LCC News

If not for the GCPO LCC, ............

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

“In baseball, you don’t know nothing.” Yogi Berra

If you haven’t heard the news, LCC’s are targeted for elimination in the Trump Administration’s FY18 federal budget, which was submitted to Congress a few weeks ago, and would (theoretically) begin October 1, 2017. From a federal budgeting perspective, it’s like the opening pitch in a 9-inning baseball game, and Congress is up to bat next. Ultimately, Congress has the responsibility of passing a federal budget and submitting it to the President for his signature. So, there are still quite a few innings to go before we will know the final outcome of this ball game. Even so, the opening play is not a great place to start for LCC’s.

In the meantime, as the budgeting drama plays out, I have been thinking more deeply on what the landscape conservation community would look like without LCC’s.  A question that we sometimes ask ourselves is “If not for LCC’s, ……….. (fill in the blank)”. Here are a couple thoughts on that question:

  • If not for the GCPO LCC, our partners would not have the knowledge and tools they need to address the effects of climate change on fish and wildlife. For me personally, this has always been the most compelling reason for the existence of LCC’s, to help our partners better understand how climate change is affecting the fish and wildlife resources they are charged to protect and sustain. The tools and geospatial products that our LCC produces are all aimed at helping our partners better understand the effects of future change, and climate is one of the biggest factors influencing future change impacts on fish and wildlife.  Our tools also facilitate better decisions on actions that our partners can take to mitigate those impacts, or to help fish and wildlife to adapt to changes.

    Over the years, I have been told more than once by various partners how glad they are that the LCC is worrying about climate change, because within their own organizations they often don’t have the capacity to address the issue, or they lack the political support to take it on. The GCPO LCC has worked with many of our partners to facilitate climate-smart thinking and conservation planning. A great example of this work is the Gulf Coast Vulnerability Assessment, a multi-LCC effort that was awarded the inaugural Sam D. Hamilton Award for Transformational Conservation Science in 2015. Those of us who were fortunate enough to work with Sam Hamilton during our careers, know how passionate he was about the issue of climate change.

  • If not for the GCPO LCC, our partners would not have access to dozens of new geospatial data products that provide new and better understanding of the 180-million acre landscapes that encompass the GCPO geography. From the longleaf and shortleaf pine systems, to the tidal marshes of the Gulf Coast, to the big river systems, to the forests and streams of the Ozarks, your GCPO LCC staff have worked diligently to compile, analyze, and synthesize existing and new datasets into landscape-scale assessments of ecological function. These datasets in turn have been integrated into a Conservation Blueprint for the GCPO, which provides a first ever vision of conservation priority based on ecological functionality and conservation opportunity. All these datasets are available to our partners through our web-based Conservation Planning Atlas. Over the next few months, our LCC science team will be finalizing a first-ever State of the GCPO report, which will summarize all this geospatial data and information into one, easy to read and understand document.

At this juncture, there are more questions than answers as to the future of LCCs, including the GCPO LCC. My crystal ball is definitely hazy right now, but as I noted in the beginning of this blog, we are in the early stages of the budgeting process for FY18, and it really is anybody’s guess as to when and how Congress will take up the budgeting issue. Nevertheless, there are already changes afoot within the Dept. of Interior and Fish & Wildlife Service, which will also have important implications for LCCs. In the Southeast, FWS Regional Director Cindy Dohner is being re-assigned to Assistant Director of International Affairs. I’ve had the privilege of working with Cindy over the years in my position of GCPO LCC Coordinator, and she has been a consistent champion and advocate for LCCs, the Service’s Science Applications program, and the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy. Her leadership and unwavering support will be sorely missed.

In closing, it’s worth noting that the LCC program, since its inception in 2009, has already established an important legacy in landscape conservation. When the National Academy of Sciences, at the request of Congress, completed its review of LCCs in 2015, they noted that the nation “needs to take a landscape approach to conservation and that the U.S. Department of the Interior is justified in addressing this need with the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.” They further recognized that “the LCC Network is unique in that no other federal program is designed to address landscape conservation needs at a national scale, for all natural and cultural resources, in a way that bridges research and management efforts.” With that in mind, the GCPO LCC staff plans to spend the next few months working hard to complete some important projects we had already initiated, cataloguing various databases, documents and reports to ensure their continued availability to our partners, and engaging with our partners to ensure that a solid foundation for landscape conservation can endure into the future. And, we’ll keep trying to answer that question, “If not for the LCC, …………...”.

 

Mapping the South’s Protected Forests of the Future

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

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If you are trying to build a nest egg, you need to know two things: how to eliminate losses in your portfolio and the predicted rate of return on your investments.  This is not unlike planning for the future of Southern forests.  We need to know both how to slow down the rate at which forests are being lost from the landscape as well as where and how much protected forest acreage is likely to be added in coming decades.  The latter issue is the focus of the GCPO LCC’s latest project, “Mapping the South's Protected Forests of the Future.”  

This project is different from most LCC projects, however, in that the GCPO LCC is working in close partnership with Mississippi State University (MSU) under a grant co-sponsored by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).  The grantors liked the original proposal so much that they requested the focal area be expanded to include the entire Southeast region encompassed within the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS).

