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Sizing up conservation planning

Through an integrated program of information management, science delivery, and collaborative design, the North Atlantic LCC is supporting conservation actions at multiple scales across the region.

During the last four years, the North Atlantic LCC has worked with partners and partnerships in the Northeast Region to identify science needs, and develop information and tools in various formats and scales to address them. The wealth of conservation science information that is now available creates unprecedented opportunity for collaborative conservation planning. Yet the breadth and complexity of the information, and the demands of supporting a variety of ongoing planning efforts throughout the region, also presents a challenge. As the Science Coordinator and the Science Delivery Coordinator for the North Atlantic LCC, we feel fortunate to have a role in addressing this challenge through the collaborative development, design and delivery of conservation science.

The LCC is focusing its resources on managing information and facilitating conservation design at larger scales (regional, sub-regional, and landscape) while developing and supporting a partner network to deliver and apply information and tools at more local scales.

Here are some key components:

  • Information management through the North Atlantic LCC Conservation Planning Atlas and LCC websites, providing regionally consistent information and simple tools that are easy for partners and partnerships to access and apply, from regional down to local scales. The Conservation Planning Atlas site includes simple visualization and weighting tools as well as galleries and work spaces for partners working at the regional, sub-regional and landscape scales.
  • A science delivery program and network that builds on existing partner networks, reaches multiple scales, and demonstrates the application of available science and tools for a range of conservation decisions and scales.
  • Collaborative conservation designs at regional, sub-regional and landscape scales to support planning at those scales, and offer guidance for future efforts. 

The LCC staff is collaborating with state fish and wildlife agencies to support the development of regional Conservation Opportunity Areas (COAs) for State Wildlife Action Plans that inform the identification of state-level COAs, with potential to become part of a national network of ecologically connected areas. The lessons learned from this process will be applied to future regional conservation designs targeted to broader audiences.

Initial landscape-scale conservation designs are in progress in the Connecticut River watershed, where an active partnership is already in place. Facilitated by the LCC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this pilot effort provides an opportunity for a broad range of partners to learn about the process and products involved in landscape scale conservation, and apply a systematic approach linking landscape change, ecosystem assessments, species goals, and decision support through conservation design.

Emerging conservation design efforts in watersheds and landscapes across the region, such as the Susquehanna River, Chesapeake Bay or Gulf of Maine, will be able to learn from the Connecticut River pilot, drawing from the same sets of tools and data so the results will be comparable between landscapes. It's been exciting to bring partners together to discuss our shared conservation priorities and to use our tools to translate those priorities into a concrete plan for action.

Moving forward, the LCC will energetically promote learning and information sharing related to these processes and products for the benefit of other partnerships charged with prioritizing investments as part of conservation efforts. Using the best available science to make decisions means that staff, contractors and partners work through complexities together. Everyone at the table has the opportunity to provide input, ask questions, and become comfortable with the results. Our true measure of success, of course, will be habitats and natural areas that are able to support thriving populations of fish, wildlife and plants, preserve valued cultural resources, and sustain these shared benefits for generations to come.

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