Science Reviews

The Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) is available to conduct reviews of wildlife and natural resource agency programs and functions. At the request of agencies, WMI has successfully completed over 70 reviews of fish and wildlife programs in more than 40 states and 4 provinces. WMI has also compiled and published national summaries of the organization, authority and programs of state fish and wildlife agencies in 1948, 1968, 1977, 1987 and 1997.

In recent years, WMI has been especially effective in helping fish and wildlife agencies determine the scientific adequacy of their data gathering processes. In today's world of increased scrutiny of wildlife and natural resource agency programs and decisions, it is important that scientific information be accurate, reliable, and defensible when challenged. WMI reviews are structured to assist agencies in delivering these outcomes.

WMI reviews assess decision-making within the agency and classify the scientific foundations needed for each type of agency decision. WMI then assesses the scientific rigor of data gathering activities to ensure those decisions that need to be founded on good science are defensible if challenged. WMI also assesses the training, attitudes and application of science activities by agency staff.

The costs for each review vary and depend upon the nature and extent of the review. WMI works closely with each agency in developing appropriate objectives and parameters for the work. WMI guarantees confidentiality and releases review information only to the contracting agency.
Following are some examples of recent scientific reviews:

Independent Review of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks Division of Wildlife Big Game Management Program

The South Dakota Office of the Governor contracted with WMI to conduct a review of the big game (deer, elk, antelope, and mountain lion) management programs conducted by the Wildlife Division of the Department of Game, Fish and Parks

WMI completed the review by analyzing over 2,500 documents provided by the Department; holding a series of public "listening sessions" across the state; gathering public input via a dedicated email address; conducting personal interviews with individuals identified by the Governor's Office, current and former Commissioners, current and former Department staff, and circulating an on-line survey administered to Division of Wildlife staff who were not personally interviewed. WMI's review was designed to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and areas of improvement for the South Dakota big game management program. Our goal was to provide valuable information that will improve each of the big game management programs and to assist the Department in its role as public steward of the wildlife resources that grace South Dakota.

An Examination of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Deer Management Program

The Pennsylvania Legislative Finance and Budget Committee contracted with WMI in 2010 to conduct an evaluation and study of the Pennsylvania Game Commission?s current deer management program and practices.

WMI analyzed the scientific basis of deer management in the Commonwealth, including the scientific foundation of deer management goals, deer population and habitat measurements and citizen input procedures. The analysis was designed to judge the adequacy of the methods employed by the PGC to provide the agency and the public with an independent evaluation of how the deer management goals were chosen and measured, and how they affected deer management.

A Comprehensive Review and Evaluation of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

The Executive Director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency contracted with WMI in 2008 to provide an evaluation of the agency. Effective fish and wildlife agencies operate under five principles: agencies must be structured appropriately to achieve efficiency and effectiveness, agencies must represent a balance between natural resource management and service to the public, natural resource management must be grounded in good science, agencies must have effective human resource administration, and agencies must establish priorities and fund accordingly. In an effort to assess the TWRA compliance with these principles, the leadership of TWRA asked the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) to conduct a comprehensive review and evaluation of the TWRA.

WMI reviewed pertinent literature and documents; conducted Commissioner, employee, and stakeholder interviews and surveys; analyzed scientific methodology and survey efforts; and consulted leadership from other state fish and wildlife agencies to evaluate the current status of the agency. Based on our evaluation, WMI found that the majority of TWRA employees were hard-working, dedicated resource professionals who wanted TWRA to continuously improve its ability to serve the fish and wildlife resources of Tennessee and its citizens. For decades, the Director of TWRA provided national leadership on several of the most important fish and wildlife conservation initiatives including the: North American Waterfowl Management Plan, Teaming with Wildlife and State Wildlife Action Plans, North American Bird Conservation Initiative, and National Fish Habitat Plan. TWRA Commissioners valued quality management of the state's fish and wildlife resources as their first priority and sincerely wanted the TWRA to be the best state fish and wildlife agency in the country.

A Review of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department Hunting and Harvest Surveys and Statewide Angling Pressure Survey

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department contracted with WMI in March of 2006 to provide an evaluation of agency hunting and angling surveys. The scope of the evaluation was described as performing the necessary tasks to: 1) Evaluate the current Angling and Hunter Harvest Survey systems for information gathering, analysis and reporting. 2) Explore alternative systems for information gathering, analysis and reporting for more efficient, cost effective and defensible methods. 3) Develop recommendations and provide a report on the most appropriate, effective, efficient and timely Angling and Hunter Harvest Survey system for MFWP.

WMI reviewed methodology and use of surveys for hunter harvest of black bear, deer, elk, antelope, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, mountain lion harvest, mountain lion sightings, upland game birds, furbearers, and turkey and for angling pressure and satisfaction.

WMI explored alternative systems to the MFWP system for harvest information gathering, analysis, and reporting for more efficient, cost effective, and defensible methods. Alternatives were structured with information gleaned from WMI's analysis of current MFWP survey methodologies, examination of other state fish and wildlife agency survey systems, and conversations with private vendors offering survey products. The final report was delivered in November, 2006 and included responses to clarifications made by agency staff.

A Comprehensive Review of Science-Based Methods and Processes of the Wildlife and Parks Divisions of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) contracted with WMI to provide a broad review of science-based activities of the Wildlife Division and State Parks Division. The review was intended to answer the following questions: 1) Why are we doing what we are doing? 2) Is what we are doing being done well (i.e., are we using the best science available)? 3) Are there critical data gaps that will improve our ability to manage wildlife resources?

Over the course of six months, WMI completed extensive document and method review, field interviews of field and program biologists and analysis of employee opinions to obtain an understanding of use of scientific data to guide management programs for wildlife in Texas. The WMI analysis, findings and recommendations were delivered orally in November 2004. The final report included responses to clarifications made by program staff.