The U.S. Endowment is an 11-year-old public charity created to benefit the North American forest industry.  The organization focuses on three areas:

  • Forest health
  • New income streams for forest landowners
  • Revitalizing forest-rich communities

The USFS, of course, is the nation’s agency that manages more than 193 million acres of national forest lands.  The State and Private Forestry program of the USFS also cooperates closely with state forestry agencies to deliver numerous forestry programs aimed at over 5 million private forestland landowners.

History of the thought process behind mapping “future forests”

Peter Stangel, Senior Vice President for the U.S. Endowment, explained that about a decade ago, the Endowment, USFS, and the Department of Defense (DOD) recognized vast changes occurring on the southern landscape, as traditional forest products companies were divesting their forestland, transferring ownership in many cases to Timber Investment Management Organizations (TIMOs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).  

“Many folks interested in forests (feds, universities, conservation groups) didn’t understand TIMOs and REITs or their priorities,” explained Stangel.  “So we created a forum to bring together people with interests in forests to help them get to know one another and learn how to work together.  In particular, the group focused on how to retain large contiguous blocks of working forest land in the South, which have great economic, cultural and environmental values.”

This Partnership for Southern Forestland Conservation, as it was called, eventually evolved into the U.S. Forest Service program known as “Keeping Forests as Forests.”  Daniel McInnis, an Environmental Issues and Policy Analyst with the USFS State & Private Forestry program in the Southern region, is helping coordinate this program along with several diverse partners.  McInnis is also liaison to the Southern Group of State Foresters Water Resources Committee, as well as the EPA Region 4 Regional Office.  Through funding and grants to state forestry agencies, his program leverages state and local resources for a variety of purposes related to forest health and sustainability.

A lot of information is now available on how economic and climatic trends will affect southern forests, most notably through the USFS Southern Forest Futures Project.  “The missing piece of information has been future projected conservation,” said McInnis.

Dr. Kristine Evans, formerly the GCPO LCC’s Geomatics Coordinator, is the MSU principal investigator in the College of Forest Resources, and Rachel Greene, who previously led LCC-sponsored research on open pine benefits for wildlife, will be Project Coordinator.  Evans said she felt a deciding factor in the grant award was “the capacity to build on over a million dollars of previous work by the SECAS Landscape Conservation Cooperatives in compiling and prioritizing spatial information on the best areas for forest retention and conservation in the Southeast.”  

This project ties together the efforts of the U.S. Forest Service to predict the extent of the South’s future forests and the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy in identifying areas across the entire Southeast U.S. landscape that maximize ecosystem integrity.  It will be guided by a steering committee of representatives from state and federal agencies, forest products companies or trusts, and non-profit conservation organizations.

The where and why of tracking forest expansion

The Southern Forest Futures Report predicts up to 23 million acres of forest could be lost in the Southern U.S. by 2060.  Loss will be driven primarily by four interacting factors: population growth, climate change, timber markets, and invasive species.  

However, a variety of entities also have plans to expand protected forest areas in the future, for example:

  • The DOD’s Army Compatible Use Buffer Program seeks to reduce noncompatible uses at the edges of military installations; it recognizes that keeping working forests is best for the military.
  • The State of Georgia’s Gopher Tortoise Initiative seeks to avoid the listing of this species as endangered to prevent regulatory impacts on private landowners.  Their initiative is seeking to protect upwards of 132,000 acres of pine forest.  
  • The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Working Lands for Wildlife initiative seeks to promote voluntary conservation on private lands, focusing on gopher tortoise (open pine) habitat in the South.
  • Many other entities and watershed protection efforts are also focusing on forest protection.   

“Our primary purpose in developing this future protected forest data layer is to help visualize what the Southeast landscape will look like if conservation groups are successful,” explained Stangel.  “We can not only identify gaps in protection, but also look at potential centers of sustainable forestry, priority habitat for at-risk species, important recreation areas, and many other key values.”

McInnis agreed, adding “As we move Keeping Forests as Forests toward our goal of conserving 70% of historic forestland cover across the region, all the data layers at our disposal - including those underlying the LCC Conservation Blueprints - will be important.  I do envision that this product, combined with the SECAS Blueprint and other work that’s been done, will help inform decisions on where to focus our efforts and where points of leverage exist.  This particular future protected forest layer will be critical because we could potentially leverage USFS authorities and Keeping Forests as Forests partners’ intersecting priorities alongside these areas slated for protection.”

Both Stangel and McInnis anticipate the added potential for identifying areas throughout the Southeast that may not currently be planned for protection but could be priority candidates for some form of conservation.  “We will get the LCC to produce preliminary maps, have our committee of expert advisors evaluate these maps and recommend changes if necessary, and see what we can we do from there,” said McInnis.

State of the GCPO Progress Update: Upland Hardwoods Assessment for Review

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

The GCPO LCC science staff have been working toward a comprehensive State of the GCPO report, which uses the most current and comprehensive data available to assess conditions in each of the LCC’s 9 priority ecosystems.  As part of this process an Ecological Assessment report has been developed for each system that uses GCPO-wide geospatial data products to assess habitat endpoints identified in the LCC’s Draft Integrated Science Agenda.  Each of these individual reports are being compiled into the larger State of the GCPO to be released Fall 2017.  We are pleased to announce that the first draft of the assessment of upland hardwoods systems is now available for review. 

