SouthQuaySandhillsAt times it’s difficult to work in the conservation field and not feel jaded. There is always so much to do and it’s hard to measure our progress towards the end goal. When will we arrive at that future point we describe as sustainable, viable, and complete? Time is limited, decisions must be made with imperfect information, and often, resources are lacking. However, in my role with our South Atlantic LCC, I often see a much different side to conservation. I spend a lot of time working with people who make conservation actions happen. I get to learn about the unique and special places that characterize our part of the world and hear why those places are important through the lens of the people who work to keep them unique and special. As I work with Blueprint users, I try to keep in mind that there is a difference between data and information. Blueprint 2.0 and the indicators are data. My interests lie in helping people use that data as information to help inform and support conservation actions.

A few weeks ago, I attended the South Quay Sandhills Natural Area Preserve Longleaf Pine Restoration Project partners’ meeting in Virginia–an excellent meeting for many reasons. The involved stakeholders and partners are successfully working together to restore a longleaf pine ecosystem on a Natural Heritage Preserve, and Rebecca Wilson gave a superb presentation outlining their progress conducting prescribed burns, collecting longleaf pine seeds, and planting. And if there is one thing I enjoy after a barbeque lunch, it’s listening to someone from the Virginia Natural Heritage Program talk about recording some rare flora he spotted in the middle of a prescribed burn. That’s passion.

Yet the South Quay Natural Area Preserve is not recognized as a priority in Blueprint 2.0. So the question becomes: how is the data provided by the South Atlantic LCC relevant to the efforts at South Quay? One answer is that the work conducted at South Quay contributes to the ecosystem indicators. Conducting prescribed burns and planting longleaf pine forest habitat directly supports our two pine and prairie ecosystem indicators (regularly burned habitat and the pine bird index). Working to improve the status of these indicators does support the Blueprint. Since the Blueprint is a dynamic, living plan, future versions should reflect the impacts of conservation actions happening now.

Another answer is that the Blueprint is not perfect. It is very possible the South Quay Preserve is an area that should be captured within at least the top 50% of Blueprint 2.0 priority and yet is not. Attending the South Quay partners’ meeting allows me the opportunity to talk with our cooperative members knowledgeable about this area to see if our indicators are indicating and if our spatial models are valid. If they are not, then I can work with the rest of our cooperative staff and members of indicator revision teams to improve the underlying data to provide better information.

Your cooperative hopes to continue to hear from our community about how the Blueprint, indicators, and our interpretation of this data can be improved. Based on the feedback we received from of the partners at South Quay, we are reviewing and checking some of our data within the pine and prairie ecosystem to make sure we are accurately capturing important places in Virginia. Also, read Amy Keister’s blog about protected area datasets and learn about how your GIS Coordinator is working to help make sure our important protected places are recognized.