Wildlife populations are affected by habitat loss and fragmentation resulting from actions undertaken by various parties across broad geographic scales. One way to account for these effects is through cumulative effects analysis (CEA), a legal requirement under the National Environmental Policy Act that has been a persistent challenge for natural resource agencies. This article provides an overview of the CEA requirement, and uses the US Forest Service's approach as a platform for assessing the promises and pitfalls of connecting CEA to effective wildlife conservation planning. I conducted a case study analysis, using document analysis and interviews, to investigate CEA practice and its associated challenges. I found that current CEA practice relies on habitat-based measurements and fails to account for long-term or broad-scale impacts, resulting in a disconnect between the approaches taken to CEA and accurate understanding of biological effects. Insufficient monitoring stands out as the primary impediment to improving CEA. Increased monitoring, improved knowledge of species-habitat relationships, and the development of scientifically credible assessments are potential ways forward.
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Vol. 60 • No. 7