LCC News

You can now “Like Us” on Facebook

Appalachian LCC News -

The Cooperative is proud and excited to announce that our new Facebook page has officially gone live, allowing partners and followers an opportunity to engage and be a part of the conversation about landscape conservation in the Appalachians.

For our Facebook page, we will focus on our partner’s achievements that are helping to protect valued resources and biological diversity of the Appalachians and sustain the benefits of healthy and resilient ecosystems to human communities. We will spotlight science delivery workshops and collaboration activities of LCC staff and partners that are bringing conservation scientists and managers from various organizations and institutions together to identify shared areas of interest, develop tools and products necessary for action, and help coordinate conservation planning. Finally, the Appalachians consist of beautiful landscapes and unique wildlife and we will be sure to highlight as many of them as possible.

Come find us at https://www.facebook.com/applcc/ or just search AppLCC on Facebook and join the community today. And feel free to join the conversation; we want to hear from you as much as we want you to hear from us.

 

New GIS Staff to Support Science Delivery Efforts

Appalachian LCC News -

Marilyn is a Fish and Wildlife Biologist/GIS Specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a joint position with the Appalachian LCC and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program stationed in Gloucester, Virginia. She serves as the GIS Analyst/Data Manager for the Appalachian LCC interpreting the technical needs of the cooperative, providing mapping tools and training for the partnership, and working towards the expansion of LCC work to identify and support focal landscapes and conservation networks as part of a collaborative effort with the Partners Program and the Virginia Field Office's listed species recovery efforts. In her role as a Partners biologist, she provides technical and financial assistance for wildlife habitat restoration and improvement projects throughout Virginia, as well as GIS and website support for the Virginia Field Office.

Before joining the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2002, Marilyn interned for the Red Wolf Recovery Program at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. In December 2002, she joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's South Florida Ecological Services Office in Vero Beach, Florida, and served as an endangered species biologist working primarily on the recovery of bats, reptiles, and plants.

Key Member of Appalachian LCC Community to Retire

Appalachian LCC News -

David is the Deputy Regional Director of the Mid-Continent Region at OSMRE and was a key member of our community, participating in many of our Steering Committee meetings, providing feedback on technical oversight teams that made deliverables from our funded research projects that much better, and overall gave great guidance that informed LCC decision making and trajectory.

Dave had this to say about the LCC: “I thoroughly enjoyed discussions and the science. The Appalachian LCC has successfully developed several outstanding products and made considerable progress achieving many of its mission goals. I am very glad to be a part of it.”

Thanks Dave for everything and enjoy a much-deserved retirement.

Dave will be replaced on the Steering Committee by Lois Uranowski, Division Chief of Technical Support for Mid-Continent Region of OSMRE.

Time flies when you’re having fun: the GCPO LCC’s 7th annual spring meeting!

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

Next month, the GCPO LCC will hold its annual spring Steering Committee retreat in Panama City, FL, May 17-18, 2017. This will be our LCC’s 7th spring meeting, and it seems like it was only yesterday that we first got together as a Steering Committee in Eureka Springs, AR, in 2011. Time flies when you’re having fun!

This year we’ll be meeting jointly with the East Gulf Coastal Plains Joint Venture (EGCP JV), and will be discussing opportunities for collaborative conservation across our two partnerships. We have already been collaborating with the EGCP JV on a few projects in the past, but I think it’s time for us to be thinking on how to make that collaboration even more effective. With the current political climate in Washington, and the very real possibilities, or perhaps certainties, of declining budgets in the next few years, this could be a timely discussion.

The GCPO LCC has met jointly with other partnership-based conservation organizations in the past. In 2013, we met jointly with the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership, and last year we had a joint session with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance and Gulf Coast Prairie LCC. These joint meetings, while sometimes more complicated to organize, are always productive sessions, and they provide a great forum for dialogue and exchange of ideas, and ultimately for better collaboration and conservation outcomes.

In addition, our joint discussions with the EGCP JV Management Board, our GCPO Steering Committee meeting will include discussions on aquatic resource conservation, with input from the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP) and Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee (LMRCC), and we’ll have a session on ecosystem services and human dimensions. You can read more about our ecosystem services work in Gregg Elliott’s article in this month’s newsletter. It’s an exciting area of work for the GCPO, and I’m hopeful that it will help our partners become more proficient in incorporating ecosystem services into their conservation portfolios.

