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Partners launch ‘Nature’s Network’ to guide conservation from Maine to Virginia

The North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) brought together partners from 13 states to develop a regional conservation design that can help communities work with nature to sustain wildlife and people throughout the Northeast.

The North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), including members from 13 states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nongovernmental organizations, United South and Eastern Tribes, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, and universities, has launched a science-based “road map” to help inform decisions and actions for conserving lands and waters throughout the Northeast.

Nature’s Network is a collaborative effort responding to a critical need identified by Northeast states for seamless, regional information to support conservation of priority species. Incorporating information on thousands of at-risk species, iconic game species, rare habitats, vital river systems, and more, Nature’s Network offers scientific consensus on some of the highest conservation priorities in the region and creates new opportunities for partners to work together.

“Nature’s Network represents a shared vision for sustaining fish, wildlife and natural resources in the Northeast,” said Ken Elowe, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Assistant Regional Director for Science Applications. “It is another valuable resource for helping communities make more informed decisions that sustain wildlife and contribute to a host of benefits for people -- including clean air and water, food production, recreational opportunities and robust ecotourism economies.”

More than a map, Nature’s Network offers a suite of decision-support tools based on innovative modeling approaches developed by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Used together, or individually, these products offer voluntary guidance to:

Conserve the irreplaceable – The best place to start strategic conservation is to identify a network of connected, intact, and resilient areas encompassing various types of lands and waters representing important habitats for key species. These are priority places for future sustainable human and natural communities in the Northeast.

Make better decisions for the future  – Guidance that reflects projections about how land use and environmental changes will affect natural resources over time can help us safeguard today’s investments in conservation for future generations.

Maximize limited resources – Conservation agencies and organizations have limited time and money to invest in protecting the natural resources that wildlife and people depend upon. Guidance grounded in science and supported through regional collaboration allows more efficient use of limited resources in the face of complex environmental threats.  

Support local priorities with regional perspective – Seeing how local conservation efforts fit into the bigger regional picture can help connect local, state and regional priorities. By zooming out, practitioners working at any scale can discover new opportunities that warrant a closer look.

Find opportunities to work together – Sustaining fish, wildlife, and natural resources in the face of increasing threats is beyond the scope of any single agency. With the benefit of consistent regional information, partners can look across state borders for opportunities to work together towards shared conservation goals at scales that matter for wildlife and people.

Nature’s Network complements other sources of information about important habitats and natural resources by providing  a “big-picture” regional context for local conservation plans and actions. Practitioners working at any scale can use the data and tools for a range of applications -- from identifying priority cold-waters habitat for in-stream restoration to benefit Eastern brook trout, to developing educational materials that empower private landowners to make informed decisions about managing their land.

“We have never had access to resources that reflect this level of analysis, modeling, and discussion among partners across an entire landscape,” said Dan Murphy, Chief of the Division of Habitat Conservation for the Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office.  “This will help us prioritize and target on-the-ground conservation protecting and restoring the most important habitats throughout our area.”

Chris Burkett, Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said land-use decisions in Virginia and throughout the Northeast often occur at the local level. He said Nature’s Network can support actions at any scale by showing the significance of sites in regional context.

Nature’s Network will enhance the information we can share with folks working at the local level, and show them how their area links to other parts of the state, and region,” Burkett said, adding, “That regional perspective opens new doors for collaboration to benefit both wildlife and people.”

Nature’s Network is supported by the North Atlantic LCC, a forum of state, federal and nongovernmental agencies and organizations dedicated to providing collaborative approaches to the conservation of fish, wildlife, and important natural resources across the northeast region from Virginia to Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.

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