Appalachian LCC News

Survey: Controlled Invasive Plants on Property

To do this we rely entirely on the landowners - both public and private - in our region to take the required actions.  We seek to empower landowners with the best possible information to make the work as easy and effective as possible, while minimizing your costs.  The more we understand about the challenges you face and your interests and needs, the more effective we can be in serving you.

To this end we are seeking information from landowners who are already doing the work.  If you have controlled invasive plants on your property in the past, or are doing so now, we would like to know about your good work!   In addition, we hope to expand invasives control by encouraging the development of stewardship areas (collaborative groups) in each of our ten counties.  Stewardship areas typically begin with landowners who not only control invasives on their own properties, but who are willing to collaborate with their neighbors.  If you would like to be part of this effort, or again if you would just like to report the work you are doing on your own property, we invite you to answer the following short survey.  We will use the information to create a map of invasive control efforts in our region, and we will be in touch if you would like support in reaching out to your neighbors and organizing a stewardship area.

Note that there are only 2 required questions on the survey (noted with red asterisks); all the other questions are optional.

The survey can be accessed at: https://goo.gl/forms/D8FXah0dxlRju9S13.

Request for Statements of Interest: Assessment of Natural Resource Condition for First State National Historical Park

Approximately $65,000 is expected to be available to support this project.  This Request for Statements of Interest and Qualifications has been distributed to partners of the North Atlantic Coast, Chesapeake Watershed, and Great Lakes- Northern Forest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESU).

National Park Service’s (NPS) Financial Assistance Policy Office is requiring a process change for awarding financial assistance under cooperative and task agreements in the CESU Network. Consistent with this Policy, the Northeast Region of NPS now requires non-federal CESU partners to have individual $0 Master Cooperative Agreements in place before Task Agreements can be created using the existing process. This project will be funded as a Task Agreement under these new Master Cooperative Agreements. Each non-federal partner will need to respond to the CESU Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) that is currently posted at: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search- grants.html?keywords=p17as00037,which contains complete details of the process and what is required. Please contact your Office of Sponsored Projects and ask them to respond to the CESU NOFO as soon as possible, if they have not done so already. If you are selected for this project, it is essential that a new Master Cooperative Agreement is in place for the Task Agreement to be processed this fiscal year.

Background: Congress, in its FY 2003 Appropriations Act, instructed and funded the National Park Service (NPS) to assess environmental conditions in watersheds where National Park units are located. Threats from nutrient enrichment, exotic species, water/air pollution, climate change, and development pressure are management concerns for many Parks. The NPS Natural Resource Condition Assessment Program seeks to understand and evaluate the existing condition of park natural resources. Information gained under this program will form the basis for development of actions to restore and provide enhanced protection of park resources if warranted. Visit the following site for additional details on the Natural Resource Condition Assessment Program: http://www.nature.nps.gov/water/nrca/index.cfm

The study proposed here will use existing information sources to assess the condition of natural resources at First State National Historical Park (FRST) which is made up of seven different sites located in Wilmington, New Castle, Dover, and Lewes, Delaware. Beaver Valley is the largest component of FRST consisting of 1,100 acres of rolling hills and wooded areas along the Brandywine River which were preserved to ensure its scenic rural beauty remained for future generations. Fort Christina is located on the banks of the Christina River and is a short walk from the Old Swedes Church. The New Castle Courthouse is adjacent to the Green in Dover and just 6 miles from the John Dickinson Plantation. The Ryves Holt House is located in Lewes. The natural habitats at FRST include aquatic, wetland, forested, and meadow landscapes that are suitable for a variety of plants, fish, amphibians and reptiles, invertebrates, mammals, and birds.

Park managers are challenged to address the issues of water quality degradation, introduction of exotic species, air pollution, habitat fragmentation, recreational use, and others. These may all have dramatic impacts on ecosystem function, integrity, and habitat quantity and quality. Results of these assessments will be integrated into individual park and servicewide databases and provide the parks with an integrated, overall evaluation of current resource conditions for upland, riparian, wetland, and aquatic areas as they exist within park boundaries. The assessments will also identify environmental threats or stressors to park natural resources and offer recommendations on information gaps.

Assessment Objectives

The natural resource assessment will use existing information sources to evaluate (e.g. within watersheds, ecosystem types, park management zones, etc.) the condition of park natural resources, identify stressors or threats to park natural resources, and identify information gaps. The assessment should emphasize, but not be limited to, geospatial analyses and reporting (GIS layers) to maximize usefulness of the assessment findings in park planning and natural resource management activities.

Existing information will be multidisciplinary (e.g., biological-ecological, water chemistry, hydrology, etc.), from a variety of sources, including the NPS, other federal agencies, state and local agencies, and others, and in a number of formats, including published literature and technical reports, databases, and GIS shapefiles. The NPS Inventory and Monitoring Program (http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/index.cfm) has identified core sets of indicators for long-term monitoring of park conditions and responses to stressors which can be a good starting point for developing individual park condition assessments.

