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Resist-Accept-Direct (RAD)—A Decision Framework for the 21st-century Natural Resource Manager

In the past, resource managers could use historic baseline conditions to define goals for resource management. This is increasingly untenable in the face of accelerated warming, changing disturbance regimes, and extreme events associated with climate change. The RAD (Resist-Accept-Direct) decision framework provides a simple tool for managers to use when tackling the practical and philosophical challenges of responding to rapid, irreversible ecological change.

Why Do We Need the RAD Decision Framework?

The natural world is always changing, as it cycles from summer to winter, from hot years to cool ones, and from dry decades to wet ones. Historically, careful study of these rhythms allowed people to understand and manage lands and waters to meet their needs. And for over a century, known past conditions have served as a baseline for conservation efforts including management of natural resources in parks.

But the past is no longer the guide it used to be. Today, climate change is rapidly altering environmental cycles and processes with new trends and phenomena, reshaping ecosystems in national parks and other protected areas. For example, changes driven by increases in heat and aridity across much of the National Park System include:

  • large-scale tree loss in places like Sequoia and Rocky Mountain National Parks,
  • increases in the extent of wildfire in Yosemite and other Western parks,
  • migration of entire biological communities in places like Noatak National Preserve, and
  • threats to the persistence of iconic species like the namesake trees of Joshua Tree National Park.

Climate change will continue to affect ecosystems of national parks and other protected areas for decades to come, transforming landscapes in surprising ways. Thus, the National Park Service and other natural resource management agencies need to consider how to determine and achieve conservation goals in realistic and sustainable ways under conditions of rapidly changing environments.

The Resist-Accept-Direct (RAD) decision framework provides a simple tool that encompasses the entire decision space for responding to ecosystems facing the potential for rapid, irreversible ecological change. It assists managers in making informed, purposeful choices about how to respond to the trajectory of change, and moreover, provides a straightforward approach to support resource managers in collaborating at larger scales across jurisdictions, which today is more urgent than ever.

Learn More

The RAD Matrix, extracted from the report, summarizes the three approaches.

Read the Report:
Schuurman, G. W., C. Hawkins Hoffman, D. N. Cole, D. J. Lawrence, J. M. Morton, D. R. Magness, A. E. Cravens, S. Covington, R. O’Malley, and N. A. Fisichelli. 2020. Resist-accept-direct (RAD)—a framework for the 21st-century natural resource manager. Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/CCRP/NRR—2020/ 2213. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.

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