RCOA team wraps up review process for Version 1.0 of regional conservation design
This summer a team of partners from 13 states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nongovernmental organizations, and universities completed a collaborative two-year effort to develop a conservation design based on the best available science to lay the groundwork for unified conservation actions across the entire Northeast region.
Known as Regional Conservation Opportunity Areas (RCOAs) Version 1.0, the design incorporates habitat needs for 3,000 species of animals and plants, more than one hundred aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem types, and builds upon pioneering work throughout the Northeast conservation community, including the 10-year effort by the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife to combine information from State Wildlife Action Plans and pool resources to better support the region’s imperiled species and their habitats.
After years of hard work, now comes the fun part: Helping partners use the resulting suite of products in complement to their own information to identify the best opportunities to conserve and restore terrestrial, aquatic, and coastal ecosystems, and the host of different species that depend upon them.
Since the official release of Regional Conservation Opportunity Areas (RCOAs) Version 1.0, the North Atlantic LCC staff and partners have focused on giving a wide variety of users access to the products, and empowering them to review, test, and provide critical feedback to refine the entire package for Version 2.0.
Throughout the month of August, North Atlantic LCC staff and partners hosted a series of webinars to introduce technically capable users from state wildlife agencies, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and non-governmental organizations to the first iteration of data and tools, and to provide guidance materials for reviewing them. The webinars have all been archived under News and Info on the Regional Conservation Opportunity Areas Version 1.0 website.
On September 13th, the North Atlantic LCC staff provided a briefing on RCOAs Version 1.0 at the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Diversity Technical Committee meeting in Vergennes, Vermont.
This week, the team held a Review Forum webinar to openly address comments that reviewers have shared, and to discuss next steps for refining the products. The presentation slides feature the comments submitted by reviewers, ranging from questions about the ecological value of specific sites identified as priorities, to requests for more documentation of the methodology used to develop certain products.
In addition to questions, attendees offered examples of how they intend to apply the products. For example, Virginia's Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator Chris Burkett said his colleagues are considering using RCOAs Version 1.0 as part of the methodology for assessing potential land acquisitions.
Leading up to a broader public announcement of this effort, the North Atlantic LCC staff will be working with partners to help them explore applications for the products to address specific needs, including implementing conservation strategies identified by the Chesapeake Bay Program's Habitat Goal Implementation Team.
Going forward, the team plans to engage with even more partners to provide any guidance or training necessary for them start to apply the products as a complement to their own information. If you would like to request training or guidance on RCOA Version 1.0, please contact Science Delivery Coordinator Steve Fuller.