LCC News

Dead Zone Redemption

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

A great post from The Nature Conservancy's Bryan Piazza, director of freshwater and marine science for TNC's Louisiana program on working smart to address Gulf hypoxia.  Bryan cites Landscape Conservation Cooperatives as important partners to in scientific targeting to "align along our shared nutrient reduction goals to ensure that our collective efforts have maximum impact in the primary focus states and throughout the Mississippi River Basin."

Read the full Dead Zone Redemption blog post.

Dead Zone Redemption

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

A great post from The Nature Conservancy's Bryan Piazza, director of freshwater and marine science for TNC's Louisiana program on working smart to address Gulf hypoxia.  Bryan cites Landscape Conservation Cooperatives as important partners to in scientific targeting to "align along our shared nutrient reduction goals to ensure that our collective efforts have maximum impact in the primary focus states and throughout the Mississippi River Basin."

Read the full Dead Zone Redemption blog post.

GCPO LCC solicits Statements of Interest for research projects

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

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The long-range vision for the GCPO LCC’s Conservation Blueprint is to develop a strategic framework for collaborative conservation. It is envisioned that the strategic framework will allow the proactive assessment of conservation or other land use change outcomes in terms of the objectives of the partnership (e.g. reversing declines of a particular species).  Currently, the GCPO LCC lacks objectives or species-habitat models for most of the species identified in its draft Integrated Science Agenda. The GCPO LCC’s Blueprint Development Team identified this need as its highest priority to address in 2017.  (The Team includes the GCPO LCC’s  Adaptation Science Management Team plus staff from Joint Ventures, the Southeastern Aquatic Resource Partnership, State Wildlife Action Plans, and the National Wildlife Refuge Inventory & Monitoring program.)

To meet this need, the GCPO LCC is soliciting Statements of Interest (SOIs) to identify potential investigators for one or more projects addressing the LCC’s need for models of species-habitat relationships. Funding for projects will be contingent upon sufficient appropriations. You can download the full request and submit an SOI at http://fwrc.msstate.edu/gcpolcc/.  

GCPO LCC solicits Statements of Interest for research projects

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

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The long-range vision for the GCPO LCC’s Conservation Blueprint is to develop a strategic framework for collaborative conservation. It is envisioned that the strategic framework will allow the proactive assessment of conservation or other land use change outcomes in terms of the objectives of the partnership (e.g. reversing declines of a particular species).  Currently, the GCPO LCC lacks objectives or species-habitat models for most of the species identified in its draft Integrated Science Agenda. The GCPO LCC’s Blueprint Development Team identified this need as its highest priority to address in 2017.  (The Team includes the GCPO LCC’s  Adaptation Science Management Team plus staff from Joint Ventures, the Southeastern Aquatic Resource Partnership, State Wildlife Action Plans, and the National Wildlife Refuge Inventory & Monitoring program.)

To meet this need, the GCPO LCC is soliciting Statements of Interest (SOIs) to identify potential investigators for one or more projects addressing the LCC’s need for models of species-habitat relationships. Funding for projects will be contingent upon sufficient appropriations. You can download the full request and submit an SOI at http://fwrc.msstate.edu/gcpolcc/.  

Fire History of the Appalachian Region: A Review and Synthesis

Appalachian LCC News -

Download the report here.

The importance of fire in shaping Appalachian vegetation has become increasingly apparent over the last 25 years. This period has seen declines in oak (Quercus) and pine (Pinus) forests and other re-dependent ecosystems, which in the near-exclusion of re are being replaced by re-sensitive mesophytic vegetation. These vegetation changes imply that Appalachian vegetation had developed under a history of burning before the re-exclusion era, a possibility that has motivated investigations of Appalachian re history using proxy evidence. Here we synthesize those investigations to obtain an up-to-date portrayal of Appalachian re history.

We organize the report by data type, beginning with studies of high-resolution data on recent res to provide a context for interpreting the lower-resolution proxy data. Each proxy is addressed in a subsequent chapter, beginning with witness trees and continuing to re-scarred trees, stand age structure, and soil and sediment charcoal. Taken together, these proxies portray frequent burning in the past.