The LCC’s Integrated Science Agenda defines a desired state for upland hardwood systems to consist of large hardwood forest and woodland patches, found in heavily forested landscapes, and in an appropriate distribution of successional stages.  Desired upland hardwood woodlands are characterized by moderate levels of canopy cover and tree density, such that herbaceous ground cover is stimulated.  Desired upland hardwood forests are characterized by nearly closed-canopy conditions, with shade-tolerant subcanopy layers.  Through the ecological assessment of upland hardwoods we used comprehensive remote-sensing and imputed plot-level data and a dichotomous decision-based approach to assess specifically targeted landscape endpoints related to forest configuration, canopy cover, basal area, tree diameter and density, midstory density, density of snags and dead/downed wood, forest succession and fire disturbance data.  We used geospatial data to derive a Condition Index Value for each 250 m pixel across the GCPO landscape, based on the number of configuration and condition endpoints that were met. 

We found about 2.6 million acres of upland hardwood woodlands, and 2 million acres of upland hardwood forests in the Ozark Highlands were found in large forest patches in heavily forested landscapes and met at least one forest condition endpoint, however there were limited areas on the landscape where all or nearly all forest conditions were met.  Woodlands approaching desired conditions were found in distinct areas throughout the Ozarks and Ouachita’s in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, western Tennessee, and other areas.  Closed-canopy forests nearing desired conditions were also found in distinct patches in the eastern Ozarks (St. Francois Mountains) in Missouri, as well as in the Boston Mountains and Ouachita’s in Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.  However there is also prevalence of what appear to be good condition upland hardwood forest patches along the Mississippi Valley Loess Hills.   

The draft comprehensive Ecological Assessment of Upland Hardwood systems report can be found here GCPO_UplandHardwoodsAssessment_Draft1_20June2017.pdf and is open for review through the end of July.  Please contact Toby Gray (toby@gri.msstate.edu) for more information on this report and the forthcoming State of the GCPO.

[Figure (right) - Condition index values based on decision-criteria for upland hardwood woodlands (above) and forest (below) ranging from a value of 1 indicating potential hardwoods to values of 29-36 indicating existing hardwoods meet most of the measurable endpoints and are approaching the desired ecological state.]

CumberlandRiverBasin.org

Appalachian LCC News -

  • CumberlandRiverBasin.org is home to a warehouse of over 1,500 watershed stewardship resources. These resources link visitors to the water-related work of over 75 agencies, city governments, and NGOs who are working to promote water quality in our basin.
  • iCreek is a web application found at CumberlandRiverBasin.org. iCreek connects any basin address to the waterway it impacts. If that waterway is unhealthy, iCreek suggests mitigation strategies that could improve its health and also lists basin resources and organizations that may be able to help address the problems in that waterway.

A National Experiment in Manager-Scientist Partnerships to Apply an Adaptation Framework

Appalachian LCC News -

However, there is a lack of on-the-ground forest adaptation research to indicate what adaptation measures or tactics might be effective in preparing forest ecosystems to deal with climate change. Natural resource managers in many areas are also challenged by scant locally or regionally relevant information on climate projections and potential impacts. The Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) project was designed to respond to these barriers to operationalizing climate adaptation strategies by providing a multiregion network of replicated operational-scale research sites testing ecosystem-specific climate change adaptation treatments across a gradient of adaptive approaches, and introducing conceptual tools and processes to integrate climate change considerations into management and silvicultural decision-making. Here we present the framework of the ASCC project, highlight the implementation process at two of the study sites, and discuss the contributions of this collaborative science-management partnership.

https://www.fs.fed.us/nrs/pubs/jrnl/2017/nrs_2017_nagel_001.pdf

NatureServe Enhances LandScope Chesapeake Conservation Tool with New Data and Content

Appalachian LCC News -

LandScope is a conservation tool promoted by the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership (the Partnership), a regional coalition of 50 plus partners among the six states of the watershed and DC. The Partnership has long-term goals for the Chesapeake Bay to encourage a vibrant economy, strong communities, healthy people, working farms and forests, vital habitat for native wildlife, clean water, our shared heritage, recreation, and quality of life.

LandScope Chesapeake offers GIS and multimedia content as well as communications and training tools that can be used to set priorities for strategic conservation. In this NALCC funded project, NatureServe added or updated over 60 map layers including national, regional and state extent maps that overlap the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. NALCC is leading the habitat goal map development. Feedback from partners will result in a published set of priority goal maps. Accompanying the priority goal maps will be dashboard-style landing pages for each goal that will track partnership needs and accomplishments in each of these categories. During this project phase, NatureServe added 17 featured places in the Chesapeake Bay watershed in cooperation with local organizations. NatureServe also worked to promote the LandScope tool throughout the region, and engaged in multiple discussions with technical partners about advancing interoperability among shared services and tools.

The accomplishments under this grant benefitted from a concurrent cooperative agreement between NatureServe and the National Park Service. Through the two grant agreements, NatureServe supported the Partnership objectives of developing and sharing content to inform coordinated, collaborative conservation activities throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Welcome Aboard: Greg Sheehan Appointed as FWS Deputy Director

Appalachian LCC News -

Prior to his appointment, Sheehan served as Director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Service. Sheehan has more than 25 years of experience with the State of Utah working in wildlife and natural resource management.

“We are grateful to have Greg Sheehan join our team and help lead USFWS as we advance a pro-conservation and more collaborative agenda at the Department,” said Secretary Zinke. “His experience and proven record in wildlife service as well as his organizational management skills will be an invaluable asset to the Service and the Department.”

