Last week was a big week for the Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks LCC. First, we had a celebration of the first 5 years of the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy, a.k.a. SECAS, at the Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies in Baton Rouge, LA. That was followed by our own GCPO LCC Steering Committee meeting, where we unveiled our Version 1.0 of the GCPO’s Conservation Blueprint.
A few highlights from both of these important events:
First, SECAS - the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy was first introduced at the SEAFWA Annual Conference in Nashville, TN, in 2011. It was also introduced to the GCPO LCC Steering Committee at that same meeting, and the GCPO LCC later committed to support SECAS at our Spring 2012 meeting in Five Rivers, AL. The GCPO LCC Steering Committee has subsequently re-affirmed its support for SECAS several times over the years since 2011. This year, 2016, represents an important 5-year milestone for SECAS - in 2011, we told the SEAFWA Directors that we needed 5 years to develop the initial products envisioned for SECAS, including a Blueprint of conservation priorities for the southeast. Back in 2011, LCCs were still in their early stages of formation, and it was difficult to envision exactly what a conservation Blueprint might look like, and how it might work across 6 LCCs in the southeast, some of which hadn’t even been stood up at the time.
At last week’s SEAFWA Conference, a SECAS Leadership Summit was held on Monday afternoon, October 17. This was really a celebration of SECAS and the progress that’s been made to date, but it was also an opportunity to discuss where SECAS goes from here. We unveiled SECAS Blueprint 1.0, which is a testament to our progress, but also a realization that the Blueprint is not the totality of SECAS, nor is it the conservation landscape of the future. We’ve still got work to do to get SECAS to that point, but we’ve come a long ways towards accomplishing that goal. What impressed me most about the Leadership Summit was the genuine enthusiasm and interest expressed by various state and federal leaders, and the recognition of how important the SECAS vision will become. In our changing southeastern landscapes, the world is being defined by multiple sectors, with little regard for fish and wildlife. SECAS is an opportunity for the fish and wildlife community to define that future landscape for the resources that we treasure, for the generations that will come along after us. You can read more about the SECAS Leadership Summit in Gregg Elliott’s SECAS article.
At the GCPO LCC Steering Committee meeting, we unveiled our own GCPO LCC Conservation Blueprint v1.0. Our Blueprint represents thousands of hours of work by our conservation science staff, and the input of hundreds of folks from the GCPO LCC partnership, and it is built on the foundation of our Strategic Plan and Integrated Science Agenda, which were developed back in 2013. The GCPO Blueprint represents the foundation for our future conservation planning in the GCPO LCC, into which we will be transitioning in the coming year. I laid out for the Steering Committee some areas of focus for the next several years: 1) Updating the Blueprint through refining and updating landscape endpoints, and strengthening our species-habitat endpoints; 2) Developing a Monitoring framework; 3) Incorporating Ecosystem Services and Human Dimensions more fully into our conservation planning frameworks; 4) Developing LCC-supported Landscape Conservation Designs; and 5) Connecting up to other large, regional-scale efforts to develop an ecologically connected landscape. These thoughts are depicted in a Prezi presentation that I gave to our Steering Committee last week, which you can access here. We’ll be following up with more details on these areas of focus in the coming months.
At the Steering Committee meeting, we also approved our new Operational Procedures, which includes an expansion of the Steering Committee to include representation from tribes, Climate Science Centers, fish habitat partnerships, and joint ventures. We’ll also be reaching out to other potential partners that can broaden the scope and breadth of the GCPO LCC partnership. I think these changes will strengthen our Steering Committee, and broaden the voices of engagement that are so necessary for our continuing relevance in a changing world. So stay tuned for future announcements on GCPO LCC Steering Committee representation.
In closing, I just want to give a big shout out to Cynthia Edwards, who has functioned as our SECAS Coordinator for the last 18 months. Cynthia has done an outstanding job of coordinating all the various interests and entities involved in SECAS, and brought us safely into harbor with the release of the SECAS Blueprint v1.0, and the successful hosting of last week’s SECAS Leadership Summit. It was a huge undertaking, but Cynthia was more than up to the task, and I’m extremely proud and grateful for all that she accomplished to make it all happen. Well done, Cynthia!