Fires had occurred at short intervals (a few years) for centuries before the re-exclusion era. Indeed, burning has played an important ecological role for millennia. Fires were especially common and spatially extensive on landscapes with large expanses of oak and pine forest, notably in the Ridge and Valley province and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Burning favored oak and pine at the expense of mesophytic competitors, but re exclusion has enabled mesophytic plants to expand from re-sheltered sites onto dry slopes that formerly supported pyrogenic vegetation. These changes underscore the need to restore re- dependent ecosystems.

Appalachian Wildlife Center - Partnering for Wildlife and People in an Economically-Depressed Region

Appalachian LCC News -

Eastern Kentucky has been identified by the New York Times as one of the hardest places to live in the United States, statistically speaking. Of the 31 counties that make up the eastern coalfields, 17 are ranked in the bottom 100 nationally for levels of median household income. In most, poverty levels exceed 25 percent, and this trend continues to a large degree throughout Appalachia.

The wildlife-tourism concept is to revitalize this blight-stricken region in the post-coal era by capitalizing on the abundance of fish and wildlife resources in the region and the tourism that it can drive. For generations, eastern Kentucky has relied on the extraction of finite resources (coal and gas), which have both created and destroyed quality fish and wildlife habitat. Descendants of coal-miners and other residents are now beginning to realize that the future of the region lies in the unique and often abundant flora and fauna of the region, and the desire of visitors to experience it.

Educating visitors who often have limited time to visit an area takes a special approach. Successful examples include the Cataloochee Valley of the Great Smokey Mountain National Park in east Tennessee and the Elk Country Visitor Center in the central coalfields near Benezette, Pennsylvania. Both locations were developed based on the opportunity to view restored elk populations in the East, and both have been wildly successful – drawing more than 200,000 and 400,000 annual visitors, respectively.

Working from these successful examples, the non-profit Appalachian Wildlife Foundation began incorporating and operationalizing a similar effort in eastern Kentucky. Their concept, the Appalachian Wildlife Center (the Center), is projected to draw more than 600,000 visitors each year to experience the natural beauty of the southern Appalachians. Slated to begin construction in 2017 with a completion date of 2023, the Center’s $24 million budget will fund the construction of a 45,000-square foot visitor’s center as well as habitat improvement projects and a 15-mile trail system across more than 12,500 acres in Bell County, KY. Ultimately, the Center is projected to employee approximately 96 staff, create 2,043 local jobs, and generate more than $441 million in regional economic impact during the first 5 years.

The Center is centrally located in proximity to the largest wild elk herd east of the Rocky Mountains and will be the most accessible location in the eastern United States to see elk. The region is also home to black bear, white-tailed deer, bobcat, wild turkey, numerous small mammal species, and an abundance of bird species. At the Center, visitors will find a museum of natural and regional history, an exhibit dedicated to elk restoration in the Appalachians, and a bird watchers exhibit with information on the more than 240 species that occur in the area. Visitors will also find other regionally-relevant wildlife exhibits, an artisans market where local artists and craftsmen will display their skills and work, a gift shop, food court, and classrooms.

The Center has the real potential to be a windfall for local economies that have been devastated by the collapse of the coal industry. Even though the Center will be a major tourist attraction, its mission will focus on wildlife conservation education and research on the restoration and improvement of coal mines for wildlife habitat and agricultural production. Additionally, accredited conservation education programs that meet state standards in science, reading, and math for students and schools in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina will be implemented that feature both remote learning and on-site classroom presentations.

Our wild, natural resources remain one of the most important and valuable economic drivers for the United States. Combining the desire for visitors to enjoy the natural history and heritage of southern Appalachia, the poverty-level economics of a depressed, post-coal region, and the abundant and often unique floral and faunal communities that occur in that region once again creates the opportunity to use the natural abundance of fish and wildlife resources to develop unprecedented, renewable economic impact to one of the poorest regions in the United States.

Partnerships are also the key to any large-scale successful conservation endeavor. The work being performed by the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and others, as well as the active engagement of regional conservation initiatives such as the Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative, the Appalachian Joint Venture, and numerous conservation NGO’s, including WMI, will help to ensure the future of the region’s people, wildlife, and other natural resources.

NFWF Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund 2017 Funding Opportunity

Appalachian LCC News -

Details are provided in the Request For Proposals, and additional program information can be viewed at www.nfwf.org/monarch. Please note that the 2017 funding opportunity will include a pre-proposal stage; the pre-proposal submission deadline is March 13, 2017.

