As we all know by now, the future of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives is uncertain given the program’s proposed elimination in the President’s FY18 budget and the impact of reorganizations within the Dept. of Interior. As a result, there have been significant changes and soul-searching over the past several months from people integral to Southeast LCCs, and there are clear themes emerging from these changes. One thing is clear: landscape conservation is not going away!
Read on for an inspiring take on how conservation professionals from the GCP LCC, and vested partners in ours and adjacent LCCs -- including the Desert LCC and Great Plains LCC -- are handling these changes.
There has been an outpouring of gratitude and recognition for the value of partnerships and friendships forged over the past 8 years or so.
Cindy Dohner, outgoing Director of the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, noted “how deep our connections run, both personally and professionally”....and that feeling extends also beyond the Fish and Wildlife Service to “those that are passionate and work so closely with us on our shared goals for the fish and wildlife populations and the natural world.”
Jeff Raasch, Joint Venture Program Leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Chair of the Desert LCC said, “It has been a pleasure and an honor working with all of you over the past six years. Your collective dedication and commitment to building a new structure for addressing complex natural resource challenges of our time is inspiring.”
Cynthia Edwards, former Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy Coordinator and Wildlife Management Institute employee, expressed how very grateful she is “to have been a part of the conservation conversations we've had over the past four years,” noting “excellent teamwork ... guidance, knowledge, and passion for conservation.”
Gregg Elliott, Communications consultant for the GCPO and GCP LCCs, expressed how much of an honor it had been to work with all the people involved in LCCs over the past six and a half years.
Over and over, people involved in landscape conservation recognize the fundamental importance of collaboration through partnerships - because we are focused on a grand project integrating human enterprise more positively into the natural world, and that’s a job that no one entity will ever accomplish alone.
Cindy Dohner said, “Our successes are out there for all to see. What isn’t visible is the ‘blood, sweat and tears,’ - the tireless determination, innovation and creativity, hard work and persistence in the ways we work and the synergies we have been able to find with all types of partners that created those successes.”
Cynthia Edwards said, “The diverse perspectives and expertise that all of you bring to those partnerships is truly amazing,” noting the “excellent teamwork we had to complete the Gulf Coast Vulnerability Assessment (GCVA) and having that work recognized on an national scale as the winners of the inaugural Sam D. Hamilton Award for Transformational Conservation Science in 2015.”
Jeff Raasch said, “As engaged partners of the Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative you all have contributed an incredible amount of time, resources, insights and expertise to building a shared vision for our lands, waters and wildlife and crafting a new model for meeting today’s conservation challenges.”
Determination, resolve, faith and love
Landscape conservation is not going away, and neither are their advocates. We may find ourselves in different scenarios, with different job titles, and even in different places or organizations. What is clear is that the conservation community is motivated by much more than a directive or a paycheck - we are motivated by our love of nature and our desire to make a difference.
John Tirpak, Science Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf Program, said “We are all a family. We’ll get through this. On the Gulf there are a lot of things we can do, and we will keep looking for opportunities. Our vision is the right one.”
Gregg Elliott plans to continue her business, K Gregg Consulting, specializing in conservation communications and said, “The landscape conservation imperative will remain alive in the hearts and minds of our partners. We will wait for a final decision then regroup or rebuild, as circumstances dictate.”
Cynthia Edwards plans to “stay in touch with the partners across the Southeast” . . . and she will do so from a position of leadership within Ducks Unlimited Canada but still based out of Jackson, MS.
Tim Birdsong, Chair of the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative Steering Committee stated, “We’ve now delivered what I consider to be some truly meaningful and transformative landscape-scale river conservation projects, which I firmly contend would not have occurred had it not been for assessments, conservation prioritizations, and conservation planning products assembled and supported through this partnership. I’ve personally witnessed this and numerous other case studies throughout the southern US that affirm the value and benefits of the collaborative, holistic, and strategic approach embraced by our partnership and other Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.”
Cindy Dohner explained what unites us all the best when she said, “We are fortunate to be a part of the larger fish and wildlife conservation community. The work we do matters, not just to us but to the world, and especially to future generations. We have the privilege of spending our life’s energies helping to ensure that our children and grandchildren enjoy the wild places and wild life that bring such benefits and joy to all of us. That’s work worth doing and a life full of meaning.”
She channeled the thoughts of everyone when she expressed hope “that our paths will cross again as we each carry on” with our essential work of ensuring a sustainable future for the natural world.