Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperatives Envision Their Future

Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperatives Envision Their Future

Partners and staff of the five Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) that span the northern latitudes in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Canada met in Anchorage, Alaska November 1st and 2nd to develop a vision for collaborative conservation in view of declining federal support for LCCs. The meeting was convened by the Alaska Conservation Foundation and attended by 80 representatives from the Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands, Arctic, North Pacific, Northwest Boreal, and Western Alaska LCCs. Participants reflected on the accomplishments of the five LCCs over the past 6 years and explored ways to sustain this important collaboration. The representatives developed strategies for restructuring and broadening support for the LCCs given the Trump administration’s elimination of the Science Applications program from the proposed FY 18 and FY 19 budgets and uncertainty of congressional action on funding levels. Proposed actions include shifting lead responsibility for staffing LCCs from the Fish and Wildlife Service to other federal, state, tribal or nongovernment entities and engaging with foundations and industry to broaden financial support. In spite of the uncertainty surrounding federal support for LCCs, all parties renewed their shared commitment to continued collaboration.

Tongass National Forest

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services established 22 LCCs in 2011 to serve as “self-directed science-management partnerships” designed to inform conservation efforts in response to impacts of climate change and other stressors at a landscape scale. With primary staff support and base project funding through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and variable amounts of participation and funding from other state, federal, tribal, academic, and non-government partners, the LCC network has grown into an important source of science and collaboration essential to addressing conservation challenges that exceed the capacity of individual jurisdictions.

Five of the 22 LCCs span the northern latitudes from the Pacific Northwest to the Canadian High Arctic. Since 2011, over 130 partners in these LCCs have leveraged FWS funds by more than 2:1 to invest $34.5 million and complete over 170 projects that inform conservation actions from northern California to the Northwest Territories in Canada. This work has resulted in outcomes as diverse as re-routing shipping lanes in the Bering Sea to reduce the risk of shipwrecks and oil spills in the Aleutian Islands to understanding the factors leading to the die-off of Alaska yellow cedar over much of the Tongass National Forest.

The President’s 2018 budget proposes to eliminate federal funding for LCCs and calls on others to sustain the partnerships. The House-approved 2018 appropriations bill restores some funding for the LCCs, but with no assurance that the Senate will follow suit, the Alaska Conservation Foundation convened a meeting of the leaders and staff from the five LCCs that include parts of the state to envision a future with reduced federal support.

The objectives of the meeting were to develop a vision and strategies for collaborative conservation aimed at the broad goal of resilient ecosystems and communities in Alaska and Northwest Canada; explore practical options for the work of LCC’s to continue under different funding and institutional structures; and outline a strategic approach that is adaptable, responsive, and attractive to private foundation funders.

Participants began by identifying the core functions of LCCs. These include convening diverse partners in a collaborative approach to landscape-scale problems and leveraging resources. They agreed maintaining the LCCs will require broadening awareness of the importance of their work and accomplishments. Mike Barber, Executive Director of the Alaska Conservation Foundation advised workshop participants about ways to approach private funders and reiterated ACF’s support for the work of the LCCs.

The decision by the Northwest Boreal LCC last year to shift responsibility for coordinating the partnership outside the FWS was cited as an example of a way to maintain momentum if federal funding is cut. The Wildlife Management Institute recently hired a Partnership Director for 2 years to coordinate the NWB LCC. In addition to maintaining the partnership, this new position will focus on broadening financial support for the LCC.

Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, FWS Assistant Director for Science Applications, was encouraged by the workshop discussion. He assured the participants that while the FWS’ role in LCCs is changing, the agency remains committed to working collaboratively with others to address large-scale conservation issues.

At the end of the workshop, the LCC coordinators and WMI’s Partnership Director agreed to work with representatives from each of the five steering committees to build on the large group discussion. Among other things, members of this group will participate in an upcoming meeting of organizations and private funders interested in landscape-scale conservation at the National Conservation Training Center. WMI will be part of that discussion, as well.

Photo Credit
Alan Wu, Flickr
November 15, 2017