I’m so pleased to unveil a new resource to help you use the Blueprint—an online user guide! We made one for the South Atlantic Blueprint, to support grants and inform decisions in the South Atlantic geography. We also made a separate one for the Southeast Blueprint, for Blueprint uses that extend beyond the South Atlantic into the broader Southeast region. This post will focus on the South Atlantic guide, but the two documents are very similar. If you want to learn more about the Southeast guide, check out this blog post on the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy website.

We’ve been talking about the concept of a user guide for over six months now. I shared sneak peaks of some of the included Blueprint use cases in a couple of blogs, like this one, and this one, and on Third Thursday Web Forums, like this one, and this one. Actually, looking back at the date on that first blog, I almost can’t believe it took so long to put this first version together! We’ve just been super busy supporting Blueprint users, which is a great problem to have. And since the purpose of the user guide is to share what we’ve learned from the process of helping people use the Blueprint, the more we’ve learned, the more we’ve expanded our vision for the document. We wanted to use real examples to showcase the types of wording, maps, and approaches that helped Blueprint users over the years.

So who is this user guide for?

It’s for anyone who wants more detailed instructions on how to use the Blueprint on their own. As always, staff are still here to support you if you want help. But some folks prefer to work independently. If that sounds like you, this guide is intended to help you analyze and interpret the Blueprint, particularly if you need to demonstrate the conservation value of a parcel when writing a grant proposal. That’s one of the most common and straightforward Blueprint uses, so we dedicated an entire section to that topic. As user support staff, we generally follow a consistent template for parcel analysis, so we’ve written out all the steps.

It’s also for anyone who wants to see concrete examples to help them imagine how a plan like the Blueprint could apply to them. The user guide does more than tell general stories about helping “identify priorities” and “bring in fire funding”. It gets into the nitty-gritty details—how users filtered the Blueprint down to find the piece relevant to their question, how they reported out on urbanization impacts, what indicators they used to tell the unique story of their area. If that interests you, check out the case studies at the end of each section. We hope that they will inspire you to use the Blueprint in your work, in ways you may not have thought of before.

Of course, the user guide, like everything else related to the Blueprint, is a work in progress. So what are the next steps? Well, we’d love your feedback on whether you find it helpful and what other information you might want to see. Would you like a a detailed GIS appendix explaining how to analyze raster datasets? More case studies? Some other amazing thing we haven’t thought of? I’ll be walking through both the South Atlantic and Southeast user guides on the March 21st Third Thursday Web Forum. We’ll allow plenty of time to discuss future improvements, so please tune in. Or, you can always contact me directly to share your thoughts at hilary_morris@fws.gov or 919-707-0252.

Another longer-term next step—the South Atlantic Blueprint is, of course, just one of the subregional inputs to the Southeast Blueprint. Someday we hope to eventually release additional guides for each of the other inputs.