The last two 2017 Blueprint workshops wrapped up last month in South Carolina. Now, the numbers are in! 142 people from 62 different organizations attended this year’s workshops. Huge thanks to everyone who came to share their time and expertise! This brings the total number of people actively involved in the development of the Blueprint to more than 500 people from over 150 organizations! We’re also so grateful to all the partners who donated meeting space and sponsored coffee and snacks: the NC Botanical Garden, VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, FL Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and FL Sheriff’s Association, GA Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Longleaf Alliance, and Group Solutions.
At each workshop, we spent the morning looking at maps of Draft Blueprint 2.2, getting spatial feedback on where priorities should be lower or higher. Amy Keister, your GIS Coordinator, digitized all that input to provide a record for testing and validating future iterations of the Blueprint. Your staff are already working on some improvements to Draft Blueprint 2.2 based on major themes that emerged from the workshops, with the final release of Blueprint 2.2 expected this fall:
- Making it easier to discover why each area of the Blueprint is prioritized, based on the indicators
- Improving the approach for calculating patch size and accounting for historic ecosystem loss
- Categorizing the corridors based on their function in the Blueprint
In the afternoon, we focused on refining an implementation strategy for the Blueprint in each subregion within the South Atlantic geography. Your cooperative’s annual workplan functions as a high-level implementation strategy for the Blueprint. It focuses on three major categories:
- Improving the Blueprint – strengthening the underlying science and the interfaces to make the Blueprint a more useful tool
- Supporting Blueprint uses – using the Blueprint to facilitate and prioritize specific conservation action
- Promoting the Blueprint – spreading awareness and building knowledge of the Blueprint and how to use it
At the workshops, we took that implementation strategy to the next level by identifying specific improvements, uses, and promotional opportunities within each subregion of the South Atlantic. The goal is for the Blueprint to measurably improve the condition of the ecosystems in the cooperative geography. Your staff will combine all that input with other conservation plans like State Wildlife Action Plans and release a more detailed Blueprint 2.2 implementation strategy for review later this year.
One particular topic of discussion during the “improve the Blueprint” section was the Blueprint revision cycle. So far, your cooperative has stuck to an annual revision cycle, updating the indicators and releasing a better Blueprint every year. Now that we’re on our third data-driven Blueprint, are those small, frequent revisions still the right fit? Or should we adopt a schedule of larger, less frequent revisions? After weighing the tradeoffs, all the workshop participants voted, and the results essentially came out to be a tie! Fortunately, I think all the great discussion helped everyone develop a more nuanced understanding of the pros and cons of each approach.
For the last voting exercise, workshop attendees weighed in on how your cooperative should allocate its capacity in the coming year between the three major categories of the workplan. The Steering Committee usually provides guidance on this, but this year, we extended the question to the broader community as well. How much time and effort should be dedicated to improving the Blueprint, supporting Blueprint uses, and promoting the Blueprint? The results ended up being very close again, with promote edging slightly ahead.
Now that we’re back in the office after so much time on the road, your staff are turning all this amazing input into a better Blueprint and a more refined implementation strategy. Our objective, as always, is “moving the needle” for conservation and making a bigger positive impact on the natural and cultural resources of the South Atlantic! If you have questions about the 2017 workshop series, please get in touch! You can reach me at email@example.com.