The primary goal of the Federal Avian Data Center 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 Federal Avian Data Center comes in. The AKN, even before the Federal Avian Data Center, 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 Federal Avian Data Center simply made some infrastructure changes to allow data and tools to become more accessible and usable on multiple scales and across state, regional and even international boundaries. To read more about these changes, visit the About page. The node also works to centralize information on incorporating migratory bird considerations into environmental reviews , decision support tools, and best available conservation measures that are resources key facilitating efficient and streamlined actions by federal agencies.
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: Best available data and information is easily available in a centralized location. Data is well described and comparable to other similar datasets. This greatly improves the efficiency of federal agencies in conducting bird conservation and compliance efforts. Time is reduced searching for guidance and best practices. In addition, time normally spent acquiring data, compiling it and readying it for any necessary analysis is all but eliminated. 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. In addition, because of AKNs many partnerships and users, data, tools and resources in AKN are constantly growing and evolving as time goes on. This is a ongoing benefit for the full body of users and partners of the AKN, since results from tools populated with data real-time improve with each data record shared, and new products and tools developed often benefit the AKN and greater bird conservation community as a whole.
Products resulting from use of the data are defensible: The use of best available data and information 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 information, 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 information and 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 path to compliance is, the more likely it is that people will regularly follow the proper path 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.