Grant funding will be awarded in two categories: 
  • Increase the Quality, Quantity, and Connectivity of Habitat
  • Enhance Outreach and Organizational Coordination
Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c) organizations, federal, state, tribal, local, and municipal government agencies, educational institutions, and international organizations. Approximately $3.7 million is available in this year of the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund. Grants may range in size from $50,000 to $250,000.

webinar on Monday, February 13th, 2017 at 12 PM Eastern Time/11 AM Central Time will be hosted by NFWF to learn about the 2017 grant cycle, learn about funding priorities, the application process, receive tips for submitting competitive proposals, and have the opportunity to ask questions. Register here:  NFWF Webinar Registration.

Please contact Caroline Oswald, Program Manager for the Monarch Fund at NFWF at 612-564-7253; caroline.oswald@nfwf.org for any questions about the Fund or submission.

How to make local governments want more green infrastructure

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

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What if key communities and homeowners along the Gulf Coast knew they had an opportunity to save up to 20% per year on flood insurance premiums?  And what if that opportunity translated into a decreased risk of flooding?  Would they take steps to realize those savings?

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and researchers at Texas A&M University are betting yes.  With support from a multi-LCC grant and funding from the Knobloch Foundation, their community resilience project has recently identified just such an opportunity.

Using open space protection to save on flood insurance and conserve nature

Using existing datasets, they developed a model that predicts lands with a high probability of flooding.  Next they used land cover data and maps to identify unprotected areas with high conservation value for land trusts across the region.  By combining these two sets of results, they were able to identify 421 watersheds out of ~2600 across the Gulf as the most effective for land conservation to protect communities from flooding and conserve open space for fish and wildlife.  A mapping platform that hosts these data is available at TNC’s Coastal Resilience 2.0 mapping tool

“Floods are a real and growing problem along the Gulf coast and land conservation is an effective way to reduce flood risk,” says Dr. Christine Shepard, Director of Science for the Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico Program. “We have an opportunity in the Gulf of Mexico to increase community resilience by preserving open spaces in areas of high flood risk.  The science shows us where we can do this in a way that also benefits fish and wildlife.”

Why does land conservation lower insurance premiums?

As the TNC report Protecting Open Space & Ourselves states, “Open space enables the critical natural functions of wetlands to persist; the water storage capacity of the landscape is maximized and flooding beyond the extent of the actual protected area can be reduced.”  Not only that, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) voluntary Community Rating System (CRS) gives communities points for flood mitigation activities, including open space protection, which can earn their citizen’s an insurance discount of up to 20%.

These discounts are based on good science.  The 2012 study “Open space protection and flood mitigation: A national study” found that from 1999 to 2009, a point increase in the CRS system significantly decreased the observed amount of insured flood damage in floodplain areas.

To get a sense of the magnitude of the opportunity here, within (or partially within) the 421 high opportunity Gulf watersheds lie 343 municipalities, counties, and parishes.  Yet, as of 2014 only 100 of those communities were enrolled in the CRS program.  Even those 100 communities only earned an average of 131 out of a possible 2,020 points for open space preservation.  

Will communities take advantage of this new knowledge?

A hammer is only useful when someone picks it up to drive a nail.  Accordingly, the Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC is providing additional support to ensure that Gulf communities can begin to use this new flood protection analysis.  The Nature Conservancy will be engaging the residents and officials of three or more localities through a series of workshops in the spring of 2017.  They are working with partners who will use the experience to engage additional communities elsewhere. (For more information or to nominate your community, email cshepard@tnc.org.)

This project will also be integrating information developed by the multi-LCC Tidal Wetland Migration project.  “Mike Osland has great information showing which open space areas are important for wetland migration as sea level rises,” says Shepard.  “We would also like to identify which watersheds are most resilient to climate change and sea level rise by incorporating information on future development and where future flood claims are likely to be, combined with Mike’s information.  Right now we have the data but not the funding to take these additional steps.”

Gray or green?

