Natural Resource Decision Making in a Changing Environment

Where: Online


Understanding how to make resource management decisions in the face of accelerating, widespread, and complex change and uncertainty is a vital skill for resource professionals in the twenty-first century. This course introduces the importance of understanding change concepts. It emphasizes the skills and processes needed to prioritize and make informed decisions utilizing change concepts, law and policy, and the best available science.

The course reviews laws and policies that require the NPS to effectively manage resources and avoid impairment to NPS natural and cultural resources, even when faced with a changing and uncertain future. Learners consider change caused by direct and indirect influences, and the spatial and temporal characteristics which effect how different influences impact resource conditions. They develop the awareness and vocabulary to recognize, anticipate and communicate about the types, impacts, and rates of change affecting park resources.

Learners also explore factors in addition to science, that are considered in resource management decisions. These include law and policy; funding; the availability and validity of scientific information and data; and risk tolerance. After an overview of the steps in the decision-making process, the course provides a scenario which learners walk through to practice applying what they have learned.

Finally, the course introduces the precautionary principle, adaptive management, structured decision making, risk mitigation, and systems thinking. Links to additional training sources provide learners with tools to develop skills in these areas and become more valuable participants in the decision-making process. Throughout the course, the importance of effective collaboration and communication skills to enhance learners’ contributions in the decision-making process is stressed.

Topics covered:

  • What “managing for change” is and why it is important
  • Guidance and authorities that address managing resources in a changing environment
  • Influences on park resources and responses
  • Why organizational science priorities change
  • Principles of decision making
  • Decision-making factors and tools

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this course, learners will be able to:

  • Describe what “managing for change” is and why it is important in natural resource decision making
  • Articulate the guidance and authorities related to managing for change
  • Describe scenario planning, conceptual modeling, adaptive management, and structured decision making and explain how these processes can be used to address uncertainty and applied as the best available science to park decisions
  • List types of influences including direct and indirect, and their spatial and temporal characteristics which effect how resource conditions are impacted
  • Identify and describe the objective and subjective factors, values, and biases that influence decision outcomes
  • Describe the importance of clearly defined objectives and goals in resource management and science
  • Describe the concept of risk management as it relates to resource and science decisions
  • Identify reasons that resources at risk may alter science-related priorities, and describe ways to effectively adapt to new and changing decisions

Estimated Completion Time

2 Hour/s


Target Audience:

  • Natural resource professionals at the developmental/full performance level
  • Natural resource professionals at any level who are new to the NPS
  • Employees and managers from any career field who are interested in learning more about the basis for natural resource decision making in a changing environment


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