On his appointment, Mr. Sheehan said, "I am thrilled to have an opportunity to work with Secretary Zinke and the great team at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I look forward to helping promote the fish and wildlife resources in America through collaborative partnerships with states, local government, the sportsmen's community, and others."

Prior to joining the State of Utah, Sheehan worked with the Air Force for six years as a civilian, where his focus was on correcting inefficiencies in cost and pricing between the Air Force and major DoD government contractors. Sheehan is a lifelong hunter, angler, and aspiring wildlife photographer. Sheehan will begin in mid-June and will serve as the Acting Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until a Director is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

Chesapeake Executive Council signs resolution in support of Bay Program partnership

Appalachian LCC News -

The resolution calls upon the President and United States Congress to continue the current level of federal support for the Chesapeake Bay Program, including the coordinating role of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program. It also calls for science, monitoring, modeling and restoration to continue with the full participation of local, state and federal agencies and private sector partners as appropriate.

Established in 1983, the Chesapeake Executive Council is responsible for guiding the Chesapeake Bay Program’s policy agenda and setting conservation and restoration goals. Its members include the governors of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, the Mayor of the District of Columbia, the Chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the Administrator of the EPA on behalf of the federal government. Because of advocacy statements contained within the resolution, federal law and practice prohibited the EPA from signing.

Members of the Executive Council also elected Maryland Governor Larry Hogan as the new Chair. Governor Hogan succeeds Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who became chair on January 1, 2015.

Under Governor McAuliffe’s two consecutive terms as Chair, the Executive Council announced the release of 25 management strategies outlining how the Bay Program will achieve the goals and outcomes of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. Governor McAuliffe also oversaw last year’slandmark funding agreement between EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to commit an additional $28 million dollars to help reduce nutrient pollution in the state.

“It has been my honor to serve as Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Executive Council for the last two and a half years” said Governor McAuliffe. “We are seeing real, measurable progress in water quality and habitat in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries which bodes well for the future of the ecology of the bay and the significant economic activity it supports.  It is time to forcefully build on our success and continue to make the necessary state and federal investments in restoration, science and public engagement that have been the hallmark of this partnership.”

Executive Council members also heard from the local government, citizen and scientific communities from the council’s three advisory committees—the Citizens Advisory Committee, the Local Government Advisory Committee and the Science and Technical Advisory Committee—who voiced their support for the partnership.

"Now more than ever, we must work together to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay,” said Governor Hogan. “Our administration has invested more than $3 billion in Bay restoration efforts, fully funded the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund and Program Open Space, and expanded innovative partnerships to preserve this priceless resource and national treasure we call home. As the newly elected chair of the Executive Council, I pledge to be a fierce advocate for greater environmental progress and deeper collaboration upstream and throughout the Bay watershed."

Learn more about the 2017 Executive Council Meeting.

To view more photos, visit the Chesapeake Bay Program's Flickr page.

Photos by Will Parson and Skyler Ballard

Wildlife refuge biologist in West Virginia honored for endangered mussel conservation

Appalachian LCC News -

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Jim Kurth noted that Morrison’s “leadership, professionalism, and commitment to sound science have helped foster highly successful partnerships involving 24 state and Federal agencies and nonprofit organizations.”

During her tenure as the wildlife biologist for the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Patricia Morrison worked tirelessly to secure partnerships and funding to advance the recovery of imperiled mussel species including pink mucket, clubshell, orange-foot pimpleback, spectaclecase, purple cat's paw pearlymussel, northern riffleshell, fanshell, ring pink, white wartyback, and sheepnose. Her work led to significant conservation milestones including the establishment of new mussel populations and advances in propagation techniques such as the first ever in-vitro propagation of orange-foot pimpleback. These efforts greatly reduced extinction likelihood by addressing population decline and population fragmentation for these species.

Recovery Champions are U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff and their partners whose work is advancing the recovery of endangered and threatened species of plants and animals.

Survey: Controlled Invasive Plants on Property

Appalachian LCC News -

To do this we rely entirely on the landowners - both public and private - in our region to take the required actions.  We seek to empower landowners with the best possible information to make the work as easy and effective as possible, while minimizing your costs.  The more we understand about the challenges you face and your interests and needs, the more effective we can be in serving you.

To this end we are seeking information from landowners who are already doing the work.  If you have controlled invasive plants on your property in the past, or are doing so now, we would like to know about your good work!   In addition, we hope to expand invasives control by encouraging the development of stewardship areas (collaborative groups) in each of our ten counties.  Stewardship areas typically begin with landowners who not only control invasives on their own properties, but who are willing to collaborate with their neighbors.  If you would like to be part of this effort, or again if you would just like to report the work you are doing on your own property, we invite you to answer the following short survey.  We will use the information to create a map of invasive control efforts in our region, and we will be in touch if you would like support in reaching out to your neighbors and organizing a stewardship area.

Note that there are only 2 required questions on the survey (noted with red asterisks); all the other questions are optional.

The survey can be accessed at: https://goo.gl/forms/D8FXah0dxlRju9S13.