This approach to flood risk reduction is one type of “green infrastructure” that is increasingly being deployed worldwide.  Dr. Shepard explains, “Gray vs. green infrastructure choices are local decisions that must be made based on local circumstances, including the level of risk reduction desired and what is to be protected - is it critical infrastructure?  Also the amount of funding is a factor because gray infrastructure, such as a sea wall, tends to be far more resource intensive and requires maintenance.  Many solutions could be hybrid.  Green infrastructure is not a magic bullet, but it should absolutely be one of the tools to achieve flood protection.”

From 1996 to 2007, communities within the ~2,600-watershed Gulf of Mexico study area experienced the largest amount of insured property damage in the U.S.  As the first of its kind to examine undeveloped lands across these Gulf watersheds, this coastal resilience study is a great addition to the flood protection toolbox.

Up next: Read how small changes in temperature and/or rainfall along the Gulf can lead to large changes in ecosystem structure and function.

How to make local governments want more green infrastructure

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

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What if key communities and homeowners along the Gulf Coast knew they had an opportunity to save up to 20% per year on flood insurance premiums?  And what if that opportunity translated into a decreased risk of flooding?  Would they take steps to realize those savings?

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and researchers at Texas A&M University are betting yes.  With support from a multi-LCC grant and funding from the Knobloch Foundation, their community resilience project has recently identified just such an opportunity.

Using open space protection to save on flood insurance and conserve nature

Using existing datasets, they developed a model that predicts lands with a high probability of flooding.  Next they used land cover data and maps to identify unprotected areas with high conservation value for land trusts across the region.  By combining these two sets of results, they were able to identify 421 watersheds out of ~2600 across the Gulf as the most effective for land conservation to protect communities from flooding and conserve open space for fish and wildlife.  A mapping platform that hosts these data is available at TNC’s Coastal Resilience 2.0 mapping tool

“Floods are a real and growing problem along the Gulf coast and land conservation is an effective way to reduce flood risk,” says Dr. Christine Shepard, Director of Science for the Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico Program. “We have an opportunity in the Gulf of Mexico to increase community resilience by preserving open spaces in areas of high flood risk.  The science shows us where we can do this in a way that also benefits fish and wildlife.”

Why does land conservation lower insurance premiums?

As the TNC report Protecting Open Space & Ourselves states, “Open space enables the critical natural functions of wetlands to persist; the water storage capacity of the landscape is maximized and flooding beyond the extent of the actual protected area can be reduced.”  Not only that, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) voluntary Community Rating System (CRS) gives communities points for flood mitigation activities, including open space protection, which can earn their citizen’s an insurance discount of up to 20%.

These discounts are based on good science.  The 2012 study “Open space protection and flood mitigation: A national study” found that from 1999 to 2009, a point increase in the CRS system significantly decreased the observed amount of insured flood damage in floodplain areas.

To get a sense of the magnitude of the opportunity here, within (or partially within) the 421 high opportunity Gulf watersheds lie 343 municipalities, counties, and parishes.  Yet, as of 2014 only 100 of those communities were enrolled in the CRS program.  Even those 100 communities only earned an average of 131 out of a possible 2,020 points for open space preservation.  

Will communities take advantage of this new knowledge?

A hammer is only useful when someone picks it up to drive a nail.  Accordingly, the Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC is providing additional support to ensure that Gulf communities can begin to use this new flood protection analysis.  The Nature Conservancy will be engaging the residents and officials of three or more localities through a series of workshops in the spring of 2017.  They are working with partners who will use the experience to engage additional communities elsewhere. (For more information or to nominate your community, email cshepard@tnc.org.)

This project will also be integrating information developed by the multi-LCC Tidal Wetland Migration project.  “Mike Osland has great information showing which open space areas are important for wetland migration as sea level rises,” says Shepard.  “We would also like to identify which watersheds are most resilient to climate change and sea level rise by incorporating information on future development and where future flood claims are likely to be, combined with Mike’s information.  Right now we have the data but not the funding to take these additional steps.”

Gray or green?

This approach to flood risk reduction is one type of “green infrastructure” that is increasingly being deployed worldwide.  Dr. Shepard explains, “Gray vs. green infrastructure choices are local decisions that must be made based on local circumstances, including the level of risk reduction desired and what is to be protected - is it critical infrastructure?  Also the amount of funding is a factor because gray infrastructure, such as a sea wall, tends to be far more resource intensive and requires maintenance.  Many solutions could be hybrid.  Green infrastructure is not a magic bullet, but it should absolutely be one of the tools to achieve flood protection.”

