I wish to express many thanks to the South Atlantic LCC Steering Committee members and the LCC staff for the excellent discussions, presentations and BIG THINKING at last week’s Steering Committee meeting in Glen Allen, Virginia from June 2-4.

Together, I thought the Steering Committee hit on a number of important topics that will help guide and direct the South Atlantic LCC in the coming year. It was neat to observe the clear and definite signals that the LCC would be embarking on a new, exciting course of action with regard to the Blueprint–from the planning phase to implementing phase.

As the Acting Coordinator for the South Atlantic LCC, this was my first (and, alas, my only) Steering Committee meeting. I think I was able to fill a dual role of “outside observer” and “resident sponge.” I really enjoyed meeting the members of the committee and I appreciated all the thoughts and ideas that were generated–all in the spirit of improving the South Atlantic LCC in the coming years.

Some quick takes on some of the developments at this year’s Steering Committee meeting:

  • The Steering Committee welcomed two new representatives. We all enjoyed meeting Robert Abernathy from the Longleaf Alliance, whose mission is to provide a sustainable future for the longleaf pine ecosystem through partnerships, landowner assistance and science-based education and outreach.
  • We also welcomed Ben Wigley from the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement. Ben was not able to be at the meeting, but we all gave him a hearty South Atlantic welcome anyway. Ben represents a non-profit research institute that focuses on environmental and sustainability topics relevant to forest management and the manufacture of forest products.
  • RickStudenmundCrownWe bade a hearty South Atlantic farewell to our friend Rick Studenmund, a Steering Committee member from The Nature Conservancy.  Rick was given the “royal treatment” as we wished him well before he sets sails on his next adventure–a well-deserved retirement!
  • A hat tip to Cale Godfrey of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for playing host to last week’s gathering. Cale did a magnificent job making sure everyone got squared away and felt at home. He was also the mastermind behind a wonderful field trip to a freshwater mussel propagation lab at Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery, which was followed later that evening by a nice cookout. (In case you are wondering, no, Virginia mussels were not on the menu!)
  • We hope to announce the job vacancy for the South Atlantic LCC Coordinator position before the end of the month, so look for this announcement on USA Jobs.

 

One big headline coming out of this meeting was the unanimous approval of Blueprint 2.0, and the collective understanding that, over the next 12 months, more time and effort will be spent on (1) promoting the Blueprint; (2) improving the science supporting the Blueprint; and, (3) using the Blueprint to facilitate specific conservation actions.

Each of these themes will be a focus of your cooperative in the next year, and in many ways, they will be tied together–if you do one, you will do the other. This should also help us get to our goal as an LCC community of having the Blueprint serve as the gold standard to inform conservation plans and actions throughout the South Atlantic geography.

Another big headline from the meeting was that each of the Steering Committee members agreed to champion the Blueprint within and beyond their on respective organizations. There was great discussion on this point – specifically, around not only what the LCC staff can do to promote the Blueprint, but what the steering committee can do to promote the Blueprint.

During one exercise, a facilitator asked Steering Committee members to think about how will we know if the LCC is reaching its goals for the Blueprint 2-3 years from now. The key indicator of success that rose to the top after a brainstorm session was this: that every partner organization has used the Blueprint, and has provided both a case history and feedback on improving it. 

Staff and committee members agreed to spend some time developing a strategic approach to promoting and implementing the Blueprint in the coming weeks and months. Which reminds me…in all of this talk about the Blueprint, I would be remiss not to thank the South Atlantic LCC staff on this point specifically: while I haven’t been here long enough to fully appreciate all the dynamics that went into developing the Blueprint, I do know it was a huge undertaking by the LCC staff, and that they worked long hours, and through a lot adversity, to produce this tool.

I want to thank you–the broader South Atlantic LCC community–as well. You helped to shape and refine the Blueprint and your contributions have allowed us to get to where we are to today. So a big THANK YOU to you all. You provided timely comments and feedback, offered your generous time and support, attended workshops, and served on indicator teams and other work groups.

By all accounts, the Blueprint is shaping up to be an amazingly useful, dynamic and exciting tool that will help inform and advance conservation science and conservation actions well into the future.