Request for Statements of Interest: Assessment of Natural Resource Condition for First State National Historical Park

Appalachian LCC News -

Approximately $65,000 is expected to be available to support this project.  This Request for Statements of Interest and Qualifications has been distributed to partners of the North Atlantic Coast, Chesapeake Watershed, and Great Lakes- Northern Forest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESU).

National Park Service’s (NPS) Financial Assistance Policy Office is requiring a process change for awarding financial assistance under cooperative and task agreements in the CESU Network. Consistent with this Policy, the Northeast Region of NPS now requires non-federal CESU partners to have individual $0 Master Cooperative Agreements in place before Task Agreements can be created using the existing process. This project will be funded as a Task Agreement under these new Master Cooperative Agreements. Each non-federal partner will need to respond to the CESU Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) that is currently posted at: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search- grants.html?keywords=p17as00037,which contains complete details of the process and what is required. Please contact your Office of Sponsored Projects and ask them to respond to the CESU NOFO as soon as possible, if they have not done so already. If you are selected for this project, it is essential that a new Master Cooperative Agreement is in place for the Task Agreement to be processed this fiscal year.

Background: Congress, in its FY 2003 Appropriations Act, instructed and funded the National Park Service (NPS) to assess environmental conditions in watersheds where National Park units are located. Threats from nutrient enrichment, exotic species, water/air pollution, climate change, and development pressure are management concerns for many Parks. The NPS Natural Resource Condition Assessment Program seeks to understand and evaluate the existing condition of park natural resources. Information gained under this program will form the basis for development of actions to restore and provide enhanced protection of park resources if warranted. Visit the following site for additional details on the Natural Resource Condition Assessment Program: http://www.nature.nps.gov/water/nrca/index.cfm

The study proposed here will use existing information sources to assess the condition of natural resources at First State National Historical Park (FRST) which is made up of seven different sites located in Wilmington, New Castle, Dover, and Lewes, Delaware. Beaver Valley is the largest component of FRST consisting of 1,100 acres of rolling hills and wooded areas along the Brandywine River which were preserved to ensure its scenic rural beauty remained for future generations. Fort Christina is located on the banks of the Christina River and is a short walk from the Old Swedes Church. The New Castle Courthouse is adjacent to the Green in Dover and just 6 miles from the John Dickinson Plantation. The Ryves Holt House is located in Lewes. The natural habitats at FRST include aquatic, wetland, forested, and meadow landscapes that are suitable for a variety of plants, fish, amphibians and reptiles, invertebrates, mammals, and birds.

Park managers are challenged to address the issues of water quality degradation, introduction of exotic species, air pollution, habitat fragmentation, recreational use, and others. These may all have dramatic impacts on ecosystem function, integrity, and habitat quantity and quality. Results of these assessments will be integrated into individual park and servicewide databases and provide the parks with an integrated, overall evaluation of current resource conditions for upland, riparian, wetland, and aquatic areas as they exist within park boundaries. The assessments will also identify environmental threats or stressors to park natural resources and offer recommendations on information gaps.

Assessment Objectives

The natural resource assessment will use existing information sources to evaluate (e.g. within watersheds, ecosystem types, park management zones, etc.) the condition of park natural resources, identify stressors or threats to park natural resources, and identify information gaps. The assessment should emphasize, but not be limited to, geospatial analyses and reporting (GIS layers) to maximize usefulness of the assessment findings in park planning and natural resource management activities.

Existing information will be multidisciplinary (e.g., biological-ecological, water chemistry, hydrology, etc.), from a variety of sources, including the NPS, other federal agencies, state and local agencies, and others, and in a number of formats, including published literature and technical reports, databases, and GIS shapefiles. The NPS Inventory and Monitoring Program (http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/index.cfm) has identified core sets of indicators for long-term monitoring of park conditions and responses to stressors which can be a good starting point for developing individual park condition assessments.

EXISTING CONDITION

  • Current condition of park natural resources (terrestrial and aquatic), is to be based on an integration and evaluation of existing data, relying on various information sources and formats.
  • Condition of ecosystem types (forests, wetlands, riverine, meadow etc.), management zones, watersheds, or other appropriate designations should be based on a diversity of factors or indicators such as presence/absence of non-native species, presence of rare habitats, water quality, or incidence of forest pests.
  • Resource condition can be based on comparisons to reference data sets, comparisons to regional conditions, comparisons to established standards (e.g., water quality standards), evaluation of temporal trends in parameters, multi- parameter indices/metrics, or other approaches.
  • Findings should be presented in a geo-spatial framework, where possible (e.g., linear distance of park streams classified as outstanding or impaired, a shapefile showing condition comparisons among park watersheds or management zones).

STRESSORS-THREATS

  • Identify and quantify existing and emerging regional and local threats to park resources, such as sound impacts, encroaching urban/suburban land use, and upstream watershed development.
  • Present findings in a geo-spatial framework, if appropriate (e.g., area of park forest habitat stressed by insect pests, exotic plants, etc.).

DATA GAPS

  • Identify further studies and data needs that would assist in better describing condition and evaluating impacts from threats.

