In several meetings over the past month, GCP LCC staff have begun expanding the conversation about habitat to include a focus on what the Conservation Blueprint and associated science projects have to offer partners in the region:
1. Oklahoma Natural Resource Management conference
Hosted by the Oklahoma Chapters of The Wildlife Society, American Fisheries Society, Society for Range Management, Invasive Plant Council, Prescribed Fire Council, Soil and Water Conservation Society, Ornithological Society, Game Warden Association, and Society of American Foresters. This meeting provided the LCC community touching Oklahoma to showcase efforts in the region on Landscape Conservation Design, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Emphasis areas and the SE Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS). All of these efforts are contributing to a developing blueprint for conservation that includes Oklahoma.
The GCP LCC was well represented, with Bill and Cynthia moderating sessions on (a) Conservation Planning and Restoration/Human Dimensions and (b) Landscape Design, respectively. In addition, Ben presented “A vision for conservation of the Red River from headwaters to the Gulf: Developing a philosophy and process for landscape conservation design” and Cynthia presented “SECAS: A blueprint for connected conservation in Oklahoma and adjacent states.”
Side meetings included the refinement of landcover in Oklahoma and Texas – working seamlessly across state borders. In their Emphasis area discussions the USFWS indicated that in their upcoming species status assessment for Quadrula mussel species, the agency plans to rely on the GCP LCC’s 2016 Strategic Quadrula Research project as a foundation for the assessment. In addition, participants planned for a watershed workshop in Macalester OK May 24th to focus on the Little and Kiamichi River watersheds of the Red River Basin,
2. Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD)
GCP LCC Coordinator Bill Bartush and Southern Plains Climate Hub Director David Brown initiated discussions to expand collaboration regarding rangeland conservation. The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts annual meeting included an opportunity for the GCP LCC and Southern Plains Climate HUB to meet with agricultural leadership in Oklahoma. Specific meetings with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission Director and Natural Resource Conservation Service – Oklahoma State Conservationist and staff, included discussion of Farm bill opportunities, RCPP, working lands and Monarch Butterfly conservation effort in the Southern Great Plains.
The program included talks about soil health, grasslands, grazing lands, pollinators and water quality. It showcased the best in conservation programs and enabled open and frank discussion about ways in which the GCP LCC and Climate Hub can engage with the agricultural community in Oklahoma. Overall the GCP LCC message was that the LCC’s conservation Blueprint can help with strategic conservation practices and facilitate effective collaboration because what is good for rangelands is likely to be good for grassland wildlife, including Monarchs.
3. 82nd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference
Cynthia Edwards participated in the special session entitled: “Wildlife Successes in Optimum Funding Scenarios - Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon Restoration.” This Session examined the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon oil spills and resultant restoration efforts as unprecedented examples of natural resource management in optimum funding conditions albeit under conditions of extreme duress. The six panelists demonstrated that restoration actions undertaken in response to the nation’s two largest oil spills are examples of success for wildlife and society in general.
Cynthia helped co-chairs Ross Melinchuk (Texas Parks & Wildlife Department), James Cummins (Boone and Crockett Club and Wildlife Mississippi), and Tim Richardson (Wildlife Forever) organize the session and was a last-minute stand in for Robin Reichers who was unable to get to Spokane due to weather delays. Cynthia gave his presentation on the Gulf States’ approaches to Deepwater Horizon restoration. Other panelists included Paul Schmidt (Ducks Unlimited), Jim Kurth (US Fish and Wildlife Service), Tim Richardson (Wildlife Forever), Rachel Jacobson (WilmerHale), and Tom Kelsch (National Fish and Wildlife Foundation).
During a meeting of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (made up of about 60 mostly-hunting conservation organizations that are national, regional and/or species specific) there was a presentation on LCCs, where partners commented on the benefits of working with the Gulf Coast Prairie LCC, citing the utility of the GAP analysis data, among others. One person stated, "the GCPLCC is like having a lot more expert staff that we don't have to pay for." Partners expressed their gratitude for that force multiplier.
Recognition for LCC Partners at the North American
Former GCP LCC Steering Committee member, E.J. Williams (American Bird Conservancy) won the Gary T. Myers Bird Conservation Award. Each year, the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) and the Association of Joint Venture Management Boards present the award to an individual, organization, or partnership that has shown exceptional accomplishments and/or leadership in bird conservation. Congratulations to E.J. . . . “Go Birds!”
In addition, at the meeting Ducks Unlimited announced the winners of the 2017 Wetland Conservation Achievement Awards. This year’s recipient in the federal agency employee category is Kevin Norton, Louisiana state conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). This year’s recipient in the local/private citizen category is Jefferson County (Texas) Judge Jeff Branick. Judge Branick was chosen for this award because of his tireless efforts to represent the Texas Chenier Plain as a place worth saving for waterfowl, people and businesses.