EXISTING CONDITION

  • Current condition of park natural resources (terrestrial and aquatic), is to be based on an integration and evaluation of existing data, relying on various information sources and formats.
  • Condition of ecosystem types (forests, wetlands, riverine, meadow etc.), management zones, watersheds, or other appropriate designations should be based on a diversity of factors or indicators such as presence/absence of non-native species, presence of rare habitats, water quality, or incidence of forest pests.
  • Resource condition can be based on comparisons to reference data sets, comparisons to regional conditions, comparisons to established standards (e.g., water quality standards), evaluation of temporal trends in parameters, multi- parameter indices/metrics, or other approaches.
  • Findings should be presented in a geo-spatial framework, where possible (e.g., linear distance of park streams classified as outstanding or impaired, a shapefile showing condition comparisons among park watersheds or management zones).

STRESSORS-THREATS

  • Identify and quantify existing and emerging regional and local threats to park resources, such as sound impacts, encroaching urban/suburban land use, and upstream watershed development.
  • Present findings in a geo-spatial framework, if appropriate (e.g., area of park forest habitat stressed by insect pests, exotic plants, etc.).

DATA GAPS

  • Identify further studies and data needs that would assist in better describing condition and evaluating impacts from threats.

Brief Description of Anticipated Work:

  1. Collaborate with NPS personnel and other appropriate agencies to identify sources of information and natural resource management and protection concerns.
  1. Compile available data sources pertaining to the natural resources identified by park staff as being of critical management significance within the park and available information on threats or stressors to park natural resources.
  1. Synthesize existing information to assess the current condition of park natural resources, where possible. When appropriate, present the synthesis within a geospatial or GIS-based framework, identifying the extent and condition of the target resources (e.g. wetland habitats, waterways, grassland areas, and forest communities). Identify the extent and/or presence-absence of park natural resources influenced by threats or stressors. [NOTE: The NPS will provide access to relevant GIS data layers within the park GIS data management system; however, it is expected that the investigator(s) will seek additional GIS data sources from other federal, state, and local agencies and organizations that may be relevant].
  1. Provide recommendations for future studies that address additional information needs necessary to better define the condition of park natural resources and understand the relationship of stressors/threats to park condition.
  1. Prepare a written report of findings that:
  • Describes the parameters/metrics used to define natural resource condition. Examples of parameters/metrics used in previous assessments include: presence of invasive species; water quality (e.g. dissolved oxygen, pH, and conductivity levels); land use dynamics; avian IBIs, and wetland buffer indices.
  • Describes the quality of the data currently available as it relates to deriving at the condition assessment for a given park resource and subsequent investigator confidence (qualitative) in the assessed condition of a given resource using those data.
  • Describes and synthesizes available information on threats or stressors to natural resources.
  • Provides recommendations for future studies or improved long term monitoring activities that address additional information needs necessary to better define the condition of park natural resources and to understand the relationship of stressors/threats to park condition.
  • Presents all data included in the assessment, including GIS data layers with accompanying metadata.

Examples of completed Natural Resource Condition Assessment documents can be viewed and downloaded at: http://www.nature.nps.gov/water/nrca/reports.cfm.

Materials Requested for Statement of Interest/Qualifications:

Please provide the following via e-mail attachment to: christine_arnott@nps.gov (Maximum length: 5 pages, single-spaced 12 pt. font).

  1. Name, Organization and Contact Information
  2. Brief Statement of Qualifications (including):
  • Biographical Sketch(s) for key personnel (faculty, staff), including a description of discipline(s) of expertise. Curriculum vitas can be submitted as an attachment and not included in the above-stated 5-page limit.
  • Relevant past projects and clients with brief descriptions of these projects.
  • Brief description of the proposed approach(es) for conducting an interdisciplinary, spatially-based assessment of park natural resource conditions, encompassing terrestrial and aquatic resources.
  • Any brief description of capabilities to successfully complete the project you may wish to add (e.g. GIS capability, computers, equipment, access to information sources, previous research experiences at the park or region, etc.).

Note: A proposed budget is NOT requested at this time.

Review Criteria:

Based on a review of the Statements of Interest received, an investigator or investigators will be invited to prepare a full study proposal. Statements will be evaluated based on the investigator’s interdisciplinary expertise and capabilities in studying and synthesizing information related to upland and aquatic ecosystems, landscape dynamics, various terrestrial/aquatic biota (20 points), extracting data from multiple databases (10 points), interpreting data through quantitative analyses (10 points), and demonstrated skills in GIS (5 points).Previous experiences studying at the park or within the region will also be considered (5 points). Because of the broad scope of this project, an interdisciplinary approach is necessary.

