Meet Acting North Atlantic LCC Coordinator Mike Slattery
For Mike Slattery, the invitation to take on the role of Acting Coordinator for the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative represented an opportunity to share insight from "the field" at a point in the evolution of the partnership when effectively delivering science to end users is of utmost importance.
In his capacity serving as the Chesapeake Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 2010, Mike has developed relationships with diverse networks of practitioners across the 64,000-square mile Chesapeake Bay watershed in pursuit of satisfying two major conservation milestones: The Chesapeake Bay Executive Order issued by President Obama in May 2009, which declared the Chesapeake Bay a national treasure, and the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, an inter-state compact signed in 2014 by the six Bay state Governors, the Mayor of the District of Columbia, and the EPA Administrator, on behalf of all Federal Agencies.
These blueprints for restoring the watershed’s health ushered in a new era of shared state-federal leadership, action and accountability, and have prepared Mike for the demands of coordinating an entity with an equally ambitious conservation vision, on an even larger scale. Learn about Mike's past, present, and future in the field of conservation:
What drew you to a career in conservation?
Raised in Seekonk, Massachusetts, I spent many, many days during my southern New England youth, hunting, trapping, fishing, camping, hiking, boating and more, with my family, mostly my Dad.
What was your first position in this field?
Natural Resource Biologist for the Coastal Resources Division of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
What are your responsibilities as the Chesapeake Coordinator?
Primarily nurturing and strengthening relationships with our many partners in the Chesapeake region. I directly represent FWS at many levels within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Bay Program, including as FWS Northeast Region Director Wendi Weber’s delegate for the Principal Staff Committee. Most importantly, I work to engage all FWS Programs in the field, to help align our operations in ways and in places where they can make the greatest contribution to our Strategic Habitat Conservation framework. #CheSHC
How do you interact and work with LCCs in your current position?
The Appalachian, North Atlantic, and South Atlantic LCCs all operate in the Chesapeake watershed. Because they are organized under FWS Region 5, I interact most regularly with the Appalachian and North Atlantic LCCs. But I recently engaged the South Atlantic LCC to fortify connections with them as well. I’d say my role is as a conservation connector, advocating for LCCs with Chesapeake conservation practitioners and partners, and acting as an interface between LCC science delivery and on-the-ground conservation action. In that capacity, I’m helping to coordinate the contributions of established, successful conservation partnerships that impact the Chesapeake region, to support the Chesapeake Watershed Agreement and Executive Order. By aligning the ground-breaking science of LCCs, the organizing power of Joint Ventures and Fish Habitat Partnerships, and the capacity of the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and a number of conservation NGO's to address our mutual priorities, we are bringing new thought leadership and resources to bear on the outcomes of the Executive Order, Bay Agreement, and Chesapeake Conservation Partnership. All of this adds up to measurable gains for fish, wildlife and plants ,and the natural benefits they provide to people living in the Chesapeake watershed.
How does your experience in the Bay Program inform your role as Acting LCC Coordinator?
Being embedded within an “end-user” partnership of the sort we hope will be increasingly using LCC science to guide on-the-ground conservation actions gives me a first-hand “field” perspective. Day in and day out, I work with partners whose practical realities must be acknowledged as the powerful science tools being conceived by LCCs develop. Sometimes it’s easy for us in Science Applications to lose sight of the day-to-day needs and challenges facing those organizations and and partnerships we hope will end up using our science. It’s much easier to stay attuned to those kinds of considerations, while I still have one foot in the world of conservation implementation partners.
How do you think your experience as Acting LCC coordinator will inform your work in the Chesapeake Bay Program moving forward?
Though the individual accomplishments of agencies and organizations operating in the Chesapeake at the project scale, the site scale, and even sometimes at larger scales are undeniably successful and worthwhile, what is still missing is a system-wide connectedness across habitat types and across scales. There have been a number of state-led conservation design efforts for conservation of biological diversity within state boundaries, but very few broader comprehensive landscape conservation design efforts. What is needed is a collaborative effort to plan and design a system-wide habitat conservation vision, framework and implementation plan, for the entire 64,000 square mile Chesapeake watershed. We have an opportunity to coordinate with partner agencies and organizations, and build from the success of existing partnerships like the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, North Atlantic and Appalachian LCC’s, Eastern Brook Trout and Black Duck Joint Ventures, Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership, Southeast Aquatic Resource Partnership, and many others.
My time as LCC Coordinator will help me convene leaders of such groups with a new and broadened vision to galvanize a core group of conservation partners composed of state and federal agencies and private organizations – a network of networks - working at various scales in the Chesapeake region. The aim will be to support the collaborative establishment of conservation designs fat various scales within the Chesapeake region, using the best available information that is appropriate to use at those scales. Facilitating and informing planning across scales, particularly providing regional and landscape contexts for state and local actions, will involve setting mutual goals and measurable shared objectives for ecosystems and representative species of fish, wildlife, and plants they support. Landscape conservation designs informed by this planning effort will guide our collective conservation actions locally and at larger scales, and connect our work to a broad, watershed-wide, habitat conservation vision, supporting ecosystems and the sustainable fish and wildlife populations they support. The resulting conservation blueprint for the Chesapeake, will allow our many habitat conservation and management partners to strategically align efforts with one another to achieve shared goals for species and habitats within the watershed, beyond the ability of each of our individual organizations to achieve alone. Together we will know where the best habitat is to sustain these species at desired population levels and target conservation investments accordingly.
What are you most excited about/looking forward to in your temporary role as Acting LCC coordinator?
The thing I look forward to the most is getting to know my North Atlantic LCC colleagues better than I already do. While I obviously know the team and most all the Steering Committee members, past interactions have always left me wanting more. I truly love working with the staff and partners of the North Atlantic LCC, so getting to know everyone even better than I may already, and hopefully feeling as though I have supported and helped them all in some meaningful way, is what excites me most.
How will you meet the demands of coordinating two separate entities?
I probably won’t; or at least I won’t sufficiently meet the demands of both. Thankfully, Jennifer Greiner in our Chesapeake Coordination Office is on point to help make sure nothing big falls through the cracks in the case of our Chesapeake partnerships. And executives from Maryland and Virginia's respective wildlife agencies are leading the Chesapeake Bay Program habitat team. Their big shoulders, collectively, will allow me to focus much more of my time on North Atlantic LCC work. Additionally, as we increase emphasis on science delivery to guide conservation decisions and actions by our partners, science delivery to partnerships in the Chesapeake watershed is already viewed as a high priority for NALCC. So to some extent my role as NALCC Coordinator will serve to address Chesapeake coordination needs as well.
What do you do in your spare time when you are not coordinating conservation partnerships?
I enjoy time with my wife, two adult children, and extended family. I hunt, trap, fish, boat, hike, and camp, spending as much time outdoors as I possibly can. I’m a better than average cook. I’m a rabid fan of the Boston Red Sox, the New England Patriots, the Boston Celtics, and all Virginia Cavaliers sports teams.
To learn more about Mike, check out: https://www.fws.gov/landscape-conservation/my-legacy.html (scroll half-way down the page), and: https://usfwsnortheast.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/meat-fisherman-for-conservation/