Steering Committee looks ahead through lens of regional design
More than 30 Steering Committee members, partners, and staff of the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative gathered to discuss progress and next steps for putting conservation on the ground with LCC tools at the fall 2016 meeting in Lakeville, Conn.
Before getting down to business, Steering Committee Vice Chair Ken Elowe of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged a special guest: Former LCC Coordinator Andrew Milliken, who left for a new position in October as a project leader at the Service’s Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Vermont.
“The last six years taking the concept of landscape conservation and making it a reality has been a highlight of my career,” said Milliken, after accepting a plaque from Elowe. “Many of you have been at this table from the beginning, figuring out how we were going to do this in the face of climate change,” he said, pointing out how much the partnership has achieved in a relatively short timespan: More than 250 datasets, assessments, and tools, and the first version of landscape conservation design for the entire region.
“I want to thank you for your patience in things that took longer than expected, your faith when we didn’t know how things would turn out, and your friendship, which has meant so much to me over the years,” said Milliken before offering one last piece of advice. “Keep going!”
Taking his cue, the Steering Committee spent the remainder of the meeting figuring out how to do just that. After a presentation by North Atlantic LCC Science Delivery Coordinator Steve Fuller on the first version of the regional conservation design, known as the Regional Conservation Opportunity Areas Version 1.0, a handful of partners and members started the conversation by giving testimonials about potential applications for the final products.
Patrick Comins from Audubon Connecticut called in to speak to the valuable perspective regional context will offer when screening applications for a wetland mitigation grant program in Connecticut that his organization manages in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Gwen Brewer of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources described how the products are being used to inform the Patuxent Waters Conservation Area landscape conservation design, a collaborative effort with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and other partners in the watershed; and Becky Gwynn from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said the tools would help her state’s Coastal Zone Management Partnership hone in on priority areas for species of greatest conservation need.
With the examples from the testimonials as fodder, the committee broke into sub groups to brainstorm how the regional products could be used to inform priority conservation work within their own organizations, and to discuss where the partnership should focus its collective efforts moving forward.
After the break-out sessions, the sub groups reported back, and LCC staff helped to draw out common threads between the different discussions to create a framework for continuing the conversation on Day 2 of the meeting.
When the group reconvened on the morning of October 25th, they had three overarching questions before them:
Where can the LCC make the greatest conservation impact?
Who are the key players in these arenas, and how can we collaborate with and support them?
How do we connect the dots between all of these efforts build to something bigger?
While there was much discussion about approaches and challenges, the clear next step that emerged was to focus on refining and strengthening science delivery in order to provide meaningful outreach and training to diverse audiences with different needs.
To that end, the LCC identified three big “To do”s for moving science delivery forward:
Take a structured approach to identify science delivery needs of the network, and create a forum to bring these issues back to Steering Committee.
Continue to communicate and work with collaborators to make sure we are serving their needs.
Respond to needs of individual organizations to develop and deliver issue-based training.
At the outset of the meeting, Elowe emphasized that the completion of the regional landscape conservation design had opened a new frontier for the North Atlantic LCC. After a meeting of rich discussion with valuable contributions from all members to inform next steps, the LCC is poised to set out in the right direction.