Please submit Statements of Interest and Qualifications, via email, to:

Christine Arnott, PhD
Biologist and NRCA Coordinator
National Park Service
Northeast Region
200 Chestnut St., 3rd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-597-1158 (office)
christine_arnott@nps.gov

Questions are welcome via email or phone.

Timeline for Review of Statements of Interest: Review of Statements of Interest will begin June 9, 2017.

Partners launch ‘Nature’s Network’ to guide conservation from Maine to Virginia

The North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), including members from 13 states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nongovernmental organizations, United South and Eastern Tribes, and universities, has launched a science-based “road map” to help inform decisions and actions for conserving lands and waters throughout the Northeast.

Nature’s Network is a collaborative effort responding to a critical need identified by Northeast states for seamless, regional information to support conservation of priority species. Incorporating information on thousands of at-risk species, iconic game species, rare habitats, vital river systems, and more, Nature’s Network offers scientific consensus on some of the highest conservation priorities in the region and creates new opportunities for partners to work together.

“Nature’s Network represents a shared vision for sustaining fish, wildlife and natural resources in the Northeast,” said Ken Elowe, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Assistant Regional Director for Science Applications. “It is another valuable resource for helping communities make more informed decisions that sustain wildlife and contribute to a host of benefits for people -- including clean air and water, food production, recreational opportunities and robust ecotourism economies.”

More than a map, Nature’s Network offers a suite of decision-support tools based on innovative modeling approaches developed by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Used together, or individually, these products offer voluntary guidance to:

Conserve the irreplaceable – The best place to start strategic conservation is to identify a network of connected, intact, and resilient areas encompassing various types of lands and waters representing important habitats for key species. These are priority places for future sustainable human and natural communities in the Northeast.

Make better decisions for the future – Guidance that reflects projections about how land use and environmental changes will affect natural resources over time can help us safeguard today’s investments in conservation for future generations.

Maximize limited resources – Conservation agencies and organizations have limited time and money to invest in protecting the natural resources that wildlife and people depend upon. Guidance grounded in science and supported through regional collaboration allows more efficient use of limited resources in the face of complex environmental threats.

Support local priorities with regional perspective – Seeing how local conservation efforts fit into the bigger regional picture can help connect local, state and regional priorities. By zooming out, practitioners working at any scale can discover new opportunities that warrant a closer look.

Find opportunities to work together – Sustaining fish, wildlife, and natural resources in the face of increasing threats is beyond the scope of any single agency. With the benefit of consistent regional information, partners can look across state borders for opportunities to work together towards shared conservation goals at scales that matter for wildlife and people.

Nature’s Network complements other sources of information about important habitats and natural resources by providing  a “big-picture” regional context for local conservation plans and actions. Practitioners working at any scale can use the data and tools for a range of applications -- from identifying priority cold-waters habitat for in-stream restoration to benefit Eastern brook trout, to developing educational materials that empower private landowners to make informed decisions about managing their land.

“We have never had access to resources that reflect this level of analysis, modeling, and discussion among partners across an entire landscape,” said Dan Murphy, Chief of the Division of Habitat Conservation for the Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office.  “This will help us prioritize and target on-the-ground conservation protecting and restoring the most important habitats throughout our area.”

Chris Burkett, Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said land-use decisions in Virginia and throughout the Northeast often occur at the local level. He said Nature’s Network can support actions at any scale by showing the significance of sites in regional context.

“Nature’s Network will enhance the information we can share with folks working at the local level, and show them how their area links to other parts of the state, and region,” Burkett said, adding, “That regional perspective opens new doors for collaboration to benefit both wildlife and people.”

Nature’s Network is supported by the North Atlantic LCC, a forum of state, federal and nongovernmental agencies and organizations dedicated to providing collaborative approaches to the conservation of fish, wildlife, and important natural resources across the northeast region from Virginia to Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.

To learn more about Nature’s Network:

Explore our website: http://www.naturesnetwork.org/

Hear from partners who are using the products: http://www.naturesnetwork.org/testimonials/

New Study Shows Americans’ Deep Appreciation for Nature, Barriers to Connection

The Nature of Americans National Report: Disconnection and Recommendations for Reconnection reveals important insights from a study of nearly 12,000 adults, 8 to 12 year old children, and parents, and provides actionable recommendations to open the outdoors for all.

Americans encounter a number of society-wide forces disconnecting them from nature. Americans face competing priorities for their time, attention, and money. They live in places that often have more concrete than green space. It is increasingly normal to spend little time outside.

  • More than half of adults report spending five hours or less in nature each week, and most are satisfied with this minimal amount of time. Many parents and older adults lament that children today are growing up with limited opportunities to experience nature.
  • Parents say their 8 to 12 year old children spend three times as many hours with computers and TVs each week as they do playing outside.

