October 2021 Edition | Volume 75, Issue 10
Published since 1946
RCN Program Adds a New Project to Update Foundational Tools Ahead of the 2025 SWAP Revisions
The Regional Conservation Needs (RCN) grant program has expanded to include a fourth project area focused on documenting advancements made through previous RCN projects for consideration as states begin to develop their next round of State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs). The new RCN Project 4 seeks to examine the landscape status, conservation projects, and best practices established over the past decade of SWAP implementation and create products that will inform all elements of the 2025 Northeast SWAP revisions. Specifically, the new project area will result in updating the three tools that have resulted from the previous RCN projects: the Northeast Lexicon, the Northeast Conservation Synthesis, and the Northeast Conservation Status Assessment.
The RCN grant program was first developed by the Northeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007 as a mechanism to share expertise and funding by northeastern states to address landscape-scale issues, resulting in more effective conservation of species. In 2005, the states completed their first SWAPs which include conservation plans for rare species, hard-to-count species, habitats that cross state boundaries, and/or resources that are conserved most effectively on a regional scale; SWAPs were most recently revised in 2015. By recognizing that numerous elements of individual SWAPs target conservation priorities common to all plans, the purpose of the RCN program is to develop, coordinate, and implement conservation actions that are regional/sub-regional in scope, and that incorporate and build upon the many existing regional initiatives. Participating states agree to pool 4% of their State Wildlife Grant apportionments to fund cooperative projects that impact regional-level conservation and restoration initiatives that extend far beyond state borders.
During the 10 years of the first phase of the RCN program, over $3 million of conservation funds were awarded. Each federal dollar spent was matched by non-federal funding to leverage the conservation spending most effectively. The projects identified shared priority species, habitats, and threats and supported actions more efficiently accomplished through regional coordination. These products have been used as a foundation for RCN 2.0, the second phase of the collaborative work.
The structure of RCN 2.0 has included three foundational projects, each with multiple jobs, designed with regionally consistent tools, planning, and action. The structure of RCN 2.0 is as follows:
Project 1: Turtle Project
Stabilize or increase populations of five priority Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need turtles. These turtle species will be the focus of conservation actions: Blanding’s, Eastern Box, Wood, Spotted Turtles, and Northern Diamondback Terrapins.
- JOB I. Spotted Turtle Conservation
- JOB II. Eastern Box Turtle Conservation Plan
- JOB III. Road Mitigation
- JOB IV. Wood & Blanding's Turtle Conservation
Project 2: Pollinator Project
Restore and enhance habitats, with emphasis on early successional habitats, to benefit native pollinators.
- JOB I. Pollinator Monitoring Protocols
- JOB II. Vegetation Monitoring Protocols
- JOB III. Adaptive Habitat Management & BMPs
- JOB IV. Coordinate Project Team
Project 3: Technical Services
Add new information to the Northeast Regional SWAP Database, to support ongoing collaborative work by states, the Service, and partners.
RCN 2.0 is currently active until February 2023. To date over $900,000 of conservation funds have been spent and over $700,000 matching funds have been contributed.
The three foundational projects have enabled the Northeast Fish and Wildlife Diversity Technical Committee (NEFWDTC), the 14 Northeast wildlife diversity programs, and their SWAPs to inventory a decade of research, survey, and management efforts to identify the most effective actions on the ground, equipping each with cumulative, consistent regional information through the Northeast Lexicon, the Northeast Conservation Synthesis, and the Northeast Conservation Status Assessment.
States are now preparing for the 2025 SWAP revisions. The critical advancements in species and habitat conservation that have occurred through the last 10 years need to be documented and organized so that states can incorporate this work into their revised SWAPs. To achieve this, the RCN program recently added a new foundational project to conduct three investigations by 2023 that are necessary for the 2025 revision of the SWAPs. The structure of the new project to RCN 2.0 is:
Project 4: Update Three Foundational Tools for the 2025 SWAP Revisions
Examine the landscape status, conservation projects, and best practices established over the past decade of SWAP implementation and create products that will inform all elements of the 2025 Northeast SWAP revisions.
- JOB I. Development and production of the 2022 Northeast Lexicon
- JOB II. Development and production of the 2023 Northeast Conservation Synthesis
- JOB III. Development and production of the 2022 Northeast Conservation Status Assessment
Contractors for these jobs for Project 4 have been identified and work started September 1, 2021 and will be completed by the end of RCN 2.0 in February 2023. More information on these projects and the first set of progress reports will be available at RCNgrants.org.