Brief Description of Anticipated Work:

  1. Collaborate with NPS personnel and other appropriate agencies to identify sources of information and natural resource management and protection concerns.
  1. Compile available data sources pertaining to the natural resources identified by park staff as being of critical management significance within the park and available information on threats or stressors to park natural resources.
  1. Synthesize existing information to assess the current condition of park natural resources, where possible. When appropriate, present the synthesis within a geospatial or GIS-based framework, identifying the extent and condition of the target resources (e.g. wetland habitats, waterways, grassland areas, and forest communities). Identify the extent and/or presence-absence of park natural resources influenced by threats or stressors. [NOTE: The NPS will provide access to relevant GIS data layers within the park GIS data management system; however, it is expected that the investigator(s) will seek additional GIS data sources from other federal, state, and local agencies and organizations that may be relevant].
  1. Provide recommendations for future studies that address additional information needs necessary to better define the condition of park natural resources and understand the relationship of stressors/threats to park condition.
  1. Prepare a written report of findings that:
  • Describes the parameters/metrics used to define natural resource condition. Examples of parameters/metrics used in previous assessments include: presence of invasive species; water quality (e.g. dissolved oxygen, pH, and conductivity levels); land use dynamics; avian IBIs, and wetland buffer indices.
  • Describes the quality of the data currently available as it relates to deriving at the condition assessment for a given park resource and subsequent investigator confidence (qualitative) in the assessed condition of a given resource using those data.
  • Describes and synthesizes available information on threats or stressors to natural resources.
  • Provides recommendations for future studies or improved long term monitoring activities that address additional information needs necessary to better define the condition of park natural resources and to understand the relationship of stressors/threats to park condition.
  • Presents all data included in the assessment, including GIS data layers with accompanying metadata.

Examples of completed Natural Resource Condition Assessment documents can be viewed and downloaded at: http://www.nature.nps.gov/water/nrca/reports.cfm.

Materials Requested for Statement of Interest/Qualifications:

Please provide the following via e-mail attachment to: christine_arnott@nps.gov (Maximum length: 5 pages, single-spaced 12 pt. font).

  1. Name, Organization and Contact Information
  2. Brief Statement of Qualifications (including):
  • Biographical Sketch(s) for key personnel (faculty, staff), including a description of discipline(s) of expertise. Curriculum vitas can be submitted as an attachment and not included in the above-stated 5-page limit.
  • Relevant past projects and clients with brief descriptions of these projects.
  • Brief description of the proposed approach(es) for conducting an interdisciplinary, spatially-based assessment of park natural resource conditions, encompassing terrestrial and aquatic resources.
  • Any brief description of capabilities to successfully complete the project you may wish to add (e.g. GIS capability, computers, equipment, access to information sources, previous research experiences at the park or region, etc.).

Note: A proposed budget is NOT requested at this time.

Review Criteria:

Based on a review of the Statements of Interest received, an investigator or investigators will be invited to prepare a full study proposal. Statements will be evaluated based on the investigator’s interdisciplinary expertise and capabilities in studying and synthesizing information related to upland and aquatic ecosystems, landscape dynamics, various terrestrial/aquatic biota (20 points), extracting data from multiple databases (10 points), interpreting data through quantitative analyses (10 points), and demonstrated skills in GIS (5 points).Previous experiences studying at the park or within the region will also be considered (5 points). Because of the broad scope of this project, an interdisciplinary approach is necessary.

Please submit Statements of Interest and Qualifications, via email, to:

Christine Arnott, PhD
Biologist and NRCA Coordinator
National Park Service
Northeast Region
200 Chestnut St., 3rd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-597-1158 (office)
christine_arnott@nps.gov

Questions are welcome via email or phone.

Timeline for Review of Statements of Interest: Review of Statements of Interest will begin June 9, 2017.

Partners launch ‘Nature’s Network’ to guide conservation from Maine to Virginia

Appalachian LCC News -

The North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), including members from 13 states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nongovernmental organizations, United South and Eastern Tribes, and universities, has launched a science-based “road map” to help inform decisions and actions for conserving lands and waters throughout the Northeast.

Nature’s Network is a collaborative effort responding to a critical need identified by Northeast states for seamless, regional information to support conservation of priority species. Incorporating information on thousands of at-risk species, iconic game species, rare habitats, vital river systems, and more, Nature’s Network offers scientific consensus on some of the highest conservation priorities in the region and creates new opportunities for partners to work together.

“Nature’s Network represents a shared vision for sustaining fish, wildlife and natural resources in the Northeast,” said Ken Elowe, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Assistant Regional Director for Science Applications. “It is another valuable resource for helping communities make more informed decisions that sustain wildlife and contribute to a host of benefits for people -- including clean air and water, food production, recreational opportunities and robust ecotourism economies.”

More than a map, Nature’s Network offers a suite of decision-support tools based on innovative modeling approaches developed by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Used together, or individually, these products offer voluntary guidance to:

Conserve the irreplaceable – The best place to start strategic conservation is to identify a network of connected, intact, and resilient areas encompassing various types of lands and waters representing important habitats for key species. These are priority places for future sustainable human and natural communities in the Northeast.

Make better decisions for the future – Guidance that reflects projections about how land use and environmental changes will affect natural resources over time can help us safeguard today’s investments in conservation for future generations.

Maximize limited resources – Conservation agencies and organizations have limited time and money to invest in protecting the natural resources that wildlife and people depend upon. Guidance grounded in science and supported through regional collaboration allows more efficient use of limited resources in the face of complex environmental threats.

Support local priorities with regional perspective – Seeing how local conservation efforts fit into the bigger regional picture can help connect local, state and regional priorities. By zooming out, practitioners working at any scale can discover new opportunities that warrant a closer look.

