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Update on the Connecticut River Watershed Pilot: Landscape Conservation Design in Action

The North Atlantic LCC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working with a group of partners to develop a landscape conservation design for the Connecticut River Watershed.

For the past four months, a group of partners dedicated to conserving fish, wildlife, and natural resources has been meeting to develop a Landscape Conservation Design for the 7.2 million acre Connecticut River Watershed. Encompassing the largest river system of New England, the watershed boasts a diversity of habitats stretching from coastal saltmarshes in Connecticut to alpine tundra in New Hampshire. It is also home to more than two million people living in four states. The partners are combining their intimate knowledge of the resource values of the region with the science-based analyses and tools developed with the support of the North Atlantic LCC and other organizations to develop collective priorities for conservation action. The “core team” of partners who have joined the effort include the four state fish and wildlife agencies of the watershed; nongovernmental organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, the Connecticut  River Watershed Council, and Audubon Connecticut; and federal agencies including USGS and U.S. EPA. The North Atlantic LCC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are facilitating the pilot. 

Since February, the partners have drafted goals and objectives for the conservation design and begun the process for identifying the amount and location of habitat, and priority conservation actions, needed to achieve the objectives. They have worked with principal investigators from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Geological Survey to learn about data, models and tools that are available to develop the design.  These tools include ecological integrity and resiliency, fish and wildlife species habitat capability and assessments of landscape change from climate change and land use change.  The integration of these tools allows for a multiple-scale approach to assessing priorities for multiple species and ecosystems in the face of change.   

The pilot is a learning process and partners have deliberated on a number of challenging questions that have arisen in the process: How should the needs of rare and more common species be balanced? How should objectives be set and measured for migratory birds that spend only a portion of their life cycle within the watershed? How should the needs of anadromous fish be incorporated into the conservation design? How should information about the vulnerability and resilience of fish and wildlife species to climate change be addressed? Although participants have not yet resolved all of these difficult questions, they have enthusiastically contributed to the discussion and generously shared their collective knowledge.

For more information about the pilot, including presentations, discussion notes, handouts, and decisions made to date, please visit the Connecticut River Watershed Pilot webpage.


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