Gathering provides rallying cry for collaborative conservation, and a showcase for tools that can support a shared vision
Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller delivered the keynote address at the 2016 RCP Gathering.
At the annual Regional Conservation Partnerships (RCP) Gathering in Nashua, N.H., hosted by the Highstead Foundation, participants received kudos for their leadership in collaborative conservation from keynote speaker Chief Jason Weller of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and had the opportunity to learn about regional tools designed to them work strategically in the face of growing challenges.
Among them, two North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative supported landscape efforts: Connect the Connecticut, a landscape conservation design for the Connecticut River watershed, and Regional Conservation Opportunity Areas (RCOAs) Version 1.0, a network of resilient lands and waters across the 13 Northeast states.
The tour started on the other side of the globe with a striking image of people shielding themselves in the midst of a dust storm in Turkey. Weller explained that the Eastern Mediterranean is currently experiencing the worst drought in recorded history. “This is the fertile crescent, the birthplace of human civilization,” he said. “This drought has displaced 1.5 million people.”
Labich and his partners used regional data that identify the highest quality habitat for six bird species as eligibility criteria for the the program. The datasets were developed as part of the Connect the Connecticut landscape conservation design project, and are incorporated within the RCOAs Terrestrial and Wetland Cores and Connectors dataset.
Over the course of his hour-long address, Weller cited dozens of other examples of success through a variety of different NRCS programs, emphasizing a list of key characteristics shared by all:
Shared vision - You can’t have real collaboration without a handshake.
Strategic approach - There will never be enough money, so focus on getting the most bang for your buck.
Scientific accountability - Invest in leading edge science, and then make sure you are getting what you paid for by tracking its impact.
Leveraging - If you are in it together, you can take advantage of each other strengths.
Regulatory certainty - Give landowners confidence that cooperation will enable them to keep doing what they are doing.
Credibility - You can’t have real collaboration without a handshake, but there needs to be trust in what that handshake means.
Now more than ever, Weller said conservation needs to focus on finding common ground. “I don’t care what side of the aisle you are on, everyone should care about natural resources”