Find opportunities to work together – Sustaining fish, wildlife, and natural resources in the face of increasing threats is beyond the scope of any single agency. With the benefit of consistent regional information, partners can look across state borders for opportunities to work together towards shared conservation goals at scales that matter for wildlife and people.

Nature’s Network complements other sources of information about important habitats and natural resources by providing  a “big-picture” regional context for local conservation plans and actions. Practitioners working at any scale can use the data and tools for a range of applications -- from identifying priority cold-waters habitat for in-stream restoration to benefit Eastern brook trout, to developing educational materials that empower private landowners to make informed decisions about managing their land.

“We have never had access to resources that reflect this level of analysis, modeling, and discussion among partners across an entire landscape,” said Dan Murphy, Chief of the Division of Habitat Conservation for the Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office.  “This will help us prioritize and target on-the-ground conservation protecting and restoring the most important habitats throughout our area.”

Chris Burkett, Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said land-use decisions in Virginia and throughout the Northeast often occur at the local level. He said Nature’s Network can support actions at any scale by showing the significance of sites in regional context.

“Nature’s Network will enhance the information we can share with folks working at the local level, and show them how their area links to other parts of the state, and region,” Burkett said, adding, “That regional perspective opens new doors for collaboration to benefit both wildlife and people.”

Nature’s Network is supported by the North Atlantic LCC, a forum of state, federal and nongovernmental agencies and organizations dedicated to providing collaborative approaches to the conservation of fish, wildlife, and important natural resources across the northeast region from Virginia to Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.

To learn more about Nature’s Network:

Explore our website: http://www.naturesnetwork.org/

Hear from partners who are using the products: http://www.naturesnetwork.org/testimonials/

Seeking Candidates for 4 Gulf Strategic Conservation Assessment positions

Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC News -

We are very pleased to announce four position opportunities to support the Strategic Conservation Assessment of Gulf Coast Landscapes (SCA) project. The Restore Council approved the SCA project as one among a suite of projects in the 2015 initial Funded Priorities List. This project will coalesce existing conservation and socioeconomic priorities into conservation planning decision support tools to aid the Restore Council and their stakeholders in identifying high priority lands for voluntary conservation efforts. The SCA project is being led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf Restoration Team and administered through a cooperative agreement with Mississippi State University, with support from the four Gulf Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.

1) Seeking Statements of Interest for SCA Assessment Coordinator

 As previously advertised, the SCA project team is seeking Statements of Interest (SOIs) for a qualified individual or contracting organization to take on a lead role as Assessment Coordinator for this project. This individual or organization must have extensive experience in project coordination, organization of stakeholder meetings, and landscape-level natural resource conservation planning, preferably along the Gulf of Mexico coast.  Additional information and detailed submission instructions for the Assessment Coordinator role can be found in the SOI description and template, which is available for direct download link at: http://tinyurl.com/Gulf-SCA-Coordinator. Review of SOIs will begin May 15, 2017.  Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to consult with U.S. Fish and Wildlife project lead John Tirpak (john_tirpak@fws.gov) or MSU project lead Kristine Evans (kristine.evans@msstate.edu) prior to a Statement of Interest submission.  

 

2)  Seeking Postdoctoral Associate in Ecological Modeling

The SCA project team is seeking a Postdoctoral Associate in Ecological Modeling to be based out of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Mississippi State University.  The Postdoctoral Associate must hold a Ph.D. in biological or environmental engineering, geography, geosciences, ecology, environmental science/management, or other related fields. ABD candidates will also be considered. The ideal candidate will have some combination of the following skills: spatially explicit ecological modeling, landscape conservation, MCDA, programming (especially Python), and web-based app development. Expertise with geographic information systems (GIS) and other related software applications and technologies is also required.  Additional information and detailed submission instructions can be found in the link to the Post Doc Position Description (PostDoc_Position_Description_SCA.pdf). Review of applicants will begin June 7, 2017.  If you have any questions, are interested in submitting an application, or have a suggested candidate, please contact Anna Linhoss (alinhoss@abe.msstate.edu) .  Applicants must complete an application through the MSU HRM website (http://explore.msujobs.msstate.edu/cw/en-us/job/495521/postdoctoral-associate-eng) to be considered, but should also email a copy of the cover letter and resume/CV directly to alinhoss@abe.msstate.edu

 

3)  Seeking Research Associate – Geospatial Analyst

The SCA project team is seeking a Geospatial Analyst Research Associate to be based out of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture at Mississippi State University.  The applicant must hold minimally a B.S. in a relevant field (e.g., geography, geosciences, ecology, environmental science/management, coastal or marine ecology, wildlife and fisheries science) and a minimum of 3 years of relevant; or a M.S. degree and minimum of 1 year of relevant experience and demonstrated competency.  A strong background and expertise with geographic information systems (GIS) and other related software applications and technologies is required.  The ideal candidate will also have some combination of experience developing web-enabled geospatial data applications, expertise in other GIS software applications and html programming applications, as well as experience working in Gulf Coast landscape conservation, large-scale data applications, spatially explicit ecological modeling, multi-criteria decision analysis, and interacting with stakeholders.  Additional information and detailed submission instructions can be found in the linked GIS Analyst Position Description (GISAnalyst_ResearchAssociate_SCAproject_Description.pdf). Review of applicants will begin June 7, 2017.  If you have any questions, are interested in submitting an application, or have a suggested candidate, please contact Kristine Evans (kristine.evans@msstate.edu).  Applicants must complete an application through the MSU HRM website (http://explore.msujobs.msstate.edu/cw/en-us/job/495589/research-associate) to be considered, but should also email a copy of the cover letter and resume/CV directly to kristine.evans@msstate.edu.