The draft agenda for our GCPO/EGCP JV meeting is posted on our Steering Committee page on the GCPO LCC website. We’ll be updating the agenda as the meeting gets closer. Also, if you’re planning to attend, we have a block of rooms available at the Sheraton Bay Point Resort in Panama City – rooms are available at the federal government per diem rate of $115.00/night (plus tax). The Sheraton is right on the Gulf Coast, so it’s a great place to bring your family, and you can stay on a day or two after the meeting to enjoy the Gulf Coast and all it has to offer. If you’re planning to attend, be sure to make your reservations now – our room block expires April 24, 2017.

Hope to see you in Panama City!

Conserving the Tennessee River Basin: It Takes a Village

Appalachian LCC News -

For Shannon O’Quinn, a watershed specialist at the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Tennessee River provides much more than a livelihood. “It is a special place to my family,” he says. “It is where we live and play and work to ensure the river stays healthy for people and wildlife.”

Considering that the Tennessee River Basin is one of the most biologically diverse watersheds in North America, that’s a critically important job. Winding its way through roughly 650 miles and encompassing over 41,000 square miles, the Basin is home to 270 species of fish and over 100 species of mussels. For comparison, the state of Wisconsin, which includes portions of the Upper Mississippi River, Lake Superior, and Lake Michigan is only home to 160 fish species. In China, there are only 60 species of mussels. In Europe, just 12.

Nearly as diverse as the wildlife within the Basin are the people and organizations working to conserve it. During the last several years, the Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative – a coalition of scientists and resource managers from federal, state, NGO and academic institutions – has worked with this thriving conservation community with the goal of continuing momentum in this biological hotspot. The Tennessee River Basin Network unites nearly 40 federal, state and local organizations working within the Basin to identify common goals; determine specific actions to achieve those goals; and share resources and lessons learned along the way to protect the landscape that unites them.

“We cannot be successful implementing watershed improvements on our own,” O’Quinn says. “To truly succeed, we and other partners have to pool together and share our experience and resources.”

To help connect and inspire conservation organizations throughout the Basin, the Network has developed two tools to improve collaboration and help partners focus on share priorities. A Conservation Action Map showcases where actions are being implemented in the Basin and how is involved in various projects. More than a map, it's a vehicle to show and tell the story of concurrent efforts in the watershed, and to enhance the efficiency of the Network's collective action by sharing information, reducing duplication, and creating and strengthening partnerships.

The Network also recently unveiled a film inventory showcasing the ecology, threats, conservation efforts, and sense of pride in the Tennessee River Basin. The collection encompasses more than 40 videos from partners that showcase the conservation work taking place in the region and provides a means of engaging the broader public on the many values of nature the River Basin provides to communities. These short videos range from projects improving conditions for Eastern brook trout and hellbenders to challenges presented by droughts and increasing demand for freshwater. Both the Conservation Action Map and film inventory are found on the Network’s website, housed within the Appalachian LCC Web Portal.

“The Network is providing an opportunity for partners and stakeholders throughout this large and diverse region to talk to one another more regularly,” O’Quinn says. “This helps build relationships and forge action that can only make all of our efforts that much stronger for protecting and improving the health of the Tennessee River.”

It takes a village to protect a hotspot of biodiversity and keep a unique place healthy for people to work, play, and live. And the more that village can work together, the greater the chances of success.

A Holistic View of Gulf Coast Landscapes through the Strategic Conservation Assessment

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

Remember the story of the blind men and the elephant? In it, a group of blind men each feel a different part of an elephant so they end up having widely different interpretations of what the whole elephant looks like. There exists a similar situation with land conservation in the Gulf of Mexico region.

Although there are a large number of land conservation plans already in existence across the Gulf, many are limited either geographically or organizationally. The Strategic Conservation Assessment for Gulf Lands (SCA) project is aimed at developing decision support tools that can lead to better-informed decisions about land conservation because they reflect a Gulf-wide perspective -- that is, a view of the whole elephant.

The SCA is a three-year, $1.9 million project funded by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council) that will combine the land conservation plans already in existence to create three decision support tools:

  • prioritization criteria that can be used to evaluate existing land conservation projects;
  • a map that can be used to identify land conservation possibilities;
  • and a user-interface that will allow the map to be used to examine the multiple tradeoffs with various land conservation options.

Reports will accompany each tool to explain how to use them.