 

Despite these challenges, there is opportunity. Americans of all backgrounds recognize that nature helps them grow healthy, be happy, and enjoy family and friends. Adults and children enjoy their time in nature. They feel affection for nature, are attracted to its beauty, appreciate its resources, and value its role in intellectual and spiritual development.

  • Over three-quarters of adults rate contact with nature as very or extremely important for their physical health and emotional outlook.
  • One-quarter of parents surveyed say contact with nature has improved their child’s weight, attention span, energy, anxiety, asthma or other health outcomes.
  • Three-quarters of adults support increasing the number of programs for Americans to enjoy nature, the outdoors, and wildlife. More than one-half think programs for Americans to enjoy nature and wildlife are underfunded.
  • Seven out of 10 children surveyed would rather explore woods and trees than play on neat-looking grass. Eight out of 10 like activities such as climbing trees and camping.

 

Restoring Americans’ connection to nature requires overcoming the gap between interest and action.

The Nature of Americans National Report details recommendations for restoring Americans’ connection to nature, including:

  • Pay close attention to—and respond to—adults’ existing concerns about younger generations’ disconnection from nature.
  • For adults and children, promote nature not only as a place for experiences, but also as a place for involvement and care.
  • Assure adults and children that time in nature can be (and even ought to be) social.
  • Support mentorship that extends beyond the parent–child relationship.
  • Carefully consider how different sectors promote what “good” connection with nature is or ought to be.
  • Deepen local experiences in nature near home.
  • For children and adults, use geographically local or familiar activities as a bridge to geographically distant or unfamiliar activities.
  • Provide socially safe and satisfying places outdoors, especially for urban and minority adults and children.
  • Promote experiences in nature that match Americans’ multidimensional values of nature.
  • For adults, promote conservation efforts as a way to improve their overall community and quality of life.
  • Join parents, children, and adults alike in recognizing that expenditures on children’s engagement with nature are fundamentally important investments.
  • Build partnerships among professionals in healthcare, education, urban planning, conservation, community development, and other sectors.

 

The core premise of these recommendations is that connection to nature is not a dispensable amenity but, rather, is essential to the health, economic prosperity, quality of life, and social well-being of all Americans.

The Nature of Americans is led by DJ Case & Associates. It builds on the late Dr. Stephen R. Kellert’s research on the importance of contact with nature to human well-being. This unique public–private collaborative is sponsored by the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Disney Conservation Fund, Morrison Family Foundation, Wildlife Management Institute, and Yale University.

More information and reports are available at NatureofAmericans.org.

Executive Committee Meets to Thank Outgoing Chair and Vice Chair for Tremendous Leadership

On March 29, the Appalachian LCC Executive Committee met at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia to thank the dedicated service and valuable leadership of our outgoing Chair and Vice Chair. Each were given a crystal plaque with a beautiful Appalachian scene in the background. For David, a stream to commemorate his background in fisheries, and Paul a mountainous landscape of West Virginia. Etched into the crystal were the words “with gratitude for exemplary leadership and support of the Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative.” Each then shared a few words about the critical role the LCC is playing in moving landscape conservation forward in the Appalachians and stressed the wonderful experience they had working with such dedicated and passionate individuals in the conservation community through the LCC.

The meeting also provided the Executive Committee an opportunity to discuss future research direction of LCC funding, the development of engagement committees to address key issues, and identifying additional focal areas and networks to focus LCC capacity in strengthening conservation planning. Representatives from state natural resource agencies of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and National Park Service were in attendance. Overall, the meeting helped to tee up presentations and the direction of discussions to take place at the full Appalachian LCC Steering Committee meeting at NCTC from June 5-6.

Engaging State and Federal Agencies on Regional Science Information and Resources

The events demonstrated the need behind working at a landscape scale to better plan and manage for the conservation of essential natural and cultural resources. More specifically, it showcased Appalachian LCC derived tools and resources that can enhance collaboration between federal, state, and local entities and aid conservation planning efforts that transcend state lines. A total of 67 people representing 26 organizations participated in these two events.

Each event was tailored to participants based on their feedback obtained prior to the meeting. The meetings included presentations, hands on case scenarios, facilitated discussions and break-out sessions. Drs. Paul Leonard and Daniel Hanks of Clemson University were present at the Crossville event to present and discuss the science behind the Appalachian LCC Integrated Landscape Conservation Design (Phase II LCD) effort. Participants walked through case scenarios of how Phase II of the LCD can be used in their conservation planning efforts at the local and regional level and had the opportunity to individually work with the recently developed online tool of the LCD.

Staff are presently receiving evaluations from participants that will help enhance future Appalachian LCC workshops across the region. If interested in collaborating with the LCC to organize similar workshops in your area, contact Communications Coordinator Matthew Cimitile, cmatth8@vt.edu.

Videos Around the Basin

These videos from partners 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.