4)  Seeking Ph.D. Student in Coastal Ecological Modeling and Geospatial Application Development

The SCA project team is seeking a Ph.D. student to be based out of either the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering or the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture at Mississippi State University.  The student will work with SCA staff to develop a suite of ecological models and associated geospatial applications predicting ecosystem, species, and/or socioeconomic response to potential Gulf Coast system stressors and planned coastal restoration activities. The Ph.D. student must hold a Master’s degree in geography, geosciences, ecology, environmental science/management, biological/environmental engineering, coastal or marine ecology, wildlife and fisheries science, or other related fields with competitive GPA and GRE scores. Research experience with predictive ecological modeling and geographic information systems (GIS), and a demonstrated publication record are preferred. Additional information and detailed submission instructions can be found in the linked Ph.D. student Position Description (PhDPosition_Description_SCAproject.pdf). Review of applicants will begin June 7, 2017.  If you have any questions, are interested in submitting an application, or have a suggested candidate, please contact Kristine Evans (kristine.evans@msstate.edu) (Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture) or Anna Linhoss (alinhoss@abe.msstate.edu) (Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering) at Mississippi State University.

Equal Opportunity 

Mississippi State University is an equal opportunity employer, and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, ethnicity, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), national origin, disability status, age, sexual orientation, genetic information, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. We always welcome nominations and applications from women, members of any minority group, and others who share our passion for building a diverse community that reflects the diversity in our student population.

 

We would greatly appreciate it if you could forward this email among your networks and to anyone you feel may be interested.

 

Thank you for your interest and help in spreading these great opportunities.

New Study Shows Americans’ Deep Appreciation for Nature, Barriers to Connection

Appalachian LCC News -

The Nature of Americans National Report: Disconnection and Recommendations for Reconnection reveals important insights from a study of nearly 12,000 adults, 8 to 12 year old children, and parents, and provides actionable recommendations to open the outdoors for all.

Americans encounter a number of society-wide forces disconnecting them from nature. Americans face competing priorities for their time, attention, and money. They live in places that often have more concrete than green space. It is increasingly normal to spend little time outside.

  • More than half of adults report spending five hours or less in nature each week, and most are satisfied with this minimal amount of time. Many parents and older adults lament that children today are growing up with limited opportunities to experience nature.
  • Parents say their 8 to 12 year old children spend three times as many hours with computers and TVs each week as they do playing outside.

 

Despite these challenges, there is opportunity. Americans of all backgrounds recognize that nature helps them grow healthy, be happy, and enjoy family and friends. Adults and children enjoy their time in nature. They feel affection for nature, are attracted to its beauty, appreciate its resources, and value its role in intellectual and spiritual development.

  • Over three-quarters of adults rate contact with nature as very or extremely important for their physical health and emotional outlook.
  • One-quarter of parents surveyed say contact with nature has improved their child’s weight, attention span, energy, anxiety, asthma or other health outcomes.
  • Three-quarters of adults support increasing the number of programs for Americans to enjoy nature, the outdoors, and wildlife. More than one-half think programs for Americans to enjoy nature and wildlife are underfunded.
  • Seven out of 10 children surveyed would rather explore woods and trees than play on neat-looking grass. Eight out of 10 like activities such as climbing trees and camping.

 

Restoring Americans’ connection to nature requires overcoming the gap between interest and action.

The Nature of Americans National Report details recommendations for restoring Americans’ connection to nature, including:

  • Pay close attention to—and respond to—adults’ existing concerns about younger generations’ disconnection from nature.
  • For adults and children, promote nature not only as a place for experiences, but also as a place for involvement and care.
  • Assure adults and children that time in nature can be (and even ought to be) social.
  • Support mentorship that extends beyond the parent–child relationship.
  • Carefully consider how different sectors promote what “good” connection with nature is or ought to be.
  • Deepen local experiences in nature near home.
  • For children and adults, use geographically local or familiar activities as a bridge to geographically distant or unfamiliar activities.
  • Provide socially safe and satisfying places outdoors, especially for urban and minority adults and children.
  • Promote experiences in nature that match Americans’ multidimensional values of nature.
  • For adults, promote conservation efforts as a way to improve their overall community and quality of life.
  • Join parents, children, and adults alike in recognizing that expenditures on children’s engagement with nature are fundamentally important investments.
  • Build partnerships among professionals in healthcare, education, urban planning, conservation, community development, and other sectors.

 

The core premise of these recommendations is that connection to nature is not a dispensable amenity but, rather, is essential to the health, economic prosperity, quality of life, and social well-being of all Americans.

The Nature of Americans is led by DJ Case & Associates. It builds on the late Dr. Stephen R. Kellert’s research on the importance of contact with nature to human well-being. This unique public–private collaborative is sponsored by the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Disney Conservation Fund, Morrison Family Foundation, Wildlife Management Institute, and Yale University.

More information and reports are available at NatureofAmericans.org.

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