Rua and I attended a great meeting on Tuesday with staff from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VA DGIF) and the two other LCCs in Virginia: the Appalachian and North Atlantic. The event was organized by Cale Godfrey, the VA DGIF Steering Committee rep to the South Atlantic LCC, as well as his colleagues Becky Gwynn (VA DGIF rep to the North Atlantic) and David Whitehurst (Chair of the Appalachian LCC Steering Committee). Elsa Haubold, the LCC Network Coordinator, and Laura MacLean, the new communications manager for the LCC Network, participated as well. The meeting truly illustrated the idea of “collaborative conservation,” a key component of the LCC Network Strategic Plan. It’s the first time outside of Alaska that staff from multiple LCCs overlapping the same state have met simultaneously with a state agency to solicit feedback and share updates on their cooperatives’ various products and tools.
Staff from each LCC reported on progress toward creating a landscape design for its region—like equivalents to the Blueprint that prioritize conservation opportunities. Though the methods differ between the Appalachian, North Atlantic, and South Atlantic, all the spatial plans have common elements—shared ecosystem types, habitat suitability for focal species, climate resilience, and ecological integrity. Integrating those different plans will definitely pose a challenge, and the result won’t be perfect at first, but it’s already coming together. That’s just one of the goals of the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS)—to knit the spatial plans of all Southeastern LCCs into a cohesive whole.
Here are some examples of what the South Atlantic’s neighbors are up to:
The North Atlantic LCC:
- Piloting a landscape conservation design in the Connecticut River watershed
- Mapping Regional “Conservation Opportunity Areas” to identify the best opportunities for conserving priority species and habitats
- Developing tools to assist managers in protecting and restoring streams for brook trout and other aquatic resources in the face of threats such as climate change and development
The Appalachian LCC:
- Designing and implementing a plan for landscape conservation in the Tennessee River Basin
- Developing a regional conservation plan for the Appalachian LCC geography using a spatial prioritization framework
- Creating an energy forecast tool for the Appalachian geography projecting wind, shale gas, and coal development areas and potential overlap with key habitats and ecological services
We also heard from VA DGIF staff about their concerns, like data management; invasive species, pests, and pathogens; clearing barriers to restoration; and common research needs. It was just the beginning of what will hopefully be an ongoing conversation and more open lines of communication between VA DGIF staff, their Steering Committee reps, and the three Virginia LCCs. Perhaps Virginia will inspire other states and kick off a trend following this model!