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Partnerships of scale: Symposium highlights need for collaboration in landscape conservation

Regional, national, and international thought leaders and practitioners discussed "scaling up in conservation" in concept, and in practice, during a day-long symposium, in which Steering Committee member Amanda Babson shared how the North Atlantic LCC supports collaborative conservation.
Partnerships of scale: Symposium highlights need for collaboration in landscape conservation

Amanda Babson sat on a panel as a representative of the North Atlantic LCC at a symposium on scaling up in conservation.

More than just zooming out, seeing the big picture in conservation requires reaching out. That was the takeaway message from “Scaling Up: New Strategies in Landscape Conservation”, a symposium held at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., on October 7th, sponsored in part by the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative.

“Scale is not just a geographic concept,” explained keynote speaker Lynn Scarlett, Global Managing Director for Public Policy at The Nature Conservancy, and former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. “It is a concept of engagement.”

Throughout her opening remarks, Scarlett made the case for scaling up as the “must do” of 20th-century conservation, but cautioned that large-scale conservation efforts will not succeed without a strong collaborative foundation. To that end, she identified three key pillars to build upon: Generating and using all relevant knowledges, including cultural, biological, and political; Applying planning and policy tools to motivate action; and facilitating coordination to sustain action.  

But at a symposium designed to reaffirm the value of partnership in conservation at the local, state, regional, and international scale, there were many examples of successful collaboration in action. Among them, the North Atlantic LCC-supported North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative (NAACC), featured in a presentation by Steering Committee member Amanda Babson of the National Park Service.

During the “Snapshots!” session, Babson described how the North Atlantic LCC supports big-picture conservation through projects like the NAACC, which piloted aquatic connectivity tools and protocols in Massachusetts and then scaled them up to the entire Northeast region.  

As both a network of partners and a source of shared resources, the NAACC offers a collaborative framework for taking on the critical task of assessing and upgrading the hundreds of thousands of outdated road-stream crossings across the region that represent barriers to wildlife movement and pose flooding risks to communities. The partnership provides online and field-based trainings for conducting assessments, tools for prioritizing upgrades based on ecological benefits, and a database of road-stream crossings encompassing the 13 Northeast states.

It’s already making a difference on the ground in places like the Taunton River Watershed, where partners in the Resilient Taunton Watershed Network used resources from the NAACC to develop a report that identifies priority road-stream crossings based on the potential ecological benefits associated with upgrades, repairs, and replacements.

Slated for release this October, the report is specifically designed to help municipal officials direct limited resources toward projects that will offer multiple benefits: reducing flooding risks, and increasing connectivity for wildlife.

The symposium showcased a diversity of efforts that embody the concept of scaling up, such as the Penobscot River Restoration Project, the Greater Worcester Land Trust Urban Greenways program, the Dotty Brown Art & Nature Center at the Peabody Essex Museum, and Regional Conservation Partnerships, which the North Atlantic LCC has supported through science delivery grants.

One of the most insightful sessions was a concluding roundtable with three speakers who discussed the creation and implementation of strategic partnerships for landscape-scale conservation. All three speakers offered examples of successful partnerships they had been a part of, as well as failed ones, sharing lessons learned from both the ups and downs.

Incompatible personalities, differing expectations, or conflicting schedules -- all partnerships face challenges. But when the stars align in what Scarlett described as a “constellation of collaborators”, the results can be luminous. 


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