Conserving Fish and Wildlife Through Science, Technology, and Partnerships
My name is Glenn Constant and I lead a Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office for the U S Fish and Wildlife Service and have a new role as Aquatic Liaison for the Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks LCC. Our Station is part of the Fisheries Program and is located in Baton Rouge, LA and we have been involved in conservation issues that are of significance to the GCPO geography for over 20 years.
Big changes in how we do business are coming . . .
As is the case for all of us, change is never easy. But there is big change taking place in the conservation world, and we must all find a way to engage the new conservation paradigm. Not only are conservation actions being evaluated at a larger physical scale than ever before, but they also rely more heavily on a broader integration of ecological, sociological, economic, commercial, cultural, and other factors than ever before. That means our traditional mindset of defining conservation solutions for problems that are perceived at a local scale is in a gradual transition to a new focus on factors that influence the landscape on a much larger scale.
It also means that we must expand our understanding of how conservation can be designed to integrate our individual disciplines, or favorite ecological causes, into interdisciplinary planning efforts that prioritize our limited resources for a broader spectrum of sustainable conservation benefits. It’s referred to as “building functional landscapes” in the new Strategic Habitat Conservation paradigm.
How to make the partnership switch?
How do we make that transition with the assurance that this new paradigm will net the greatest possible conservation yield? Broader planning requires a more diverse group of individuals that have specific expertise in many disciplines, some that are not even science related.
Many of us are still not comfortable with the idea that working through partnerships is the right way to achieve success. We still have a feeling of comfort and control in the mindset that says; “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”. Today’s dilemma is that we must acknowledge that there are some conservation issues that require much broader attention than we can provide individually or programmatically.
For the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that means while many of our core missions continue to provide traditional services like protecting and maintaining our National Wildlife Refuges, continuing to propagate fish in our National Fish Hatcheries, and managing recovery initiatives for Threatened and Endangered species, some of our workforce is being dedicated to partnering in this new paradigm to plan more effective and sustainable conservation initiatives.
Past and current examples of multi-disciplinary, landscape conservation partnerships
The diversity-in-planning concept was acknowledged and enacted prior to the creations of LCCs when partnerships were established within individual disciplines to diversify support and to leverage opportunity and assets. The most notable and widely cited success may be the North American Waterfowl Management Plan where waterfowl conservation has been fostered and enhanced by Joint Venture partnerships that integrate the expertise of hydrologists, waterfowl biologists, farmers, NGO’s like Ducks Unlimited, hunters, foresters, and others. The National Fish Habitat Partnership followed suit and now have many regional Fish Habitat Partnerships to bring a diversity of aquatic expertise into planning aquatic conservation strategies across the nation.
Even after all the hard work and successes, those new partnerships still have to find ways to engage in broader conservation planning. Read the blog (http://www.southatlanticlcc.org/profiles/blogs/sarp-science-and-dat...) of my counterpart for the South Atlantic LCC, Dr. Cathy Phillips, to understand more about how the Southeast Aquatic Habitat Partnership (SARP) is in the process of evaluating how to re-structure the role of that partnership to effectively contribute to the new conservation paradigm. The liaison roles that Cathy and I serve between the LCCs, SARP, and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be critical in integrating planning efforts and leveraging support and capability. Communication is key.
Possibly the greatest satisfaction and benefit that I have experienced so far in my new role as liaison is the progressive increase in the comfort levels for all parties and partnerships as we talk through the issues and concerns that naturally come with ceding some level of control to collaborative planning. Being embedded in all three entities for which I serve the liaison role offers a unique understanding of multiple viewpoints and strategies that can only come from that level of communication. That same level of connectivity will continue at a higher level among the partnerships in the spring when the Steering Committees for both SARP and the GCPO LCC will meet for the first time in an acknowledgement of common interest and intent to coordinate roles in developing a path forward.
Our goals and objectives are often more closely aligned than we may think. Find a way to fit into the new paradigm. It takes active participation and a willingness to make things work in an environment where it is easier for them to fail. Change can be good.
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein