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SWAP coordinators share updates from plans and ideas for collaborating

During a three-day meeting in Amherst, Mass., State Wildlife Action Plan coordinators from 12 states looked for new opportunities to work together with plans better designed to foster regional collaboration.

There may be a lot of variation throughout the Northeast states in latitude, terrain, and clam chowder preference, but it turns out they have a lot of common ground when it comes to wildlife. After a multi-year process to update comprehensive plans for advancing conservation for at-risk species in individual states, Wildlife Action Plan coordinators from across the Northeast region convened in Amherst, Mass., to look for opportunities to collaborate on priorities that cross state lines. 

"Now that we are at the point of completion with our updates, it is so valuable to hear each others' first-hand experiences with implementation and communication," said Gwen Brewer, the State Wildlife Action Plan coordinator for Maryland. "Plus it has allowed us to have all kinds of discussions about what is most important to accomplish regionally through this partnership."

The North Atlantic LCC has played a key supporting role in that regard by coordinating a team of partners from 13 states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nongovernmental organizations, and universities for the Regional Conservation Opportunity Areas (RCOAs) project -- an effort to develop a landscape conservation design that lays the groundwork for unified action across the entire region by incorporating habitat needs for more than 3,000 species of animals and plants, including those identified as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in updated Wildlife Action Plans.

“We’ve been working for 18 months to identify where to put resources on the ground to do the most good, and to make the best use of our money,” said Chris Burkett, State Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator for Virginia, and a member of the RCOA project team. As such, the products from the RCOA effort provide regional perspective that can be used in complement to information in SWAPs to find places where partners can act on shared priorities, and provided a backdrop to discussions during the recent meeting.

"The coordinators have been talking, planning, and figuring out how to achieve more meaningful conservation in the region," said Colleen Sculley, Chief of the Division of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration for the Northeast Region of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, which coordinated the meeting and a special presentation at the Regional Office for Service staff to learn about the new plans. 

Read more about the effort to find common ground for at-risk species across the Northeast in a new story on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Conserving the Nature of the Northeast blog: Something for everyone in State Wildlife Action Plans

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