How the National Node Facilitates Environmental Review & Compliance Efforts
The primary goal of the National Node is to facilitate access by federal agencies and their constituents to reliable data and data-driven decision support tools designed to streamline the environmental review processes, a high priority need identified by the Council. Environmental review is considered any assessment of agency activities or a proposed action under an agency’s review that may have an impact on migratory birds or their habitats. Often, the agency is required to conduct such an assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Other times, the agency has a need or desire to review their impacts to birds separate from NEPA, but in accordance with other statutes and policies to protect migratory birds (e.g., MBTA/BGEPA/ESA/EO13186) or agency requirements.
An important component of a good environmental review is access to quality data. This is where the National Node comes in. The AKN, even before the National Node, was already home to a steadily growing body of avian survey and point count data sets with some standard analysis tools that allow for quick summaries of the underlying datasets. The development of the National Node simply made some infrastructure changes to allow data and tools to be more accessible and usable on a national scale. To read more about these changes, visit the About page.
The result is a win-win for the birds, as well as the federal agencies and their constituents. This is because:
- Time and money is saved: Data is easily available in a centralized location, well described and comparable to other similar datasets. This reduces time spent acquiring data, compiling it and readying it for any necessary analysis. Some standard analysis tools are also a feature of the AKN, which may negate the need for customized data analysis if these tools meet the need.
- Products resulting from use of the data are defensible: The use of best available data likely means the outcome will be a robust and defensible assessment that the agency or organization can then use to support informed management decisions.
- Good assessments mean better bird conservation: Giving people access to quality data and intuitive tools results in a more robust and informed decision making process, and in turn, a more accurate and successful conservation outcome. .
- Compliance is made easier: Having access to quality data that is widely accepted by federal agencies and stakeholders to help steer decision-making makes for more cost-effective, efficient and defensible compliance decisions. The quicker and easier the route to compliance is, the more likely it is that people will regularly follow the proper route to compliance, and will be able to launch their projects and activities in a timely manner. Everyone is happy, and the birds reap the benefits as well.