Richard, I said I'd get back to you if you had questions. You had some re: NatureServe. To save myself the time of composing it all again, I have dug up this old stuff I wrote here on FHF (2 threads; in one I was talking w/ you - I believe all
the quotes below are yours). Recall, please, that the deal I offered you, was to respond to your questions if you would read what I offer. It appears you maintain many of the positions you held before, which is your prerogative, but it also appears you retain some of your former misapprehensions, which I tried to correct or at least contextualize in order for you to have a more nuanced understanding of certain things. I hope I get through with you this time around. OK, here goes:
- NatureServe (NS) works in partnership with the Heritage Programs (HPs). NS is an NGO, and was spun off from TNC several decades ago. Most HP's are embedded in state agencies. [Added 9/25/2017 - most, about 2/3, are in state agencies. About 1/3 are at universities - this is the case in Oregon. ORBIC houses Oregon's Natural Heritage Program.
- Both NS and the HPs use the NS Rank Calculator (http://www.natureserve.org/publications
... tor-v2.jsp), and data collected or compiled by the HPs (http://www.natureserve.org/visitLocal/
- Ranks are calculated at the subnational (mostly, state) level by the individual HPs. Exactly how the individual HP uses the NS Rank Calculator is up to their discretion in an important way. All HPs will utilize all the occurrence data at their disposal (and they are always seeking more!). But that occurrence data is only used to calculate the Rarity part of the rank calculation. There are 2 other parts - Threats and Trends. Some HPs are very inclusive in terms of who (internal only? if not, which "outsiders"?) they ask to help them with the Threats and Trends parts of operating the Rank Calculator, which at the end of the operation spits out the subnational/state rank. Some HPs are not so inclusive. It makes a difference, IMO. "The wisdom of crowds" and all that.
- Ranks are calculated at the national and global levels by NatureServe. Using the same Rank Calculator as at the subnational level, NS uses species occurrence data submitted more-or-less regularly by the individual HPs (supposed to be annually but I know from experience it can go longer, up to 4-5 years in egregious cases). As I understand it - and I could be wrong - NS does not rely entirely on the HPs' threat and trend assessments - they also superimpose their own synthesis (which does make some sense after all). I do not know how inclusive NS is - same questions as above - is it internal-only, and if not, then who else is asked to participate?
- I believe that if a species only occurs in one state, NS just uses that state HP's ranking.
- It should be clear to all that there's an irrefutable cascade of delay, and in my opinion there's also one of subjectivity, between state rankings, national rankings, and global rankings. That is, G-ranks are by and large the "flakiest". This is not so much the case with narrow endemics - such as many - not all - the taxa in the 53-herps petition of July 2012. It's also wise to keep in mind that while an S-rank of "2" has the same definition across state lines, the processes leading to the different "2's" embody some heterogeneity, as discussed above with Threats and Trends.
I know a bit about global, national and state ranks and offer to share some of it here. First of all, it's important to understand that the ranks are outputs of something called the NatureServe Rank Calculator. It's just a macro-enabled spreadsheet that the user enters values into, and then pushes a button to get the rank.
The basic categories of stuff the calculator considers to derive its output are 1) rarity, 2) threats, and 3) trends (both long-term and short-term).
NatureServe produces global and national ranks. When applicable, they prefer to use data provided by member programs (typically called Natural Heritage Programs) - in the USA most of them are at the state level. There are also Navajo Nation and Tennessee Valley Authority programs. When I say "state level" I don't mean those programs are operated by state agencies - most are, but about 1/3 are not. That appears to be the case in Oregon - it seems to be a university thing there. Most non-agency state-level programs are operated by universities. Two states I have lived in, Colorado and Florida, have this situation. It is not infrequently the case that when a universirty runs a Heritage program, the state wildlife agency has little to do with the program.
So just to repeat - S ranks are not produced by NatureServe. They are produced by state-level programs, and reported to NatureServe by participating or member programs. Participating in the NatureServe network, that is.
...I came away with the conclusion that EOs are based on locality sightings which may be clumped into groups the then call EOs..
Emphasis added 9/25/2017.
Yeah that's about right. It's a bit of an abstraction. There is some direction given for e.g. colonial animals - it would be silly to have 2 (or 200) observations of individual prairie dogs from the same town each get their own EO. The dog town is the EO. Same goes for, e.g., a pelican or tern nesting colony, a sea turtle nesting beach, etc. For solitary animals, conceptually, a spatial buffer is applied to the observation. More about that below, on "grid cells".
Emphasis added 9/25/2017
If you look more closely at the rank calculator you will note that there are 2 basic ways to handle that "rarity" criterion. One is abundance, one is extent of distribution. Very few species are evaluated on the basis of abundance, for the simple reason that such data do not exist for most species.
