Adaptive management is a way for managers to do their jobs in the face of uncertainty and learn by doing. Managers gain greater knowledge of their systems by testing different strategies during the management process. The term “adaptive management” is used often, but there is confusion about exactly what adaptive management is, and managers are hard-pressed to find any clear guidelines for implementing it. As a result, they can find the process of moving from the concept of adaptive management to the actual practice intimidating; they need a clear understanding of adaptive management before they can begin to use it. Luckily, adaptive management is not as complicated as the literature sometimes makes it appear. The process of adaptive management involves formulating questions, selecting alternative techniques to test these questions, and testing these techniques on the landscape. Care is taken to measure those system responses that best tell whether the system is moving toward site objectives, and results are fed back into the decision process. We argue that there are 2 strategies that can be used to improve the success of adaptive management. The first is to start with a simple adaptive management plan and then add complexity over time. The second is to include researchers in all stages of the process to benefit from their expertise in ecology, experimental design, and data analysis. Although adaptive management takes time, rewards include increased understanding of the system, a management program that is scientifically valid, and a management strategy tailored to a particular site. In this paper we briefly explain adaptive management and then offer a step-by-step process for developing and implementing adaptive management in small reserves or on private lands. We believe increased understanding of adaptive management will lead to its widespread use and will ensure that more people benefit from its strengths.
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