My grandmother, who had a way with words, once told me, “I love best the places where man has not meddled”. She really did not like it when people meddled.  She also told me that “city children knew nothing, absolutely nothing, about anything”.  By “city children” she meant me and the comment was inspired as she observed me failing to watch where I was going as I stepped on a mound of fire ants. 

As I think back on my grandmother’s words, I find I both agree and disagree with her.  While there are many wonderful and beautiful places in the southeast, I cannot think of any devoid of some sort of anthropogenic influence.  In fact I, who live in a house, drive a car on paved roads, and occasionally wander through the woods, am a part of this influence. But I understand her sentiment. The places where we experience the world without buildings and roads, where crowds of people are replaced with crowds of animals, where we are not afraid to drink and swim in the water are valuable to us, sometimes in ways hard to describe.  How can we merge our “meddling” into a landscape that also supports sustainable natural and cultural resources? I also find myself agreeing with my grandmother’s commentary that my exposure to the natural world as a child was limited to opportunistic experiences.  Her lessons (which included you’re a fool to fear a black snake, wisteria vines are tacky, and watch where you’re going!) still resonate with me. But if not for her and my own parents’ values, what would have instilled an interest and appreciation of the natural world within me?

I believe these questions present us with interesting and exciting challenges.  How can we find ways to reconcile the way we live in the world while accounting for our values and need for high integrity, healthy, intact, functional, and resilient natural landscapes (depending on how you define integrity, health, intactness, function, resiliency, and natural landscape of course!) and the plant and animal populations that depend on them? How can we improve collaboration within the conservation community and communication with the wider public? How can we implement strategic conservation actions to their fullest potential and measure the impact in ways that tell us if we are reaching our goals? These are the questions that interest me and where I hope to be of service to the South Atlantic LCC.

My current work with the South Atlantic LCC focuses on helping refine and strengthen the Conservation Blueprint and Planning Atlas. This includes conducting interviews with the target audience (you!) to determine how the content and presentation of these tools can be improved. Over the next few months I will be working to incorporate feedback, which means the Blueprint and the Planning Atlas will change to best reflect user needs.  To me, the Conservation Blueprint and Planning Atlas provides a way to collectively map the lands and waters the conservation community values most and to change “meddling” into strategic actions that support the South Atlantic LCC’s vision of a sustainable landscape.

If you have any ideas or thoughts as to how to improve the Conservation Blueprint or Planning Atlas, please contact me.