Alaska LCCs Continue Their Collaborative Efforts

Alaska LCCs Continue Their Collaborative Efforts

When the Department of the Interior (DOI) directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to terminate staff support and funding for Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) in 2017, most of the 22 LCCs across North America disbanded. In Alaska, four of the five LCCs bucked this trend. These resilient partnerships, with 49 different entities serving at the leadership level on steering committees and another 100+ project partners, have continued their collaborative efforts. Between 2011 and today, Alaska’s LCCs leveraged substantial public funding (averaging 2:1 during their first five years alone) and completed dozens of science, planning, and communication projects with the aim of adapting to climate change and other large landscape-scale stressors. With ongoing support from the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) and the Alaska Conservation Foundation (ACF), these partnerships continue to develop scientific information and advance conservation across hundreds of millions of acres in Alaska, Canada, and the Pacific Northwest.

Beaufort Sea shoreline

LCCs are self-directed, public-private partnerships governed by Steering Committees comprised of representatives from government agencies, tribes/First Nations, Indigenous organizations, non-governmental organizations, and academia. They were originally conceived in 2009 by the U.S. Department of the Interior and partners to “engage DOI and federal agencies, states, tribal and local governments and the public to craft practical, landscape-level strategies for managing climate change impacts.”  With this broad overarching goal and financial and staff support from the USFWS, individual steering committees for 22 LCCs across North America established their own individual missions and operational charters as well as their own conservation priorities and business practices. WMI provided staff and administrative support to 11 of the 22 LCCs through agreements with the USFWS.

Between 2011 and 2016 the LCC Network conducted hundreds of science and planning projects designed to inform landscape scale conservation. In 2017 DOI directed the USFWS that they could no longer house these partnerships, nor could they fund the efforts of agency personnel to coordinate the actions of their Steering Committees. The LCC partnerships were encouraged to continue their work and to seek support from other entities to house staff and provide a coordination role for LCC Steering Committees, but without core staff and operating funds from the USFWS, most of the 22 LCCs dissolved.

Four of the five LCCs covering Alaska and adjacent parts of Canada as well as coastal sections of California, Oregon, and Washington are exceptions to that rule. With the support of key partners including WMI and ACF and grants from the Wildlife Conservation Society, Center for Large Landscape Conservation, and the National Science Foundation, steering committees for these LCCs have continued to meet, establish common priorities, raise funds, and work on new projects. Highlights of current LCC projects include:

Geofence technology to alert communities and managers of threats to marine mammals by vessel traffic - The Aleutian & Bering Sea Initiative (formerly ABSI LCC) has been central to the development and implementation of a tool that alerts managers and communities when large vessels cross into virtually-fenced areas (i.e. geofences) around sensitive habitats. ABSI has partnered with the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island as the first coastal community to pilot this tool to understand potential risks to northern fur seal haulouts. ABSI also worked with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to place another array of geofences around walrus haulouts in Togiak Bay in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA. An additional dozen geofences will be placed on walrus haulouts along the Bering Sea coast and agencies will be directly contacting vessels that range within 1-3 nautical miles of those haulouts.

Climate-smart planning and Indigenous-led land use planning - The Northwest Boreal LCC is currently organizing a spring workshop in the Yukon to foster discussion on how we can improve land use planning efforts in Alaska and western Canada. By working with groups across the border, the NWB aims to 1) develop and bring in knowledge, information, tools, and approaches, 2) convene groups across the border to share ideas and success stories, and 3) develop approaches to incorporate climate scenarios and adaptation strategies, holistically plan at a landscape-scale, incorporate Indigenous knowledge in plans, and enhance engagement and leadership of Indigenous communities in planning efforts.

Expanding Community-Based Monitoring to Address Rapid Environmental Change - The LCCs have partnered with the Aleut Community of St. Paul to help expand the Indigenous Sentinels Network to provide remote, Indigenous communities with tools, training, networking and convening, coordination, and capacity for ecological, environmental, and climate monitoring. Tribes and First Nations see real potential for self-determination through data they collect, own, and manage – while agencies see the potential to collaborate with communities to address their need for observations in remote locations where rapid changes are occurring. The Tanana Chiefs Conference has piloted efforts under the framework this summer in order to expand community-based monitoring in interior Alaska. More info can be found at:

Co-developing coordinated monitoring networks across Alaska and western Canada - With support from the National Science Foundation, the LCCs are partnering with 11 other organizations on a 2-year project to co-develop coordinated monitoring networks in Alaska and western Canada. This project has the following objectives: 1) to better understand important phenomena and dynamics (e.g. long-distance wildlife migration patterns, shifting climate patterns, species, and habitat shifts) that can only be observed by collecting information across large landscapes; 2) to provide individual programs with the opportunity to address shared needs, while reducing duplication of effort and leveraging limited capacity and resources; 3) to support and strengthen community-based monitoring programs, which are led and/or implemented by Indigenous communities, while fostering collaboration with agency and academic partners.

Tribes and First Nations Climate Summit - Staff and funds from the North Pacific LCC helped support a 2019 Tribes and First Nations Climate Change Summit in July in Spokane, WA. This summit convened leaders from Tribes and First Nations throughout the Pacific Northwest and North America to advance tribal climate change policy and action. The Summit focused on tribal climate change resiliency, protecting and applying Traditional Knowledges in climate change initiatives, and implementing a unified tribal climate change policy agenda. Details regarding the summit can be found on the ATNI Tribes and First Nations Climate Summit website.

Today’s conservation challenges demand collaborative efforts at the landscape scale. Nowhere is that more evident than across the northernmost regions of North America where the impacts of climate change are rapid and accelerating. The broad partnerships established as part of the LCC Network in Alaska and northwestern Canada are continuing to identify and pursue adaptive strategies in response to their changing environment.

Photo Credit
ShoreZone, Flickr
December 16, 2019