Mississippi State University (MSU) will be doing most of the work, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be assisting and administering the funds. A working group will provide broad oversight of the project, and will include representatives from the Service, MSU, the RESTORE Council, and each of the four Gulf-related Landscape Conservation Cooperatives. The project officially begins May 1.

The results of this project will be useful to the public, says Chris Pease, a member of the Service’s Gulf Restoration Team and of the working group. That’s because the tools could make clear why a particular piece of land was chosen for conservation and another wasn’t. “They will be able to help guide and explain the decision-making process,” he says.

The project will involve soliciting input from individuals outside of the working group at stakeholder meetings, with at least four planned in each of the five Gulf states. Kristine Evans, an MSU assistant professor who will be working on the project, says they will be “strategically targeting a cross-section of stakeholders” so that the meetings will reflect the diversity of the Gulf and take into account both ecological and socioeconomic perspectives.

John Tirpak, a member of the Service’s Gulf Restoration Team and the project lead, stresses that use of the SCA products will be voluntary. “We’re not forcing anyone to use it,” he says. ”Even the RESTORE Council doesn’t have to. We’re hoping that they will, because we will have created tools that they’ll find useful.” Similarly, all land conservation will be voluntary. 

Pease adds that the SCA “will take disparate pieces of information (habitat, adjacency, sea rise models, ecosystem services, costs, etc.) and provide options on possible wholes.” In other words, it illustrates the axiom that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts “

Just like in the story of the blind men and the elephant. 

GCPO LCC Steering Committee to meets May 17-18 in Florida

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

The GCPO LCC Steering Committee spring meeting dates are May 17-18, with Tuesday and Friday, May 16 & 19, as travel dates. We will be meeting jointly with the EGCP JV on Thursday, May 18 (the EGCP JV will continue their meeting on the morning of Friday, May 19). 

We have secured a hotel room block for our GCPO LCC and EGCP JV meetings in Panama City, FL. The Sheraton Bay Point Resort is about 15 minutes from our meeting venue, Gulf Coast State College, and offers rooms at the federal government per diem rate of $115.00 (single/double occupancy). The cutoff date for our Room Block is April 24, 2017.

Detailed agenda forthcoming.

A Marketing Approach to Conservation: the region’s first quantitative assessment of ecosystem service supply, demand, and values from private landowners

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

A multi-year project involving three separate research institutions, thousands of private landowners, and hundreds of conservation providers across much of the Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks (GCPO) geography was completed in 2017. The components of the project include:

A high-level mapping of ecosystem service supply in the GCPO region conducted by Lydia Olander and Sara Mason and their team from Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
A survey of landowners’ reasons for owning lands, concerns, interaction with conservation programs, and valuation of key ecosystem services conducted by Robert Grala and Jason Gordon of Mississippi State University
A social network analysis of conservation service providers within the region conducted by Chris Galik of Duke/NC State University

What are ecosystem services and what makes them tricky?

Ecosystem services (ES) are the benefits people obtain from nature, both commodities with recognized monetary value and non-market benefits that are sometimes deemed priceless (such as beauty). As we continue to lose ecosystem services due to environmental fragmentation and degradation, finding new ways to sustain and support such services becomes important. One way to do this is for those who benefit from those services (e.g. downstream users of the water and the general public) to help support and pay those who produce ecosystem services (e.g. good land stewards who prevent runoff into streams and provide habitat for endangered species).

The Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GCPO LCC) commissioned this study because we recognize that in a region where landownership is largely private (~90%), successful natural resource conservation must leverage the collective efforts of private landowners. To do so, conservation practitioners must understand and appreciate what drives landowner management decisions and determine how these values can then be translated into specific results, often in the form of ecosystem goods and services.

Finding the win-win-win

Existing datasets, many of which were identified by using the Environmental Protection Agency’s EnviroAtlas, were used to develop a coarse-scale map of ecosystem service supply and the potential for conservation or restoration. These maps and their underlying datasets, along with the explanatory manuscript from Duke’s Nicholas Institute, are hosted in a new Ecosystem Services Gallery on the GCPO LCC Conservation Planning Atlas.

The Nicholas Institute assessed nine ecosystem services (see Table 1) in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley or MAV and East/West Gulf Coastal Plains. These maps not only paint a picture of what types of services are abundant or important and where, they also will allow LCC partners to begin identifying sites where conservation action can achieve multiple objectives, i.e. the “win-win-win.”