The inventory was identified at the annual Tennessee River Basin Network meeting as a valuable resource to develop. Partners then submitted their existing films pertaining to aquatic biodiversity, conservation challenges, and projects improving the environment and quality of life around the Basin. These short videos range from projects improving conditions for Eastern brook trout and hellbenders to challenges presented by droughts and increasing demand for freshwater. They are found on the Network’s website, housed within the Appalachian LCC Web Portal.

Coordinator Highlights Landscape Conservation Design Effort for Emerging Risks Roundtable Discussion

The roundtable brought together a variety of experts with diverse viewpoints and experiences from across multiple disciplines focused on emerging risks and measured responses. Jean took part in a roundtable discussion on “Building Adaptive Capacity into Conservation and Natural Resource Management Plans.” She highlighted the work of the Appalachian LCC Landscape Conservation Design as a new model; one working with partners to deliver actionable science to resource managers based on predictive modeling and tools, and delivering these through conservation networks to enhance capacity for on-the-ground conservation.

The LCC has focused on a set of emerging risks (energy development, water control and stress, urban expansion) and is promoting a Landscape Conservation Design as the framework to deliver or enable appropriate measured responses. The Design is a series of maps or data layers that illustrate the location of key focal landscapes and priority resources that can inform public land managers and private landowners about the quality, quantity, and location of habitat needed to protect biodiversity. In developing the Design, the LCC worked with non-traditional sources of information (such as recreational cavers for mapping cave and karst needs) and identified research gaps (for example reliance on soil moisture data was driven by what was available at the right scale and resolution; had to develop own stream classification system).

Jean stressed at the roundtable that “A core part of any research focused on decision-making and societal responses has to make sure those science-based responses are implemented. We must recognize that responses are local, but landscape-level collaboration is required if we are to achieve conservation in the 21st Century to secure healthy and resilient landscapes across the region.”

You can now “Like Us” on Facebook

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

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

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.

Conserving the Tennessee River Basin: It Takes a Village

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.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Finds Yellow Lance Mussel Warrants Endangered Species Act Protection

Recent surveys showed the yellow lance mussel has lost 57 percent of its historical range. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is proposing that it be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Today’s warranted finding and listing proposal are the result of a review conducted by a Species Status Assessment team composed of experts from state and federal government agencies and academic institutions. The assessment included a comprehensive review of scientific information as well as an evaluation of current population status and projected trends in population levels based on threats to the yellow lance. The ESA defines threatened species as those that are likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the foreseeable future. The yellow lance meets the definition of a threatened species.

Conserving and restoring freshwater mussel populations is important and benefits wildlife and people who live, work and recreate in areas near mussel habitats. Mussels filter and purify water, decrease downstream transport of nitrogen by storing nutrients in their tissue, and their shells provide habitat for other organisms. Mussels were once a food for Native Americans, and now many animals including otters and raccoons rely on them for food.

The yellow lance mussel exists in the Patuxent, Rappahannock, York, James, Chowan, Tar, and Neuse River basins in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. It is also native to the Potomac River, but hasn’t been reported in recent years.

The yellow lance faces threats from water pollution coming directly from sites such as sewage treatment plants and solid waste disposal sites, or from runoff caused by road drainage, private wastewater discharges, or other sources; erosion; or dams which affect both upstream and downstream mussel populations by disrupting natural flow patterns, scouring river bottoms, changing water temperatures, and fragmenting habitat.

If the yellow lance mussel is listed as threatened, the Service will develop a recovery plan and pursue cooperative conservation initiatives designed to reverse population decline and improve habitat conditions. The Service and state wildlife agencies are working with numerous partners to meet both species and habitat needs in aquatic systems from Maryland to North Carolina. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is bolstering existing populations of yellow lance mussels in the wild. Also, a group of federal and state entities and non-profit conservation groups who make up the Upper Tar Collaboration is planning landscape scale conservation to benefit the yellow lance in the Upper Tar Watershed in North Carolina.

The Service will publish its proposal to list the yellow lance as threatened in the Federal Register tomorrow, beginning a 60-day comment period in which the public is invited to submit scientific or technical information that will aid the agency in reaching its final decision. The proposed rule may be viewed today in the Federal Register Reading Room and will officially publish on April 5, 2017. Public comments on this proposal can be made until June 5, 2017.

All documents and supporting information for the proposed rule can be found at http://www.regulations.gov. In the search box enter Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2017-0017 and click the “Search” button. Written comments also may be mailed or hand-delivered to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R4–ES–2017–0017, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

Requests for a public hearing must be made in writing by May 22, 2017, to the above address. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800–877–8339.

For more information download the frequently asked questionsfor this proposal or visit the yellow lance species profile.

