Linking science to conservation in the North Atlantic
Passion for habitat conservation has linked each part of my career, driving me with the realization that the best opportunities for conserving significant habitats are occurring now.
I was fortunate enough to participate in the protection and restoration of millions of acres of land in my previous job as coordinator of the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture. My experience affirmed the importance of developing shared science capacity to help people make habitat conservation decisions in the face of change – particularly human impacts on ecosystems, including urban growth, sprawl and energy development.
All of which are magnified by the multiple effects of accelerating climate change.
I found the opportunity to work through partnerships and make that link between science and conservation through landscape conservation cooperatives, and I am excited to play a part as coordinator of the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative.
This fall, I met with staff from all 22 LCCs across the U.S. and adjacent countries. I was at a workshop for the national LCC staff at the National Wetlands Science Center in Lafayette, La. Although these LCCs are all at different stages and each using approaches best suited to their own landscapes and partners, we are all working towards the same overall vision of landscapes that sustain natural and cultural resources for current and future generations.
It has been a little over two years since the North Atlantic LCC became a staffed partnership and hosted its first official steering committee meeting in New Castle, N.H. The past two years have been busy and exciting.
- Built relationships and established effective governance for the partnership,
- Agreed on a conservation framework and priority science needs, and
- Begun to build the shared science capacity to address those needs.
The 32 state, federal, tribal and non-governmental partners that make up the steering committee – and the numerous partners and partnerships that are involved in one or more of the LCC technical teams – are working well together towards common goals.
The LCC worked with Northeast states in 2011 to host a Northeast Regional Conservation Framework Workshop with 86 participants. At the workshop, participants reviewed ongoing and completed regional science projects and developed initial consensus on a common conservation framework, vision and highest priorities for conservation science in the LCC going forward.
The results of that workshop, as well as a science needs assessment, formed the North Atlantic LCC Conservation science strategic plan. These science priorities are being addressed through partnership, leveraging existing research and funding new science that directly benefits managers.
The North Atlantic LCC has focused in part on the development of science and tools that help conservation partners make informed decisions in the face of major threats and drivers, including climate change and urban growth.
For example, during the fall of 2012, the North Atlantic LCC hosted three workshops to introduce over 120 users and managers to the science and tools under development in pilot areas as part of the Designing Sustainable Landscapes project led by the University of Massachusetts Amherst. With feedback from users and managers, this project will now be expanded across the Northeast Region. The principal investigator for this project, Dr. Kevin McGarigal, will be talking about this project in more detail in a future blog post.
Another major focus is on science delivery – the management of information, translation of science and engagement of partners to ensure that science and tools are available at the scales and formats they need.
One current focus of this science delivery is compiling, organizing and synthesizing regional spatial and non-spatial data on species, habitats, threats to both and conservation actions to provide regionally consistent information for updating state wildlife action plans for the 13 Northeast states and the District of Columbia. The LCC has recently launched a web-based information management system that will help support this effort, establish a forum for collaborative conservation work and build a resource library of tools and information that will help managers throughout the Northeast.
There is much more to do to make the North Atlantic LCC work well and be meaningful and relevant to programs in the Fish and Wildlife Service d to partners across the region. It has been a satisfying few years for me in helping to establish this partnership and we’ve had many successes. I look forward to helping ensure this partnership serves regional needs and reaches its potential.