From 1996 to 2007, communities within the ~2,600-watershed Gulf of Mexico study area experienced the largest amount of insured property damage in the U.S.  As the first of its kind to examine undeveloped lands across these Gulf watersheds, this coastal resilience study is a great addition to the flood protection toolbox.

Up next: Read how small changes in temperature and/or rainfall along the Gulf can lead to large changes in ecosystem structure and function.

GCPO LCC Gets a New Geomatics Coordinator

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

It’s a time of transition for the GCPO. Dr. Kristine Evans left her position as Geomatics Coordinator in December to pursue her dreams as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture at Mississippi State University. The LCC made great strides under her leadership and we are very grateful that she will continue to serve the LCC as a liaison to MSU.

There was strong competition among the applicants for the Geomatics Coordinator. In the final analysis, Dr. Toby Gray rose to the top. He brings a deep passion for conservation and strong geospatial skills to the team. Since 2014, Toby has been working as a researcher for the LCC, primarily focused on completing the Ecological Assessments for Grasslands and Open Pine. 

We are happy to announce that Dr. Gray has verbally accepted the Geomatics Coordinator Position.  Barring any delays, Toby will officially take the mantle by March 1st. Given his familiarity with the LCC, we know that Toby will hit the ground running. In fact, he is already working to host a Grasslands Conservation Workshop for the end of February. You can contact Toby at toby@gri.msstate.edu for more information.

Toby is very excited about the opportunities that lay ahead. In his own words:

“I have been very fortunate to have spent the past two-and-a-half years as a Research Associate for the Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative. Getting to know so many of our partners across the region and developing a greater understanding of the challenges to science-based landscape conservation design, not to mention walking through and observing so many representative landscapes up close, has been a great experience. I have also benefitted greatly by having an excellent geomatics coordinator, project leader, wildlife biologist, and collaborator in Dr. Kristine Evans in the office right next door to mine. When it comes to using geospatial data to answer questions and develop tools to serve the cause of landscape conservation, the challenges loom large. Raw data are ubiquitous, housed in many different locations, in many different formats, and developed under varying protocols to serve many different purposes. Conservation is applied across the region by a diverse constellation of partners working at different scales in different ecological systems for different agencies, universities, and organizations. To meet these challenges, we have an excellent staff here at the GCPO LCC, with strong connections to a network of skilled scientists, universities, and research institutes. We have very sophisticated geospatial tools, with more tools coming online almost monthly. This is a very exciting time to be working in geospatial science, and, for me, there is no other field in which I would like to apply my expertise more than that of large landscape conservation.”

Up next: Read about how to make local governments want more green infrastructure 

GCPO LCC Gets a New Geomatics Coordinator

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

It’s a time of transition for the GCPO. Dr. Kristine Evans left her position as Geomatics Coordinator in December to pursue her dreams as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture at Mississippi State University. The LCC made great strides under her leadership and we are very grateful that she will continue to serve the LCC as a liaison to MSU.

There was strong competition among the applicants for the Geomatics Coordinator. In the final analysis, Dr. Toby Gray rose to the top. He brings a deep passion for conservation and strong geospatial skills to the team. Since 2014, Toby has been working as a researcher for the LCC, primarily focused on completing the Ecological Assessments for Grasslands and Open Pine. 

We are happy to announce that Dr. Gray has verbally accepted the Geomatics Coordinator Position.  Barring any delays, Toby will officially take the mantle by March 1st. Given his familiarity with the LCC, we know that Toby will hit the ground running. In fact, he is already working to host a Grasslands Conservation Workshop for the end of February. You can contact Toby at toby@gri.msstate.edu for more information.

Toby is very excited about the opportunities that lay ahead. In his own words:

“I have been very fortunate to have spent the past two-and-a-half years as a Research Associate for the Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative. Getting to know so many of our partners across the region and developing a greater understanding of the challenges to science-based landscape conservation design, not to mention walking through and observing so many representative landscapes up close, has been a great experience. I have also benefitted greatly by having an excellent geomatics coordinator, project leader, wildlife biologist, and collaborator in Dr. Kristine Evans in the office right next door to mine. When it comes to using geospatial data to answer questions and develop tools to serve the cause of landscape conservation, the challenges loom large. Raw data are ubiquitous, housed in many different locations, in many different formats, and developed under varying protocols to serve many different purposes. Conservation is applied across the region by a diverse constellation of partners working at different scales in different ecological systems for different agencies, universities, and organizations. To meet these challenges, we have an excellent staff here at the GCPO LCC, with strong connections to a network of skilled scientists, universities, and research institutes. We have very sophisticated geospatial tools, with more tools coming online almost monthly. This is a very exciting time to be working in geospatial science, and, for me, there is no other field in which I would like to apply my expertise more than that of large landscape conservation.”

