Reintroduction of wolves (Canis lupus) to Yellowstone National Park (after a 75-year absence) led to a cascade of beneficial ecosystem changes. (NPS)

Intended Consequences Initiative

EXPANDING THE NARRATIVE FOR CONSERVATION

Currently, the ecological stakes are high and biodiversity is in peril, but pervasive fears about potential harmful unintended consequences still paralyze conservation innovation. But so often, we fail to address the negative consequences of inaction. “Intended Consequences,” provides a deliberate counterweight. This new language is meant to help people understand what new conservation interventions can accomplish if uncertainty is acknowledged and innovation is embraced. “Intended Consequences” advocates for keeping an eye on positive outcomes, the benefits for biodiversity and working toward a future we want.

Conservation has already demonstrated that achieving Intended Consequences benefits nature. In a review of over 140 years of conservation history, Novak, et al. 2021 reveals that conservation translocations rarely result in harmful unintended consequences. Genetic interventions are complementary to more traditional conservation methods, including translocation, and together they have the potential to stave off or reverse catastrophic outcomes, such as climate-led extinctions. Revive & Restore launched the Intended Consequences initiative to encourage action and build momentum for this solution-oriented approach to conservation.

EXPANDING THE NARRATIVE & INCREASING INCLUSIVITY

Conservation has historically failed to work within a framework of cultural inclusivity. As we embrace a wider diversity of available technologies, we must also include a wider diversity of stakeholders. The Intended Consequences Initiative advocates for a more inclusive process within this initiative as well as within the practice of conservation as a whole. The Intended Consequences Initiative is meant to encourage language and outreach that will expand the narrative and introduce innovative solutions that emerge from diverse communities and sectors.

Starting with a workshop

Revive & Restore hosted the Intended Consequences Workshop in June 2020. We convened 57 practitioners, social scientists, decision-makers, and thought leaders in conservation biology representing academia, governmental agencies, and NGOs. The conversations and consensus-building that occurred jumpstarted the development of a responsible and collaborative framework that will facilitate the use of modern technologies to help rebuild the health of our planet.

Moving Forward

Strong motivation emerged from those groundbreaking workshop conversations. Participants agreed that next-generation biotechnologies have the potential to profoundly improve the health of our ecosystems and that now is the time to explore them. To build a wider, more diverse community of solution-finders, these key resources are being made available, with more to come:

  • To Restore Biodiversity, Embrace Biotech’s ‘Intended Consequences’—This Scientific American op-ed, co-authored by Revive & Restore Executive Director Ryan Phelan and Paul Robbins, Dean of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison introduces the initiative to the public.
  • Society of Conservation Biology’s Emerging Issues in Conservation Seminar—Revive & Restore’s Ben Novak and UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability Claire Hirashaki present their articles from the Intended Consequences Special Issue.
  • Intended Consequences Special IssuePublished on April 15, 2021, in Conservation Science and Practice this collection of 11 articles is written by experts in the fields of conservation biology, biotechnology, social science, and environmental ethics. It offers a rigorous scholarly foundation and explores new tools, strategies, and approaches to risk analysis to confidently tackle the world’s most urgent conservation problems. 
  • Intended Consequences Statement—This consensus-building document is meant to catalyze a new era in conservation. It was authored by 46 workshop participants and published in the Intended Consequences special issue. Everyone is encouraged to read and sign on in support.
  • Code of Practice for Genetic InterventionsAn effort is underway to guide safe and transparent planning and implementation of genetic interventions. This evolving best practices document will help funders and regulators feel confident in supporting this leading edge of conservation. A steering committee is now being formed.

To achieve our goals of expanding the narrative for conservation and increasing inclusivity, each of these documents will be widely shared with the public, conservation practitioners, decision-makers, and stakeholders. We anticipate and welcome the many conversations that are sure to follow.