LCC News

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

Appalachian LCC News -

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/

Seeking Candidates for 4 Gulf Strategic Conservation Assessment positions

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

We are very pleased to announce four position opportunities to support the Strategic Conservation Assessment of Gulf Coast Landscapes (SCA) project. The Restore Council approved the SCA project as one among a suite of projects in the 2015 initial Funded Priorities List. This project will coalesce existing conservation and socioeconomic priorities into conservation planning decision support tools to aid the Restore Council and their stakeholders in identifying high priority lands for voluntary conservation efforts. The SCA project is being led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf Restoration Team and administered through a cooperative agreement with Mississippi State University, with support from the four Gulf Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.

1) Seeking Statements of Interest for SCA Assessment Coordinator

 As previously advertised, the SCA project team is seeking Statements of Interest (SOIs) for a qualified individual or contracting organization to take on a lead role as Assessment Coordinator for this project. This individual or organization must have extensive experience in project coordination, organization of stakeholder meetings, and landscape-level natural resource conservation planning, preferably along the Gulf of Mexico coast.  Additional information and detailed submission instructions for the Assessment Coordinator role can be found in the SOI description and template, which is available for direct download link at: http://tinyurl.com/Gulf-SCA-Coordinator. Review of SOIs will begin May 15, 2017.  Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to consult with U.S. Fish and Wildlife project lead John Tirpak (john_tirpak@fws.gov) or MSU project lead Kristine Evans (kristine.evans@msstate.edu) prior to a Statement of Interest submission.  

 

2)  Seeking Postdoctoral Associate in Ecological Modeling

The SCA project team is seeking a Postdoctoral Associate in Ecological Modeling to be based out of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Mississippi State University.  The Postdoctoral Associate must hold a Ph.D. in biological or environmental engineering, geography, geosciences, ecology, environmental science/management, or other related fields. ABD candidates will also be considered. The ideal candidate will have some combination of the following skills: spatially explicit ecological modeling, landscape conservation, MCDA, programming (especially Python), and web-based app development. Expertise with geographic information systems (GIS) and other related software applications and technologies is also required.  Additional information and detailed submission instructions can be found in the link to the Post Doc Position Description (PostDoc_Position_Description_SCA.pdf). Review of applicants will begin June 7, 2017.  If you have any questions, are interested in submitting an application, or have a suggested candidate, please contact Anna Linhoss (alinhoss@abe.msstate.edu) .  Applicants must complete an application through the MSU HRM website (http://explore.msujobs.msstate.edu/cw/en-us/job/495521/postdoctoral-associate-eng) to be considered, but should also email a copy of the cover letter and resume/CV directly to alinhoss@abe.msstate.edu

 

3)  Seeking Research Associate – Geospatial Analyst

The SCA project team is seeking a Geospatial Analyst Research Associate to be based out of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture at Mississippi State University.  The applicant must hold minimally a B.S. in a relevant field (e.g., geography, geosciences, ecology, environmental science/management, coastal or marine ecology, wildlife and fisheries science) and a minimum of 3 years of relevant; or a M.S. degree and minimum of 1 year of relevant experience and demonstrated competency.  A strong background and expertise with geographic information systems (GIS) and other related software applications and technologies is required.  The ideal candidate will also have some combination of experience developing web-enabled geospatial data applications, expertise in other GIS software applications and html programming applications, as well as experience working in Gulf Coast landscape conservation, large-scale data applications, spatially explicit ecological modeling, multi-criteria decision analysis, and interacting with stakeholders.  Additional information and detailed submission instructions can be found in the linked GIS Analyst Position Description (GISAnalyst_ResearchAssociate_SCAproject_Description.pdf). Review of applicants will begin June 7, 2017.  If you have any questions, are interested in submitting an application, or have a suggested candidate, please contact Kristine Evans (kristine.evans@msstate.edu).  Applicants must complete an application through the MSU HRM website (http://explore.msujobs.msstate.edu/cw/en-us/job/495589/research-associate) to be considered, but should also email a copy of the cover letter and resume/CV directly to kristine.evans@msstate.edu.

4)  Seeking Ph.D. Student in Coastal Ecological Modeling and Geospatial Application Development

The SCA project team is seeking a Ph.D. student to be based out of either the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering or the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture at Mississippi State University.  The student will work with SCA staff to develop a suite of ecological models and associated geospatial applications predicting ecosystem, species, and/or socioeconomic response to potential Gulf Coast system stressors and planned coastal restoration activities. The Ph.D. student must hold a Master’s degree in geography, geosciences, ecology, environmental science/management, biological/environmental engineering, coastal or marine ecology, wildlife and fisheries science, or other related fields with competitive GPA and GRE scores. Research experience with predictive ecological modeling and geographic information systems (GIS), and a demonstrated publication record are preferred. Additional information and detailed submission instructions can be found in the linked Ph.D. student Position Description (PhDPosition_Description_SCAproject.pdf). Review of applicants will begin June 7, 2017.  If you have any questions, are interested in submitting an application, or have a suggested candidate, please contact Kristine Evans (kristine.evans@msstate.edu) (Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture) or Anna Linhoss (alinhoss@abe.msstate.edu) (Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering) at Mississippi State University.

Equal Opportunity 

Mississippi State University is an equal opportunity employer, and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, ethnicity, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), national origin, disability status, age, sexual orientation, genetic information, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. We always welcome nominations and applications from women, members of any minority group, and others who share our passion for building a diverse community that reflects the diversity in our student population.

 

We would greatly appreciate it if you could forward this email among your networks and to anyone you feel may be interested.

 

Thank you for your interest and help in spreading these great opportunities.

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

Appalachian LCC News -

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

Appalachian LCC News -

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

Appalachian LCC News -

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

Appalachian LCC News -

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

Appalachian LCC News -

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

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.

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

Appalachian LCC News -

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.

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