Up next: Read about how to make local governments want more green infrastructure 

Transitioning into 2017

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

A few weeks ago, the GCPO LCC staff gathered in Starkville, MS, for a 2-day staff retreat, where we started laying out our work plans and priorities for 2017. Our staff, because we work for multiple partner agencies and are physically located in offices across the LCC, get together frequently for staff conference calls, and we also come together a couple times a year for in-person staff retreats. We have found this to be an effective way of working together, and to keep up with what each of us is working on.

This year, the focus of our discussions is on transition. I had laid out a vision for that transition in a presentation I made to the Steering Committee last fall. That presentation recognized that our LCC had just completed its Conservation Blueprint 1.0, and we had also completed most of our Ecological Assessments work, which fed into the Blueprint. These were major milestones for our partnership, and they were important contributions to the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS). The question before us now was “Where should we focus our attention now?” Answering that question was the primary purpose of our meeting in Starkville. Our discussions were focused on 3 large topics: 1) Building towards a Blueprint 2.0; 2) Ecosystem services and human dimensions; and 3) Landscape conservation design.

  1. Building towards a Blueprint 2.0 – enhancing, improving, and updating the Blueprint will continue to be a primary focus for the GCPO LCC. As we move forward, that will entail the incorporation of species-habitat models into the Blueprint. Those models will more explicitly articulate the relationship between priority species habitat needs, and the availability of that habitat, both currently and in the future, in the LCC. To accomplish this work, the GCPO LCC is securing the services of 2 post-doctoral positions, one focused on terrestrial species and the other on aquatics, for the next 2 years.

  2. Ecosystem Services and Human Dimensions – our Strategic Plan identifies ecosystem services as an important science undertaking for the GCPO LCC. We have funded one research project on Ecosystem Services that was wrapped up recently, and which I believe will really help us in forging ahead in this important area. Mapping the potential ecological services in the GCPO, and better understanding landowners’ preferences on ecological services that they might want to provide on their lands, provide our science staff a good foundation for developing strategies for promoting various conservation practices in our region. These strategies can be linked up to our Blueprint information to build a more effective and sustainable landscape.
  3. Landscape Conservation Design (LCD) – last fall, our Steering Committee heard from Tina Chouinard of the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) about the Service’s new direction in implementing their Strategic Growth Policy. A new guidance document on Landscape Conservation Design released by the Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System in October 2016, provides direction by which NWRs should participate in LCD processes, and articulates the responsibilities of the USFWS in the “collaborative processes and product development associated with LCD." The Guidance document further suggests that NWRs should work with LCCs or other “landscape-scale partnership that facilitates cooperation, collaboration, and coordination across multiple stakeholders in developing a Landscape Conservation Design.” The GCPO has approximately 60 NWRs, so there is going to be a tremendous need in our LCC for NWRs to be involved in the LCD process that we’re undertaking.

    To be effective and to meet the larger purpose of an LCD, the GCPO’s LCDs must include more than NWRs in designing a landscape of the future. Our other partners, such as the Forest Service and state partners, have significant land holdings in the GCPO. There are also vast acreages of private lands in our geography, some held by corporate interests, and other partners such as tribes have smaller acreages that are nonetheless significant in a landscape conservation design.  LCCs attempt to bring all these pieces of the puzzle together into a coherent vision of a sustainable landscape.

Transition can be an uncomfortable exercise, especially when priorities change, and as I write this, we are still in the very earliest stages of President Trump’s administration and transition. I’m sure that much of the uncertainty surrounding the current transition will clear up as new leadership gets installed in the Department of the Interior, and as priorities and policies are communicated to our federal partner agencies. In the meantime, the priorities of the GCPO LCC remain the same as they were in 2016, and as directed by our Steering Committee’s decisions over the years. We’ll continue to provide science-based products, tools and recommendations to achieve our vision “to ensure natural and cultural landscapes capable of sustaining healthy ecosystems, clean water, fish, wildlife, and human communities in the 180-million acre Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks region through the 21st century.”

