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Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative Administers Meeting to Coordinate Conservation Strategies

April 8, 2015

A major conservation effort is underway by an unprecedented partnership of conservation organizations, state and federal wildlife agencies, climate science centers and landscape conservation cooperatives in the Southeast. These groups are pooling resources to create the coordinated regional Southeastern Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS).

SECAS will build upon conservation planning efforts to develop a vision and strategies needed to sustain fish and wildlife populations into the future with a changing landscape. Much of the scientific and technical information needed to undertake a conservation adaptation strategy will be provided by conservation partners that make up six landscape conservation cooperatives (LCCs), the region's Climate Science Center and other traditional and non-traditional partners.

The Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GCPO LCC) is one of the six LLCs helping with moving the major strategy forward. In late March, the GCPO LCC Steering Committee met to discuss how to best move forward with their conservation planning. The theme of the meeting focused on "Charting a Course toward an Ecologically Connected Network of Lands and Waters." The purpose was to determine how the group could get from where they are currently in their planning efforts to SECAS 1.0 in the fall of 2016.

The experts agree that there is no doubt the GCPO LCC has come a long way and played a vital role since the SECAS was first introduced in 2011. The focus included how to connect their planning into a coherent strategy that seeks to define the future conservation landscape of the GPCO. And to help the partnership determine how far the group has come in their conservation efforts, as well as how far they have to go to define an ecologically connected network of lands and waters into the vision of SECAS.

The discussions in the committee meeting focused on three major themes.
  • Bridging the GCPO LCC process to define an ecologically connected network of lands and waters within the 180-million-acre, 12 state LCC geography with similar efforts occurring in neighboring LCCs to form a unified SECAS vision. 
  • The second and third themes included focusing on two priority Southeastern ecological systems: open pine and coastal marsh systems, which are prioritized in the majority of LCCs in the Southeast. 
The teams' work produced a detailed overview of their ecological assessment accomplishments, funded projects associated with those systems and a discussion on what it would take over the next 18 months to visualize a network of lands and waters for those systems. Finally, the meeting focused on integrating the monitoring of landscape change and its priority biological resources into LCC activities, as well as incorporating it into the larger SECAS vision. Lest not to forget the important role the LCC partnership can and should have in monitoring and bridging connections with other monitoring efforts in the Southeast, such as the Southeast National Wildlife Refuge Inventory and Monitoring Network.

Forty professionals interacted with an excellent line-up of presentations, participated in an informative field tour of open pine management on the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, and shared experiences and ideas during the networking and partnership building segment of the meeting, all of which aligned with the LCC vision.