Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

Site Assessment Tool

Why use the Site Assessment Tool?

Evaluation may sound boring and with a negative connotation – not so here. The Site Assessment Tool should be seen primarily as a tool to assist site partners with their site conservation objectives, not as a system for ranking sites and managers for their performance. The assessment findings will provide WHSRN with invaluable information for advocacy for advancing shorebird conservation, especially for issues that affect multiple sites and where WHSRN can be a catalyst for action.

Marbled Godwit
Photo Credit: Tom Vezo

WHSRN has been successful at incorporating numerous sites throughout the hemisphere during the last 20 years. Unfortunately, the Network has not established a system to keep track of the evolution of sites since they are designated, so the actions of the Network at the site level are currently based on fragmentary and/or old information. Today, WHSRN needs to make a current inventory of the status of its sites, and at the same time become more accountable on our performance, both in shorebird conservation and our contribution to sustainable development. The Site Assessment Tool works in that direction, but its success depends on the involvement of every site in the Network.

The assessment itself is a very useful tool for each site, because it provides an overview of its status that can be easily used to raise red flags on issues of concern, establish management priorities, report achievements and successes, identify research, monitoring and data collection priorities, and provide facts and figures for education, awareness, management, fundraising and advocacy. The assessment is designed to be built upon the consensus of site managers, experts and stakeholders interested in the conservation of the site. This makes its findings strong, reliable and useful as a planning instrument. However, the assessment will generally be too coarse to replace other valuable in-depth site evaluations or detailed management plans. Nonetheless, site managers will find the analysis useful in putting them in context with the rest of the Network.  An additional value of the Site Assessment comes when a second assessment is done and comparisons of progress and change can be easily made. We expect that sites will be able to carry out assessments every three years.

Photo Credit: Charles Duncan

The network-wide analysis of the assessments will help sites answer interesting questions like: Do other sites share this similar problem? What is going on at the sites that share species? Can we relate some decline in shorebird populations to problems at another site? Are there ideas about conservation actions to be tried? Are there geographic patterns evident? Are there innovative institutional approaches tried in other sites that we could learn from?

We recognize that shorebird conservation, although a priority for the sites enrolled in the Network, is not their only objective as protected areas. On the other hand, our sites range from small refuges to large coalitions of different protected areas that joined together to form the site, like Great Salt Lake or San Francisco Bay. Therefore, our tool should work with all these circumstances, and be something useful beyond shorebird conservation. For that reason, the tool goes beyond asking how shorebirds are doing at the site and delves into many other topics of protected areas.

The reach of the Site Assessments goes beyond the narrow field of WHSRN. We have partnered with Birdlife and work closely with WWF, Ramsar and the protected area agencies of the WHSRN countries to streamline this tool into their planning processes so that it doesn’t become an additional load but an opportunity for synergy. Thus, the WHSRN assessments will contribute directly to the monitoring of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in the Americas and to the evaluation of the status of Ramsar sites, an important collaboration since many of our sites share those designations as well.