Setting a course for a sustainable landscape
You can view the full press release on the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) website.
As you may know, last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked the NAS to review the LCC program, at the request of Congress. Overall, the report notes that LCCs occupy a unique niche in the conservation community, addressing landscape needs at a national (and international) level for both natural and cultural resources, as well as bridging the often separate spheres of research and management. How's this for a great excerpt?
"The nation needs a landscape approach to conservation...only the LCC Network is designed to address this need at a national scale for all natural and cultural resources."
- National Academies of Sciences
The NAS also found that LCCs have accomplished a lot in their brief existence, from building partnerships and governance structures to developing shared conservation and research priorities. The Conservation Blueprint is even highlighted as "one of the most advanced" examples of progress toward spatial conservation planning, which is pretty exciting! And the NAS applauded LCCs for their flexibility in working across boundaries on efforts like the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy and Gulf hypoxia.
Of course, the NAS notes many opportunities for the LCC Network to improve its effectiveness and better deliver on its vision. One of the major recommendations was to clarify the objectives of the LCC Network so we can better evaluate our success. Here in the South Atlantic LCC, of course, the indicators serve as our measures of success (if you want an example of how that's working now, check out Rua's blog on the impacts of the Wildland Fire project)! The LCC Network Strategic Plan and Conservation Science Plan are an important first step, and we'll continue to work on tracking our impact at the Network level.
The report provides LCCs some other excellent recommendations, as well. One is to expand the focus on spatial planning to include strategic planning--thinking about not just where we should focus conservation efforts, but the strategies and actions appropriate for each place. Another is to prioritize based on multiple objectives, including conservation targets like species and ecosystems, in addition to ecosystem services, cultural resources, and economic endpoints. The NAS also advises giving additional attention to understanding the socio-economic context surrounding conservation planning and better communicating risk and uncertainty. In the South Atlantic LCC, I think we're already addressing these points in many ways. We're linking conservation actions to the ecosystem indicators, discussing at Blueprint workshops how best to call for specific actions within the Blueprint, collaborating with local and urban planners and cultural resource professionals about human uses and values, releasing a list of "known issues" accompanying the Blueprint, and regularly communicating with our cooperative members.
If you want to read more, you can download a free pre-publication copy of the report here. In particular, the 12-page summary section provides a detailed overview.