Protecting bird habitat and expanding recreational opportunities

Justin Park
Conservation Lands Coordinator
Ducks Unlimited

Justin used the Blueprint and underlying indicators to support a successful National Coastal Wetlands grant proposal that brought in $1 million to help protect more than 6,300 acres of forested wetlands in NC. The NC Wildlife Resource Commission (NC WRC) was also a key partner on the proposal. Ducks Unlimited especially values the site’s contributions to breeding and stopover habitat for many species of waterfowl and waterbirds, including the internationally declining American Black Duck. The tract is a high priority in the Blueprint and scored highly on many freshwater aquatic and forested wetland indicators. In particular, it is important for imperiled aquatic species and forested wetland birds. This project protects over 16 miles of stream frontage and connects to over 19,000 acres of public conservation land on the North River. By building onto existing state-managed gamelands, this acquisition will expand public access for hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing, and extend connections from the North River estuary to protected areas further inland.

Fulfilling Landscape Conservation Design policy

Andrew Gude
Refuge Manager, Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Andrew used both the South Atlantic and Peninsular Florida Blueprints, as integrated through the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy. This combined Southeast Blueprint helped ensure that the work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in the Big Bend of Florida contributes to a larger, collaboratively developed strategy for the region. In this strategy, working forests and other sustainable nature-based economies play an important role in sustaining swallow-tailed kites, sturgeon, black bears, healthy springs, and the numerous other species and habitats that depend on the region. The U.S. FWS has multiple policies in place to ensure its efforts contribute to a landscape conservation design (LCD). Andrew used the Blueprint to demonstrate that key components of that policy, such as identifying a shared vision to achieve conservation goals, a spatially explicit assessment of desired future conditions, and a coordinated adaptation strategy, had been completed. Applications of this LCD include informing National Wildlife Refuge planning and communicating the importance of the Big Bend for Gulf restoration.

For more information, see the full document: http://www.southatlanticlcc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/BigBendLCD_web.pdf

Coastal wetlands protection

Kyle Briggs
Chief Deputy Director
NC Wildlife Resources Commission

Kyle encouraged NC WRC staff to use the Blueprint and ecosystem indicators to strengthen and inform a National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant application that secured the final $1 million needed to acquire a 3,000-acre parcel of forested wetlands on the Waccamaw River of NC. The proposal was submitted in collaboration with the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust. In addition to enhancing a significant conservation corridor, this project will add 1,009 acres of game lands open to the public for fishing, hunting, hiking and wildlife observation and provide a new canoe/kayak landing for public access to the Waccamaw River Blue Trail. The entire tract is highest priority in Version 2.1 of the South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint. It supports habitat for priority amphibians and reptiles, the federally threatened Waccamaw silverside fish and wood stork, and other at-risk aquatic and terrestrial species. By protecting more than 7 miles of riverfront habitat and riparian buffers, this project preserves ecological integrity, improves connectivity, and supports water quality by complementing other ongoing conservation efforts in the Waccamaw River watershed.

Public lands planning

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Peggy Jo Nadler
Realty Specialist
U.S. Forest Service

Peggy used Blueprint 2.1 to inform the Land Ownership Adjustment Strategy (LOAS) for Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests, a partner-driven plan identifying restoration and protection opportunities. She also referenced the Blueprint in a Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) proposal to acquire more than 3,500 acres of highest and high priority Blueprint areas, which would expand the U.S. Forest Service’s conservation legacy in South Carolina and begin implementation of the LOAS. Her LWCF application successfully brought in $1.6 million for land acquisition!

Enhancing threatened species habitat and monitoring

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Terry Peacock
Refuge Manager, St. Marks and St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuges
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Terry referenced the Conservation Blueprint and South Atlantic ecosystem indicators in a successful Cooperative Recovery Initiative grant proposal to conserve threatened frosted flatwoods salamander populations on St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. The funding will support prescribed burning, salamander surveys, feral hog control, and water quality monitoring. The decline of the salamander is a local symptom of the broader decline in longleaf pine communities across the Southeast. The area around St. Marks is a high priority in the Blueprint and scores highly in the South Atlantic pine and prairie amphibians indicator.

Conserving private lands near military bases

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Michelle Lovejoy
Executive Director
NC Foundation for Soil & Water Conservation

Working with a coalition of state, nonprofit, and military partners, Michelle referenced the Blueprint and ecosystem indicators in a successful Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) proposal through the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The $7.5 million in funding will support voluntary conservation, restoration, and sustainable management projects on private lands near military bases across Georgia, North Carolina, and Mississippi. The projects are designed to benefit at-risk species, military readiness, and local economies at sites within “Sentinel Landscapes” where Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, and Department of Interior priorities overlap. Conservation measures include protecting working forestlands from conversion to non-forest uses, prescribed burning, and conservation easements focused primarily on longleaf pine and associated species like the pine snake, gopher tortoise, and red-cockaded woodpecker. The aquatic and terrestrial indicators underlying the Blueprint will model the resulting benefits to ecosystem health.

Assessing habitat ahead of major disasters

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Keith Walls
GIS Analyst/Environmental Scientist
Dial Cordy and Associates, Inc.

