveraged the Madrona framework. The tool features a streamlined workflow for assessing priorities in an iterative and collaborative manner. Fish and Wildlife managers were able to use the tool to identify the most important investment areas across a wide range of scenarios. The target-based approach allowed them to selectively include different factors and avoid areas -- for example, those that have poor watershed condition, or that are highly vulnerable to climate change effects or aquatic invasives.

The aquatic prioritization tool is now being leveraged to develop similar tools for the North Pacific Land Conservation Cooperative and for various efforts on the lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Notable Features

  • Integration of Marxan-based prioritization model
  • Excel-based bulk data loading capability
  • Collaboration. Users are able to share the scenarios they have created


  • Madrona framework
  • Google Earth
  • Marxan conservation planning software
  • Arc2Earth


For more information, contact Mike Mertens at - 503-467-0775.