Up next: Read about a new online tool and datasets that will help coastal communities transition into a focus on resilience to sea level rise.

Transitioning into 2017

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

A few weeks ago, the Science Team for the GCPO LCC gathered in Starkville, MS, for a 2-day staff retreat, where we started laying out our work plans and priorities for 2017. Our staff, because we work for multiple partner agencies, and are physically located in offices across the LCC, get together frequently for staff conference calls, and we also come together a couple times a year for in-person staff retreats. We have found this to be an effective way of working together, and to keep up with what each of us is working on.

This year, the focus of our discussions is on transition. I had laid out a vision for that transition in a presentation I made to the Steering Committee last fall. That presentation recognized that our LCC had just completed its Conservation Blueprint 1.0, and we had also completed most of our Ecological Assessments work, which fed into the Blueprint. These were major milestones for our partnership, and they were important contributions to the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS). The question before us now was “Where should we focus our attention now?” Answering that question was the primary purpose of our meeting in Starkville. Our discussions were focused on 3 large topics: 1) Building towards a Blueprint 2.0; 2) Ecosystem services and human dimensions, and; 3) Landscape conservation design.

  1. Building towards a Blueprint 2.0 – enhancing, improving, and updating the Blueprint will continue to be a primary focus for the GCPO LCC. As we move forward, that will entail the incorporation of species-habitat models into the Blueprint. Those models will more explicitly articulate the relationship between priority species habitat needs, and the availability of that habitat, both currently and in the future, in the LCC. To accomplish this work, the GCPO LCC is securing the services of 2 post-doctoral positions, one focused on terrestrial species and the other on aquatics, for the next 2 years.

  2. Ecosystem Services and Human Dimensions – our Strategic Plan identifies ecosystem services as an important science undertaking for the GCPO LCC. We have funded one research project on Ecosystem Services that was wrapped up recently, and which I believe will really help us in forging ahead in this important area. Mapping the potential ecological services in the GCPO, and better understanding landowners’ preferences on ecological services that they might want to provide on their lands, provide our science staff a good foundation for developing strategies for promoting various conservation practices in our region. These strategies can be linked up to our Blueprint information to build a more effective and sustainable landscape.
  3. Landscape Conservation Design (LCD) – last fall, our Steering Committee heard from Tina Chouinard of the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) about the Service’s new direction in implementing their Strategic Growth Policy. A new guidance document on Landscape Conservation Design released by the Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System in October 2016, provides direction by which NWRs should participate in LCD processes, and articulates the responsibilities of the USFWS in the “collaborative processes and product development associated with LCD. The Guidance document further suggests that NWR’s should work with LCC’s or other “landscape-scale partnership that facilitates cooperation, collaboration, and coordination across multiple stakeholders.in developing a Landscape Conservation Design”. The GCPO has approximately 60 NWR’s, so there is going to be a tremendous need in our LCC for NWR’s to be involved in the LCD process that we’re undertaking.

    To be effective and to meet the larger purpose of an LCD, the GCPO’s LCDs must include more than NWRs in designing a landscape of the future. Our other partners, such as the Forest Service and state partners, have significant land holdings in the GCPO. There are also vast acreages of private lands in our geography, some held by corporate interests, and other partners such as tribes have smaller acreages that are nonetheless significant in a landscape conservation design.  LCCs attempt to bring all these pieces of the puzzle together into a coherent vision of a sustainable landscape.

Transition can be an uncomfortable exercise, especially when priorities change, and as I write this, we are still in the very earliest stages of President Trump’s administration and transition. I’m sure that much of the uncertainty surrounding the current transition will clear up as new leadership gets installed in the Department of the Interior, and as priorities and policies are communicated to our federal partner agencies. In the meantime, the priorities of the GCPO LCC remain the same as they were in 2016, and as directed by our Steering Committee’s decisions over the years. We’ll continue to provide science-based products, tools and recommendations to achieve our vision “to ensure natural and cultural landscapes capable of sustaining healthy ecosystems, clean water, fish, wildlife, and human communities in the 180-million acre Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks region through the 21st century.”