Well, depending on the species, there can be little correlation between the number of locality sightings and the numerical abundance of species. So the use of EOs to assess the status of species is a terribly flawed practice, especially as it pertains to secretive species such as many species of herps. The concept likely has more merit when applied to plants
So let's take extent of distribution. In the calculator, species occupying points or polygons are evaluated based on how many 4 sq km grid cells have an EO (all or part of them) in them. Species occupying lines (e.g. stream organisms) are evaluated based on how many 1 sq km grid cells they occupy. If a species in Oregon occurred statewide, in every conceivable habitat, it would occupy about 63,700 of the larger grid cells. A species occupying 3 springs in the same small valley might occupy 1 or 2 or 3 grid cells.[/b]
Restricted range is a widely-accepted predictor of imperilment. So is low abundance, but to a much smaller extent, particularly if distribution is large. Take large carnivores as an example. They are naturally "rare", but by no means may they be assumed to be imperiled.
In the calculator, rarity commands most of the weight driving the output - 85% in the current version if I am not mistake. Threats and trends take up the rest. I quibble with this, I think threats and trends ought to get more weight. But this is inviting a distraction...just remember that threats and trends are also included. How they are included can be utterly subjective, or it can be strongly data-driven. But just as an example, take the lower 48 grizzly population. The long term trend is terrible - they've been extirpated from >95% of their former range. However the short-term (last 20 years) trends are excellent - their distribution and abundance (the latter well-known in this freak case) have at least tripled. This is the case because most of the serious threats to grizzlies have been sufficiently managed to allow births and survival to greatly outpace deaths.
The important thing to keep in mind, is that the ranks are simply an index of the relative degree of imperilment a species faces. Forget trying to define exactly what a 3 is - the important thing is, it's better than a 2 and worse than a 4. You don't make a decision about a particular course of action just based on the number - you need to look at the specifics of rarity, threats, and trends.[/b]
And as is typical now of state wildlife agencies, neither NatureServe nor the ODFW have any evidence in support of that S-3 ranking for the Night Snake in Oregon.
Again, I would look to whose rank that is, and I would further request of them the rank calculator report showing what inputs they used. The easiest way to "uprank" that animal would be to add more legitimate dots to the map - ones not in already-recorded grid squares. This is an important contribution FHF members can make.
I have now twice taken time to inform myself about NatureServe and their methods. To sum up my position, it amounts to junk science at it finest.
Emphasis added 9/25/2017.
I think this is a bit extreme and I hope I can convince you to take a broader view. Perhaps not in how ODFW is using the ranks to do whatever it is trying to do, but simply to recognize that the Rank Calculator outputs are actually a very helpful device to help overworked, understaffed managers look at the entirety of a flora and fauna (virtually all of which is data deficient), and quickly determine what they do not need to worry about for the moment, and what needs some attention. What kind of attention is a whole 'nother thing entirely.
In my case, when I see an S rank that implies imperilment, but I "know" from experience that it ain't so, the first thing I do is try to round up more "locality sightings" as you call them. I want to paint the entire presumed distribution of the animal in locality sightings, if possible one every few miles in all directions. I do not rush to call something imperiled when it's obviously a simple case of insufficient data. Others may behave differently...but it can be good to ask first, before assuming any motives.
In the case of an animal that is restricted in its distribution, I look to the threats. If there are obvious threats the first order of business is to go about trying to reduce them, preferably starting with the worst ones first. Typically, those manifest in habitat loss and degradation, or excessive mortality or insufficient recruitment. Note that these are drivers of distribution and abundance - exactly the things the rank calculator gives most weight to.
Finally, operators of the calculator can always do a manual override. If for example a species has a naturally small distribution, but there has been little or no discernible change in that distribution, and there are no credible existential threats that have not been managed, if the calculator spits out a "1" the operator can always manually assign a "2" or "3".
Anyway, I hope this is informative. I will close by suggesting that to demand virtual omniscience as a prerequisite to taking some sort of action, is a pretty specious argument. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't, so you might as well do something that seems about right - that's the position conscientious managers are in. The trick is in figuring out what "right" is, and not just grabbing at the first thing you see. Those who appear guilty of doing that need to be called out, starting with an approach that is more likely to have them engage constructively, rather than retreat to the bunker.
Added 9/25/2017: Hopefully this addresses many of your points. I think it does, you may feel differently. Anyway, if you look at the documentation for the Rank Calculator, or any NatureServe publication, you will see plenty of cited works. Many are from older NS works, or from NS employees, but nonetheless I really think it is extreme and misleading to call their material "unscientific". I find it repeatable, transparent, and adequately substantiated for careful, eyes-open usage
I would further add that while wildlife management seeks to retain "science" as a core factor in decision-making, it also integrates human biases & preferences (and all that they entail) in that decision-making. I know you have a degree (B.S., 1955, right?) in Wildlife Management, but I do not know that you ever practiced it, particularly in an agency, particularly at a middle or senior level. Did you? One gets quite an education in "the real world", with promotion. People really are
the most interesting animal...