Putting science on the map

Conservation-road-map

Where the rubber meets the road: Over the past several months, staff from the North Atlantic and Appalachian LCCs have met with partners at two dozen sites to present innovative conservation science. Click the map for more details.

At first glance, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think the image on the right was one of those “Where we fly” maps airlines tuck into seat-back pockets, along with all that other stuff you only notice when you finish your book or your iPod battery dies mid-flight.

But the red markers on that map aren’t popular destinations for weekend jet setters or hubs for business travelers. Well, some of them probably are, but more importantly, those places are all hotspots for something else: early adopters of innovative conservation.

Those are the two dozen (and counting) different venues where staff from the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative and Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative have met with state, federal, and non-profit conservation organizations over the past several months to present tools designed to address urgent conservation needs with the best available regional science. Needs like restoring aquatic connectivity, protecting habitat for rare species, and maintaining biodiversity in the context of a changing climate.

More than just hundreds of miles on the road, thousands of frequent flyer points, and an unfathomable amount of coffee, those red markers represent five years spent laying the groundwork for a new conservation strategy. Since the establishment of the Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) Network in 2010, LCCs have developed foundational information, conducted assessments of resource conditions and threats, created decision-support tools, and fostered collaborative networks to unite partners across boundaries. Now with more and more of these resources becoming available, LCCs are doing the legwork to transfer that science to partners who can use it to address a range of large-scale conservation priorities.

For the LCCs, that map represents the rubber meeting the road. And it’s only the beginning.

Take a tour of a few places where the LCCs have met with partners to present new conservation tools, and learn how these partners are planning to put these tools to work in their jurisdictions.

Snapshots from the 2015 LCC Science Delivery Road Trip

1. Virginia is for Conservation Lovers

Location: Richmond, Virginia

Venue: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Headquarters

Audience:  More than 40 staff members from programs throughout the state agency

Presenters: Jean Brennan and Jessica Rhodes from the Appalachian LCC, Andrew Milliken and Scott Schwenk from the North Atlantic LCC, and Rua Mordecai and Hilary Morris from the South Atlantic LCC

Featured tools:

  • Designing Sustainable Landscapes – A suite of datasets to identify areas with the greatest potential to support key species, habitats, and biodiversity in the face of land-use pressures and climate change
  • Riparian Prioritization for Climate Change Resilience – Identifies stream and riverbanks that lack canopy cover and shade in cold-water stream habitats to allow managers to strategically plant trees to mitigate solar heating
  • Southeast Conservation Blueprint – A spatially explicit plan describing the places and actions needed to meet shared conservation objectives in the face of future change

Moving forward: Virginia staff expressed support for multi-scale restoration tools and planning efforts, and the proposal to knit together spatial conservation plans across and within Virginia’s borders and the Northeast and Southeast region to create a cohesive picture of the entire landscape.

Face-to-face technical support: North Atlantic LCC GIS Analyst Renee Farnsworth offers guidance during a workshop organized to help partners apply regional climate data when making local conservation decisions.

Face-to-face technical support: North Atlantic LCC GIS Analyst Renee Farnsworth offers guidance during a workshop organized to help partners apply regional climate data when making local conservation decisions.

2. The Northeast Kingdom for Aquatic Habitat

Location: Brunswick, Vermont

Venue: Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Nulhegan Basin Division Office

Audience: 10 representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Vermont Fish and Wildlife, and Trout Unlimited

Presenters: Andrew Milliken from the North Atlantic LCC, and representatives from the FWS Conte Refuge and Lake Champlain Resource Office, and Trout Unlimited

Featured tools:

Moving forward: Partners will be helping to refine LCC data with local information, and to start applying the tools in the Nulhegan Basin to enhance current aquatic connectivity efforts and identify priorities for future work.

3. Floating LCC Science in the Chesapeake Bay

Location: Annapolis, Maryland

Venue: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office

Audience: 30 staff members from multiple U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs.

Presenters: Andrew Milliken, Scott Schwenk, and Renee Farnsworth from the North Atlantic LCC, and Todd Petty from the West Virginia University

Featured tools:

  • Chesapeake Bay Brook Trout Assessment – A visualization tool to measure natural and human factors that influence brook trout occurrence at multiple scales
  • Connect the Connecticut – A landscape conservation design for the Connecticut River watershed that identifies a network of priority lands and waters capable of supporting wildlife and natural processes into the future
  • Wildlife Species Models – An assessment of the relative habitat and climate suitability of sites across the Northeast, currently available for 14 representative species

Moving forward: Chesapeake Bay staff will be looking for overlap between areas identified as priorities for ecosystems and species using LCC tools and nutrient reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay watershed, assessing restoration priorities, and determining next steps for applying the landscape conservation design approach to the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge and beyond in the watershed.

4. A Watershed Moment in the Tennessee River Basin

Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee

Venue: Tennessee River Basin Network Workshop and Awards Celebration at the Tennessee Aquarium

Audience: More than 85 stakeholders representing federal, state government agencies, local, regional, and national conservation organizations, and academia

Presenters: Jean Brennan and Jessica Rhodes from the Appalachian LCC

Featured tools:

  • Energy Forecast Model – Using data on trends in energy development, the tool predicts where potential coal, natural gas, and wind developments will intersect with areas of high natural value, such as intact forests and vital watersheds
  • Riparian Prioritization for Climate Change Resilience – Identifies stream and riverbanks that lack canopy cover and shade in cold-water stream habitats to allow managers to strategically plant trees to mitigate solar heating

Moving forward: Partners are creating a collaborative network within the Basin in order to use and share tools, data, and lessons learned that can help inform strategic prioritization, and achieve successes in conserving and improving aquatic biodiversity in the Tennessee River Watershed.

5. Securing the Environmental Future of the Keystone State

Location: State College, Pennsylvania

Venue: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pennsylvania Field Office

Audience: 12 staff members from the Pennsylvania and New York U.S. FWS Field Offices

Presenters: Jean Brennan and Jessica Rhodes from the Appalachian LCC

Featured tools:

  • Energy Forecast Model – Using data on trends in energy development, the tool predicts where potential coal, natural gas, and wind developments will intersect with areas of high natural value, such as intact forests and vital watersheds
  • Riparian Prioritization for Climate Change Resilience – Identifies stream and riverbanks that lack canopy cover and shade in cold-water stream habitats to allow managers to strategically plant trees to mitigate solar heating

Moving forward: FWS staff were encouraged by the breadth of tools available after having the opportunity to apply them to real issues during case study sessions. The LCC will continue to deliver resources to various audiences throughout the region in the coming months and years.

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