Drawing on lessons learned in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) recognized the need to identify conservation priorities before the next disaster strikes. To inform future project funding, NFWF sponsored a rapid assessment of fish and wildlife habitat across the broader South Atlantic region and locally within the Cape Fear River watershed, based only on existing data. The South Atlantic LCC helped connect Keith with a coalition of partners who collaborated on a successful proposal, including the Cape Fear River Partnership, NatureServe, and the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program. The assessment anchored the Cape Fear River watershed prioritization around Natural Heritage data, and anchored the broader South Atlantic prioritization around Conservation Blueprint 2.0 and the Florida Critical Lands and Waters Identification Project (CLIP). Efforts to integrate spatial priorities across the boundaries of neighboring LCCs through the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS) laid the groundwork for quickly combining Blueprint 2.0 with Florida CLIP.

Longleaf pine management

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Vince Carver
Deputy Regional Fire Management Chief
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Working with colleagues and collaborators, Vince submitted a proposal for Department of Interior Wildland Fire Resilient Landscapes funding in the South Atlantic LCC geography. The Blueprint, ecosystem indicators, and strong partner relationships helped demonstrate the project’s importance and secure almost $3 million over 3 years. The funds have supported prescribed burning in priority longleaf pine focus areas, benefiting rare species like the red-cockaded woodpecker.

Supporting private industry

John Smith
Man of Mystery
Company X

The Blueprint was used by private industry in a confidential analysis to help identify areas important for conservation. We wish you could tell you more, but we’re sworn to secrecy!

Coastal wetlands protection

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Eamonn Leonard
Nongame Natural Resources Biologist
Georgia Department of Natural Resources

In 2016, Eamonn used Blueprint 2.0 to support two successful coastal wetlands grant proposals. One protected the Altamaha Connector, one of the gaps remaining in the conservation of the lower Altamaha River in the Georgia Coastal Plain. The parcel is a climate-resilient biodiversity hotspot likely to continue supporting biodiversity into the future. Another proposal to protect part of the Musgrove Plantation on St. Simons Island also cited priority in Blueprint 2.0. In total, the $2 million awarded will help protect over 1,500 acres of habitat important for estuarine-dependent fish and imperiled plant and animal species.

National Wildlife Refuge planning

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Pam Wingrove
Natural Resources Planner
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Pam is using the Conservation Blueprint to inform land protection planning for National Wildlife Refuges on the Albermarle-Pamlico Peninsula of North Carolina, including Pocosin Lakes and Roanoke River. The Blueprint helps her demonstrate the importance of areas to include within the new Refuge acquisition boundaries and provide landscape context for the planning efforts. She has also used the Blueprint to show national funding sources like the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses a regional lens to inform its Refuge planning.

Riparian forest and coastal wetlands protection

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Anna Smith
State Wildlife Grants Coordinator
SC Department of Natural Resources

Anna referenced Blueprint 2.0 in a Forest Legacy grant proposal that secured over $1 million to fund the protection of almost 1,000 acres of forest alongside the Savannah River, with high-quality pine and forested wetland habitat ideally positioned to connect to a nearby Wildlife Management Area and Sumter National Forest. She also referred to Blueprint 2.0 in a successful National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program proposal for $1 million to protect 400 acres on South Fenwick Island off the South Carolina coast. The project area is part of the ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve and is highest priority in Blueprint 2.0 due to the integrity of its maritime forest and estuaries.

Climate-smart wildlife management

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Beth Stys
Research Administrator
FL Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission

Beth used the Blueprint in a State Wildlife Grant application to successfully obtain about $100,000 in funding for climate adaptation for wildlife and habitat management in the highest-priority Big Bend region of Florida. This project will coordinate implementation of climate adaptation strategies with state Wildlife Management Areas, a local National Wildlife Refuge, and Peninsular Florida LCC.

Fish passage barrier removal

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Mark Cantrell
Fish & Wildlife Biologist
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Mark typically focuses his fish passage and hydrologic barrier removal efforts in pristine watersheds. But, the convergence of three different landscape-scale plans—the Conservation Blueprint, a U.S. FWS Fisheries strategic watershed plan, and an American Rivers dam removal prioritization tool—recently steered him to less pristine Piedmont basins like parts of the Cape Fear and Yadkin-Pee Dee, where restoration opportunities abound for migratory fishes.

Ecosystem-based fishery management

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Roger Pugliese
Senior Fishery Biologist
South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

Roger plans to integrate the Conservation Blueprint with the SAFMC’s Fishery Ecosystem Plan revision. Ensuring compatibility between the Blueprint and the Plan will better link habitats, species outcomes, and fishery regulations, enabling the Council to more effectively implement ecosystem-based management. As progress toward this goal, the Council has adopted an official policy of proactively working with the South Atlantic LCC and Southeast Climate Science Center to adapt to climate change.

Wetlands protection

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Maria Whitehead
Winyah Bay and Pee Dee River Basin Director
The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy and many partners are engaged in land protection and acquisition efforts. Maria used the Blueprint in a successful North American Wetlands Conservation Act program grant application for the Santee Delta and Winyah Bay regions to describe how proposed projects fit into larger conservation initiatives, how they will be impacted by climate change, and whether they support priority habitats and species. The Blueprint provides an objective tool for assessing the merits of candidate projects through a regional lens. The proposal brought in $1 million to fund on-the-ground conservation actions!

National Forest planning

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Mary Morrison
Forest Planner
U.S. Forest Service

Mary has already used the Conservation Blueprint to inform the revision of the Francis Marion National Forest Plan. At public meetings, the Blueprint provides context to demonstrate to stakeholders the forest’s significance in the larger landscape. The Blueprint helps her determine the impact on the Francis Marion of future threats like climate change and urbanization.

What conservation efforts are you involved in?

This could be you! Have you used the Blueprint, or do you want staff support? Contact Blueprint User Support at 919-707-0252 or southatlanticlcc@gmail.com.