[Text Graphic] Introduction to CRAFT


US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station















Natural resource management often involves social conflict. The source of the conflict generally arises from a mix of discordant values, competing world views, and uncertainty. Management decisions invariably involve tradeoffs among possible outcomes and acceptance of some risks while avoiding others.

CRAFT was designed to assist in planning and evaluating management alternatives. It provides a structured approach to identifying objectives, developing and comparing alternative actions, and displaying the tradeoffs and risks associated with different decisions. CRAFT uses a decision framework developed in the management sciences as a means of comparing decisions made under uncertainty. While conceptually straightforward, rigorously comparing alternatives that involve complex spatial and temporal process can be a daunting task. Multiple sources of data, models, and other information may need to be brought together in an integrated fashion. CRAFT is designed to help planning teams focus on the most important issues, organize their analyses, and bring the right tools and data to the table. CRAFT also helps organize and display the results of the planning and evaluation process so that stakeholders can see how their values and concerns are incorporated and addressed

In developing CRAFT, we have focused on the issues surrounding fire and fuels management and the conservation of biodiversity. These are critical issues in much of the Nation's forest and rangelands, and provide useful examples of the types of problems that CRAFT can help address. As a general planning tool, CRAFT is not limited to any particular set of issues.

Before using CRAFT for the first time, consider reviewing two examples. The first is an example analysis of a incident involving blow-down and a subsequent fire in the Megram area of Northern California. Follow the link, Megram Example, for a discussion. The second example is a recent scientific paper that demonstrates the type of tools incorporated in CRAFT. The attached paper by Lee and Irwin (2005) uses belief networks to assess risks to spotted owls from forest thinning in fire-adapted forests of the western United States. These two examples should provide you with an overview of the types of risk assessments that CRAFT is designed to facilitate.

Back to Top



CRAFT is designed primarily for use in a facilitated team environment. Individuals can use CRAFT, but a planning team is more likely to have access to the range of resources and perspectives necessary to conduct an integrated risk assessment. We have tried to make CRAFT user-friendly, so that a team might explore these web pages and decide how CRAFT might be useful for their project. A more effective approach is to have a team facilitator that is familiar with CRAFT and knowledgeable about the risk assessment techniques used here. Please contact us for information about how to receive training or assistance in using CRAFT.

Back to Top



Our goal is to ultimately develop an integrated website for CRAFT that provides linkages to spreadsheet, databases, and modeling software. Version 1.x of CRAFT has few such linkages , but requires a variety of ancillary programs. CRAFT users should have access to:

  • An application for creating organizational charts or similar hierarchical diagrams
  • A program for building and manipulating Bayesian belief networks
  • A spreadsheet program that can read Microsoft Excel™ files

More information about these programs and how to use CRAFT can be found on the Getting Started page.

Back to Top



CRAFT represents a synthesis of three overlapping approaches to managing risks and tradeoffs in natural resource management: ecological risk assessment, decision analysis, and decision protocols. Together, these provide a flexible framework to support planning, analysis, and decision making in most contexts. The building blocks of CRAFT - Ecological Risk Assessment, Decision Analysis and Decision Protocols

1. Ecological Risk Assessment

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ecological risk assessment is "a process that evaluates the likelihood that adverse ecological effects may occur or are occurring as a result of exposure to one or more stressors." Ecological risk assessments "systematically evaluate and organize data, information, assumptions, and uncertainties in order to help understand and predict the relationships between stressors and ecological effects in a way that is  useful for environmental decision making. An assessment may involve chemical, physical, or biological stressors, and one stressor or many stressors may be considered." (US EPA, 1998)

In land management agencies, most environmental analyses or assessments are conducted by planning teams. Actual decisions are made by high-ranking officials based on recommendations and analyses presented by the planning team. Interdisciplinary planning teams likely include members trained in ecological and social sciences, planning, assessment, and management. CRAFT maintains this separation between the process of risk assessment and decision making, recognizing that legal decisions (e.g., selection of a preferred alternative under NEPA) must often accommodate a much broader array of policy and legal mandates, qualitative information, and stakeholder preferences.

(Read more about ecological risk assessment and how it has been integrated into CRAFT).

2. Decision Analysis

While there are many tools and techniques that fall under the general heading of decision support, the term, decision analysis, is reserved for a set of techniques that explicitly model the relationships between a decision and its likely consequences. The most widely adopted quantitative form of decision analysis is Bayesian decision analysis. The term is derived from the Reverend Thomas Bayes, who described one of the basic axioms of probabilistic reasoning in the mid-eighteenth century.

Bayesian decision analysis begins by deconstructing the causal pathways between a decision and the range of possible outcomes into a series of steps or events. Many of these steps are probabilistic, that is, they may or may not occur with a given probability. Bayes theorem allows one to calculate the probability of an entire sequence of events and thus assign probabilities to any number of possible outcomes. Modern computer software allows graphical expression or modeling of the series of interconnected events and rapid calculation of associated probabilities. These models, known as Bayesian belief networks or influence diagrams allow CRAFT users to conduct a comparative risk assessment that compares and analyzes the tradeoffs among competing risks associated with several alternative actions.

3. Decision Protocols

As a framework for ecological risk assessment and decision analysis, CRAFT provides detailed guidance through the planning process as well as risk modeling. CRAFT has adapted Decision Protocol 2.0 as part of its framework for ecological risk assessment (Berg, et al.1999). CRAFT's derivation of DP 2.0 is represented by Wizard, a stepwise, task-oriented process that integrates planning, ecological risk assessment, and decision analysis. Like Decision Protocol 2.0, the Wizard is organized around logical stages of planning: Specifying Objectives, Designing Alternatives, Modeling Effects, and Synthesis.

(Read more about Decision Protocol 2.0.)


Back to Top

Proceed to Getting Started



Home ~ Getting Started ~ Resources ~ Wizard ~ Site Map
I. Specifying Objectives ~ II. Designing Alternatives ~III. Modeling Effects ~ IV. Synthesis












Getting Started Objectives Alternatives Effects Synthesis Wizard Resources Site Map Support CRAFT Home page