The Nicholas Institute provided three “Example Use-Cases” illustrating this concept. For example, datasets can show the best watersheds to target for restoration aimed at improving water quality by reducing nonpoint source runoff. Next, by combining additional layers, sites could be ranked on the basis of other “co-benefits” provided in those watersheds (e.g. infiltration capacity for replenishing groundwater, pollinator habitat, and biodiversity).

“What was nice about this study,” Olander said, “is it combines survey work with mapping of services, giving us the ability to understand what people care about and where to appropriately target programs of interest to communities.” She cautioned, however, that the coarse scale of these maps means they are only a starting point. “To better assess a project’s or program’s Return on Investment (ROI), a next step in this process could be to drill down on the landowner surveys for better targeting of conservation, combined with more in-depth ecological analyses in key areas.”

Designing incentive or ES trading programs would require much more in-depth modeling, analyses, and landowner surveys (see, for example, this Nicholas Institute modeling study on Water Quality Trading). There are a variety of programs currently in existence that address the issue of how to balance the mismatch between ES “suppliers” and “beneficiaries.” These include both voluntary and regulatory trading programs, as well as direct payment for service programs -- and many of these focus on water quality.

Going to the source: what do landowners think?

The purpose of conducting a survey,” said Robert Grala “was to find out the attitudes and needs of landowners. Knowing what they think, what help they need, and what priorities they have will make almost any private land conservation program more effective.”

A survey of approximately 6,000 landowners owning a total of ~424,000 acres within the GCPO region assessed attitudes on a variety of issues in each of the following areas and associated habitat types:
East Gulf Coastal Plain/open pine stands
Mississippi Alluvial Valley/bottomland hardwoods
Ozark Highlands/grasslands

The top reasons cited for owning land were:
long-term investment
family tradition
legacy to heirs
personal recreation
healthy soils
clean water
wildlife habitat
appealing visual appearance

The top concern expressed by landowners within the GCPO region -- who rated themselves on average as “extremely concerned” -- was drinking water quality.

Moderate concerns included:
drinking water quantity
chemical drift
wildfires
insect pests
invasive species
soils erosion
loss of forest, farmland, natural areas, wildlife habitat, and pollinators

Landowner values extend beyond income, but some landowners are “cut off”

One striking result of the survey is the revelation that many top landowner values and concerns do not relate specifically to land-based income production. One method used in this study for determining the value of non-market ecosystem services such as aesthetic appeal or wildlife habitat is to determine an average “willingness to accept” price at which a landowner would be willing to forego property income in return for providing another service (for example, delaying harvest of trees to provide wildlife habitat).

“Monetary compensation is one aspect of conservation,” Grala said, “but not necessarily the whole. Many landowners are interested in preserving ecosystem services, so perhaps they need more technical information, help with management plans, or simply awareness that programs exist to assist landowners with these needs.”

In particular, a portion of landowners, roughly 50%, rarely interact with conservation agencies or professional organizations that have access to this kind of information. “They are cut off,” said Grala. “Extension works to reach landowners through workshops, everyone has their established methods, but we may need new media to reach out more effectively.”

Talking to landowners and talking to ourselves

In addition to the landowner surveys, a second survey of conservation practitioners in the GCPO region (including local, state, and national NGOs, private sector organizations and consultants, state agencies, federal agencies, and extension service) provided the basis for an analysis of the relationships between conservation organizations and the attributes of the networks they comprise.

This type of network analysis can serve several purposes:
Identify potential “bottlenecks” in program implementation
Assess gaps in representation and opportunities to enhance a network of practitioners
Highlight opportunities to better integrate management efforts across spatial, ecological, and organization scales

The GCPO network analysis found different patterns of interaction as reported by landowners and those reported by practitioner organizations working in the region. Specifically, landowners generally reported interacting more with extension and industry organizations, while conservation practitioners interacted more with state and federal agencies. Survey results also suggest that landowner preferences may not be fully appreciated by conservation practitioner respondents. Christopher Galik, who led the analysis, noted that “conservation practitioners may be overestimating the frequency that landowners work with government agencies, while underestimating the role of private sector, extension, or industry organizations.”

Among conservation practitioners, the analysis suggests a well-connected network among the state and federal organizations critical to development and delivery of conservation programs in the GCPO LCC region. Though a well-connected network may be beneficial for the diffusion of innovative practices, they may be less suited to facilitate coordinated programming. “There is a need to continue efforts to coordinate activities at the regional scale, an important component of practice-driven, ecosystem-level management,” Galik concluded.

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