It's a New Year, and We're Moving Forward in the GCPO LCC
January is a time for resolutions and goal setting. While I’m not all that big on New Year’s resolutions, I do believe in the importance of setting goals, and re-visiting those goals on a regular basis. The beginning of a new year is certainly a great time to do that. Part of the process of goal setting is to evaluate the past year, to see where you made progress and where you didn’t. In that regard, some accomplishments to report that helped the GCPO LCC end 2014 on a good note – first, I want to welcome Dr. Todd Jones-Farrand as our new Science Coordinator in the GCPO LCC. Todd comes to us from the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture, where he was also their Science Coordinator for 5 years, and brings a wealth of experience in landscape-scale conservation planning to the GCPO – Todd served as the Acting Science Coordinator on a 60-day detail back during the late summer, so I’m sure he is going to hit the ground running.
I also want to announce the hiring of Mr. Dennis Figg as the new Coordinator of the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy, aka SECAS. Dennis is very familiar with our work in the GCPO LCC, having represented Missouri Department of Conservation on the Steering Committee, and is nationally recognized for his work in conservation on a number of fronts. It's great to have Dennis taking on the role of SECAS Coordinator. Finally, we are working with the Gulf Coast Prairie LCC to cost-share a position through the Wildlife Management Institute – Ms. Cynthia Edwards will be taking on the role of Gulf Coast Liaison, and will also be working closely with Todd Jones-Farrand to develop conservation designs across the LCC. I’m really excited about the potential of collaborating with the GCP LCC as we move toward integrating our conservation plans across LCC lines, and Cynthia is the perfect person to help us get that done.
It’s hard to believe, but the GCPO LCC has been around for 4 years now, and, if you have read our annual reports, it’s pretty easy to see that we have made a good bit of progress over that time. That said, we still have a lot of important work in front of us as we move into 2015. So, following are some goals that I have been thinking about for this new year:
- Ecological Assessments – in the last year and a half, we have brought on some great geospatial capacity at Mississippi State University and within the USFWS to help us ramp up our work on assessing the ecological status of our priority habitat systems, both aquatic and terrestrial. We made a lot of progress in 2014, evidenced by this presentation that Kristine Evans and Yvonne Allen gave to our Steering Committee back in the fall. That work is continuing on, and I expect that we will finish up the initial assessments sometime in the coming year.
- Landscape Conservation Design – at last fall’s Steering Committee meeting, we presented an update on a Landscape Conservation Design (LCD) process in the Ozark Highlands of AR, MO, and OK. That presentation was well received, and the Steering Committee approved the expansion of the process to the rest of the LCC. That will be a large focus for our LCC in the coming year, and it will be a partnership-driven process as well. So, be on the lookout for future announcements as we ramp up these efforts in the remainder of our geography. Our timeline is fairly aggessive, and we hope to make a lot of progress on this front in the coming year, with Todd Jones-Farrand and Cynthia Edwards leading those efforts.
- As we continue to work on our LCC-specific priorities, we have to also be cognizant of what’s going on with our neighboring LCCs, and how it all comes together into a regional vision of a future conservation landscape in the Southeast, hence the importance of the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS). We made some good progress on SECAS in 2014, but really need to ramp it up this year. We now have Dennis Figg providing critical leadership as the SECAS Coordinator, and we’re also anticipating significant help from the SE Climate Science Center in 2015, so I’m expecting some real traction from SECAS in the coming year.
- Finally, I would like to make some progress in 2 areas where we have not invested much energy in the last few years: 1) Developing Monitoring priorities for the GCPO LCC, and a strategy for implementation, and; 2) Beginning the process of integrating priority Cultural Resources into our conservation planning. These are both areas where we have been deficient, but they remain important to the overall mission and ultimate success of the GCPO LCC. You should expect to see more emphasis in these two areas in the coming year.
Well that’s my list of goals for 2015. Do you have other goals that you would like to see the GCPO LCC take on? If so, feel free to drop me a note via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or better yet, post a comment on this news post and we can start a discussion that includes the larger GCPO LCC community. I’m looking forward to 2015 and continued progress.