First-of-its-kind Interactive Map Brings Together 40 Years of Water-Quality Data

For the first time, monitoring data collected by the USGS and 73 other organizations at almost 1,400 sites have been combined to provide a nationwide look at changes in the quality of our rivers and streams between the 1972 passage of the Clean Water Act and 2012.

Federal, state, and local agencies have invested billions of dollars since passage of the Act to reduce the amount of pollution entering rivers and streams that millions of Americans rely on for drinking water, recreation, and irrigation. Tracking changes in the quality of these waterways over multiple decades is crucial for evaluating the effectiveness of pollution control efforts and protecting the nation’s water resources into the future.

The interactive map can be used to see whether 51 water-quality constituents, like nutrients and pesticides, and 38 aquatic-life metrics, like the types and numbers of fish, macroinvertebrates, and algae, have increased, decreased, or remained the same at nearly 1,400 sites between 1972 and 2012. For example, the phaseout of the insecticide diazinon for residential and some agricultural uses was initiated in 2000 and has led to widespread reductions in concentrations in U.S. streams, which can be seen on the map during the trend period from 2002 to 2012.

The map summarizes the first phase of the study— in which the USGS identifies streams that have been monitored consistently for long periods and reports the trends in those streams. In the second phase, to take place over the next several years, the USGS will assess whether and where billions in investments in pollution control have been effective, identify major causes of trends in U.S. stream quality, provide details on which chemicals are increasing or decreasing, and highlight whether any drinking water sources or aquatic ecosystems are at increased risk.

A new USGS interactive map provides a long-term look at changes in the quality of our nation’s rivers and streams, using data from over 70 organizations. Go online and see how 51 water-quality metrics and 38 aquatic-life metrics at nearly 1,400 sites have changed over the last 40 years. This map was developed by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Project, which conducts regional and national assessments of the nation’s water quality to provide an understanding of current water-quality conditions, whether conditions are getting better or worse over time, and how natural processes and human activities affect those conditions.

 

Explore other USGS interactive maps:
Trends in Groundwater Quality: https://nawqatrends.wim.usgs.gov/Decadal/
Status of the Nation’s Rivers and streams: https://cida.usgs.gov/quality/rivers/home

Saving an Endangered Southern River

Petty and his brothers own seven miles of riverfront, much of it covered one recent morning in bright green winter wheat, along both sides of the Conasauga. The mountains of the Chattahoochee National Forest offer a postcard-perfect backdrop. The rural idyll, though, belies the river’s trauma. Sedimentation, pesticides, chicken litter and industrial runoff threaten one of the nation’s most biologically diverse streams. The Conasauga is also one of the Southeast’s most threatened river basins, according to a new study, with the extirpation in recent years of possibly one-fourth of its fish and mussel species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Nature Conservancy will soon ratchet up conservation measures intended to protect the river and keep at-risk critters from being listed as endangered. Cindy Dohner, regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service in the Southeast, says private landowners can help “conserve as many at-risk species as possible through voluntary and innovative measures."

Jimmy Petty is doing his share. He and brothers Don and Jerry participate in a handful of federal, state and nonprofit water-quality measures to control runoff from their 5,000-acre farm and forest.

“Daddy always said if you take care of the land, the land will take care of you. That pertains to the river too,” Petty says.

The Conasauga needs all the help it can get.

Beginning amid the 4,000-foot peaks of the Cohutta Wilderness Area, the river dips into Tennessee before turning south, passing the Petty’s farm and, eventually, reaching Dalton. It joins, 95 miles from its source, the Coosawattee River to form the Oostanaula River before flowing into Alabama (as the Coosa River).

 

The Conasauga River flows from the Cohutta Wilderness in northern Georgia into Tennessee before turning south. Map by Roy Hewitt, USFWS.

 

The aquatic biodiversity of the Conasauga watershed is “exceptional” with at least 76 species of native fishes and 18 species of native mussels. The more-heralded Upper Colorado River Basin, by contrast, contains 14 species of native fish.

The Conasauga, though, is imperiled. Jason Wisniewski, an aquatic zoologist with the Georgia DNR, estimates that the river once supported at least 33 species of mussels. Today, maybe 23 species remain with seven mussels (including the Coosa moccasinshell and the Georgia pigtoe) listed as endangered.

Three federally listed fish (including the Conasauga logperch) also make the endangered list.

“It’s one of the most diverse eco-systems in the country with quite a few species that are endemic,” said Robin Goodloe, a supervisory biologist with the Service in Athens, Ga. “And for several species that previously occurred, to a large extent, in the Upper Mobile River Basin, the Conasauga is the only place where they are left.”

The Tennessee Aquarium and the University of Georgia recently analyzed nearly 300 Southeastern watersheds across 11 states to determine which were most imperiled and in need of help. The study, funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, was based on a simple calculus: 3 points were assigned for each endangered species in the watershed; 2 points for each threatened species; and 1 point for each vulnerable, or potentially, at-risk, species.

The Conasauga ranked as the seventh most imperiled watershed. Overall, the Alabama River Basin, which includes the Conasauga, and the Tennessee River Basin fare the worst.

“Relative to other areas of the United States, the Southeast has little land in national parks or other forms of protected areas and receives a disproportionately small percentage of federal expenditures for endangered species protection,” reads the report entitled The Southeastern Aquatic Biodiversity Conservation Strategy. The Conasauga, in particular, is bedeviled by agricultural runoff; sedimentation; pesticides; herbicides; Roundup-ready seeds; and chicken litter which fertilizes the crops.

Studies show that glyphosate (Roundup) and phosphorous (chicken debris) harm fish and mussels. Drainage ditches that carry a field’s runoff towards the Conasauga and its tributaries, as well as inadequate river buffers, exacerbate the river’s woes. Further degradation could push at-risk species, including the holiday, bridled and trispot darters, onto the endangered list.

 

The Service’s at-risk plate is already full. Environmental groups, since 2011, have requested that Fish and Wildlife evaluate nearly 500 species to determine if they are “threatened” or “endangered.” The Southeastern U.S. is home to roughly 60 percent of the possible listings. The Service, though, in concert with state agencies, private landowners, businesses, and others, determined that 97 of the proposed species don’t need federal protection.

Fish and Wildlife and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will soon offer private landowners additional financial incentives to conserve land voluntarily so species won’t have to be listed. The Working Lands for Wildlife program, for example, already targets the holiday, bridled and trispot darters, and the Conasauga, for conservation. The goal: wildlife-friendly improvements to 10,800 acres within two years. The Pettys, the largest private landowners in the Conasauga watershed, will continue to do their share. They long ago enrolled their 14 miles of river frontage into the USDA conservation reserve program. They allowed a 35-foot buffer of trees – poplars, oaks, river birch, sweet gums – to regrow along both sides of the river. Another 30 feet remains un-farmed and serves as additional buffer.

The conservation program pays the Pettys about $30 an acre annually; they could make a lot more farming to the river’s edge. Instead, they’ve added rock filter dams to slow runoff through ditches; prudently managed, burned and replanted their 500-acre forest; and recycled dairy water to repeatedly rinse out the stalls.

In 2006, the Pettys won Georgia’s first Environmental Stewardship Award.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever broached a subject with them that they weren’t willing to entertain,” said Cindy Askew, the USDA’s conservationist in Northwest Georgia. “If you give them an option for something beneficial, they’re almost always going to be interested. I give them all the credit in the world.”

Jimmy Petty crossed the cement bridge over his stretch of the Conasauga and pointed to the spot below where his children were baptized. A rope swing hung invitingly from an oak. Fishing for catfish and floating the river on lazy summer days are but two of the many pleasures the Conasauga affords the Pettys.

“We don’t intend on quitting the conservation programs,” Jimmy Petty said. “They protect the river. And they make for good habitat for deer, fish and other wildlife.”

Human Dimensions Success Stories in Bird Conservation

As such, the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) Human Dimensions Subcommittee has volunteered to take on this project and we've created the following Google form to help collect and characterize the success stories where human dimensions/social science has been used to benefit bird conservation.

For the purposes of this data collection, success is defined as some sort of management, program (or approach), monitoring or conservation status change in response to considering/collecting the HD information. For example, what changed after HD information was collected?

Thank you in advance for helping us with this exciting and useful project! Authors will be contacted before success stories are posted. The following link provides an example of how to complete the form. Feel free to submit multiple success stories by completing 1 form per success story.

Please feel free to send any papers and additional products related to your story to Ashley Gramza, NABCI Human Dimensions Subcommittee Co-Chair and National Bird Conservation Social Science Coordinator, agramza@vt.edu

New Habitat Guidelines for Six Species of Eastern Wildlife

The Guidelines for Managing Habitat for Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need describe landscape and stand-level conditions needed by these six animals. The Guidelines, which range in length from 12 to 20 pages, also identify co-occurring species, such as New England cottontail and golden-winged warbler, that could benefit from the recommended management practices. The publications were developed with input from public- and private-sector foresters, wildlife biologists and conservation planners from 12 states and three Canadian provinces.

The Guidelines were funded by the Northeast Regional Conservation Needs (RCN) Grant Program, with a matching commitment from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, and other collaborating institutions. The Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies administers the RCN program to help states from Virginia to Maine implement their State Wildlife Action Plans.

The six focal species inhabit a variety of settings, forest types and successional stages across the region.

The American marten inhabits large tracts of intermediate to mature softwood, hardwood, and mixed forests in New York and northern New England. Close relatives of weasels and fishers, martens prefer an interconnected tree canopy where they can climb and move from tree to tree. Woody structure and dense vegetation near the forest floor boost prey abundance and increase denning opportunities for martens.