A Conservation Action Map for the TRB Network

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The first iteration of this Map is now available on our Web Portal and can be accessed.

Building on this momentum, the Network is now identifying data resources and other information derived from these activities and, when possible, providing access to these resources via the Conservation Action Map and Network portal. Members will continue to be able to enter additional projects to the Conservation Map and tag new resources produced from their efforts.

Biennial Spotlight on National Park Resources

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View all the talks and posters here

In partnership with the National Park Service, the Appalachian LCC is providing an online presence for this collection of talks and posters for our many conservation and natural resource partners. The 2016 Spotlight features contributions from parks in the National Capital Region. Issues discussed range from white-nose syndrome to coastal vegetation change, from the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act to integrating cultural resources at a landscape scale.

We like to thank Perry Wheelock, Associate Regional Director of Resource Stewardship and Science, and her natural and cultural resources staff for assistance developing this online presence.

LCC Science Helping to Target Restoration Sites to Improve Water Quality in the Susquehanna and Potomac Watersheds

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At a recent meeting with state agency partners, Appalachian LCC science and decision-support tools were presented to demonstrate how they could help identify priority sites for restoration that would also accrue fish and wildlife benefits.

On January 5th, USFWS Science Applications Assistant Regional Director Ken Elowe and Acting North Atlantic LCC Coordinator Mike Slattery attended a meeting in Harrisburg, PA with state agency partners focused on identifying and streamlining restoration activities at priority sites in these key watersheds. The Appalachian LCC riparian restoration decision support tool – which allows users to identify vulnerable stream and riverbanks that lack tree cover and shade in coldwater stream habitats in order to plant trees and provide shade - was of particular interest, as the Commonwealth is planning on using these funds for riparian buffer plantings as well as developing a riparian buffer incentive program.

Following up on the meeting, a science delivery tools workshop has been proposed where personnel from the Appalachian and North Atlantic LCC will present their tools, science products and other information to staff of state fish and wildlife agencies from PA, NY, and perhaps NJ.

Putting LCC Products into Hands of Practitioners in the Southeast

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Each workshop will be tailored to the specific interests and needs of participants to better translate the utility of Appalachian LCC resources. These events will also provide staff valuable feedback from end users on how to refine and improve products while continuing a dialogue on how the LCC can better serve partners to improve success in conservation delivery.

The first of these workshops in 2017 will be held in Crossville, TN on February 9th and 10th. Developed in partnership with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA), this workshop will include presentations, facilitated group discussions, and case studies tailored to TWRA staff and their key partners’ current conservation efforts. The objectives are for participants to

  • Walk away with a better understanding of the landscape-level approach to conservation
  • Identify how their efforts fit into this “bigger” picture
  • Develop an understanding and identify the utility of Regional Conservation Designs, and
  • Begin to apply Appalachian LCC resources to their conservation planning and management efforts.


A second workshop is being planned with Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge staff and partners in Alabama for March. If you are interested in learning more about these workshops as well as potential opportunities to host one for your staff/partners, please contact Gillian Bee, Appalachian LCC Landscape Conservation Fellow (gilliab@clemson.edu / 970-342-6034).

Learning from Each Other Within the LCC Family

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This great opportunity benefitted both Jean and the LCC and helped expand what it means to be part of the National LCC Network. Jean remarked how this learning opportunity greatly expanded in her mind the conceptual framework of what constitutes the role of an LCC.

Coming from the lower 48 to experience the vast Arctic wilderness was a dramatic landscape challenge given its vast and remote expanse, socio-cultural values of subsistence livelihoods of native communities, and expanding conservation work with land-managers and industry to design for nature, economic growth, and cultural heritage. As one of the original LCC Coordinators, Jean was able to share with the Dr. Wendy Loya and Josh Bradley of the Arctic LCC her experiences in building a collaborative partnership, identifying strategic programmatic and research direction, and sharing current efforts to promote the LCCs science delivery as well as supporting conservation networks, communication, and training in building capacity across the LCC geography. Based in the Anchorage FWS Headquarters, Jean was also able to work closely with the other Alaska LCC Coordinators and staff of the Western Alaska, Northwest Boreal, and Aleutian Bering Sea Island LCCs.

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