Bicknell’s thrush is a disturbance-adapted bird that breeds in fir-spruce forests at upper elevations in New York and northern New England. Bicknell’s thrushes typically nest in dense, low-canopy stands dominated by balsam fir, especially following fir waves, a common natural phenomenon on the region’s highest mountains. They also nest among paper birch-balsam fir saplings that arise following timber harvests or fires.

The Canada warbler is a colorful songbird that benefits from wetlands conservation and various methods of harvesting timber in upland settings. In the East, it ranges from North Carolina to northern Maine. Habitat managed for Canada wa

The rusty blackbird, one of North America’s most imperiled avian species, requires young northern softwoods for nesting. Rusty blackbirds breed in boreal and Acadian spruce-fir forests across Canada, northern New England and New York State.

The scarlet tanager is among the most brilliantly colored birds of the eastern forest. This canopy-nesting species breeds in multi-aged hardwood and mixed hardwood-softwood forests and also uses young forest habitats before migrating to South America in autumn.

The wood thrush is a ground-foraging songbird that nests in shrubs and young trees beneath a mature, hardwood-dominated canopy. Wood thrushes breed in temperate forests of eastern North America, occurring in every state from Virginia to Maine. Like most birds that breed in mature forests, wood thrushes and scarlet tanagers use areas of high sapling density, including regenerating timber harvest stands, during the post-breeding period. Many other migratory songbirds use such young forest areas, as do box turtles, timber rattlesnakes, and New England and Appalachian cottontails.

Each set of Guidelines includes information on species distribution and status, suggestions on where to create and sustain habitat, desired habitat conditions, recommended voluntary practices, managing for multiple benefits (including other wildlife that use the same habitats) plus a two-page digest of management considerations for quick reference in the office or the field.

Project leaders for the series are J. Daniel Lambert of High Branch Conservation Services of Hartland, VT, and Leonard Reitsma, professor of ecology at Plymouth State University. Additional contributors included a team of environmental biology students at Plymouth State and conservation biologists with the Audubon Society of New Hampshire and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.

The Guidelines can be downloaded for free.

The project leaders write: “We invite you to consider applying these guidelines in forests where you work. If you anticipate using them to help plan conservation or harvest activities, please notify Dan Lambert with information about the location and extent of your project (802-436-4065). This will help us assess the level of uptake in the region. We also welcome inquiries about where the guidelines could be most effectively applied. Complementary spatial prioritizations are available upon request.”

Northeast States Release Report on Hellbender Distribution

The goals of the project were to better document hellbender distribution in the Northeast using environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys and to develop a communication framework and standardized methodologies to coordinate conservation efforts throughout the region. The final report as well as eDNA and egg rearing protocol are now available on the RCN project page.

The eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) is a large, fully aquatic salamander that prefers clear, fast-flowing, well-oxygenated streams and rivers. They are found throughout the Appalachian region from southern New York to Georgia, and in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. The hellbender is declining in many parts of its range and has been identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The species is broadly distributed and very cryptic, making it difficult to thoroughly map its distribution using traditional approaches that rely on rock-turning to find hellbenders.

Environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys are a relatively new approach to determining if aquatic species are present at a location. The hellbender is well suited for eDNA monitoring because it is rare, secretive, and likely sensitive to disturbance from rock-turning surveys. As aquatic species, hellbenders exude many sources of DNA into their environment including skin, feces, blood, spermatozoa, and eggs.

Like many rare species with distribution among several states, their conservation is improved when states can share knowledge and resources and work together through efficient state partnerships. This study sought to fill major data gaps in hellbender distribution throughout the northeast, and develop standardized protocols for hellbender research and monitoring and a communication framework for hellbender researchers and population managers across the region.

This project provided broad-scale knowledge about the hellbender’s distribution and generated measurable benefits for public education and wildlife conservation by engaging a large group of citizen scientists in eDNA collection. The resulting archive of frozen eDNA samples represents a ‘snapshot’ of entire biological communities at the time of sample collection, which could serve as a valuable resource for future inventory and monitoring of native fauna, introduced species, and aquatic pathogens. Through these collective efforts and the support of the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, this project established an effective framework for region-wide hellbender conservation that has resulted in a better understanding of the species’ distribution, public engagement in conservation efforts, and tangible resources to benefit wildlife conservation in the northeastern U.S.

LCC Network Receives Distinguished Landscape Practitioner Award

This award is given for distinguished contributions to the application of the principles of landscape ecology to real-world problems. This decision was based on a strong nomination from the society’s membership and knowledge of LCCs contributions to sustaining landscapes through the support of 100s of projects that address landscape ecology and conservation challenges.

The award will be announced at the Banquet Dinner of the Annual Meeting of US-IALE in Baltimore from 7:00-9:00 pm on April 11 (http://baltimore2017.usiale.org/).

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