Last week, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a review of the Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) Network that all of us in the LCC Network have been awaiting eagerly. Mostly positive, the report concludes that a landscape approach is needed to meet the nation’s conservation challenges and that LCCs provide a framework for addressing that need.
The NAS review was conducted at the request of Congress to evaluate the purpose, goals, and scientific merit of the LCC program within the context of other similar programs, and to determine whether there has been measurable improvements in the health of fish, wildlife and their habitats as a result of the program.
Recognizing that the LCCs are still relatively new, the Academy’s review panel pointed to many early accomplishments including LCC-funded research and tools that are helping to improve resource management decision-making.
Efforts supported by the North Atlantic LCC and by the Appalachian LCC were among the highlights, including the synthesis of State Wildlife Action Plans for the 13 Northeast states, development of a landscape conservation design for the Connecticut River watershed, and a study to assess future energy development in the Appalachians.
The NAS review found that LCCs are “unique in that no other federal program is designed to address landscape conservation needs at a national scale, for all natural and cultural resources, in a way that bridges research and management efforts.” It also recognized the LCCs’ ability to create opportunities for identifying common conservation goals and leveraging efforts of diverse partners at a much greater scale than any one entity could achieve alone.
The panel identified areas the LCC Network can improve by enhancing coordination with partners around priorities and broadening the evaluation framework to better capture the contributions made by all partners and conservation outcomes at individual and network-wide scales.
They also specifically recommended reviewing other related landscape and habitat conservation efforts, especially the Joint Ventures and the LCCs, to identify opportunities for improved coordination between these efforts.
The National Academy of Sciences review rightfully recommends enhanced coordination with existing habitat conservation efforts and we look forward to exploring opportunities with new partners. The Caribbean LCC works closely with some of the recommended programs such as the USDA Climate Hubs, the USGS Climate Science Centers, and the NOAA Regional Collaboration Team (NOAA in the Caribbean). Other NAS collaboration recommendations, such as the FWS Fish Habitat Partnerships and NOAA RISAs, are not possible at this time as those federal initiatives do not cover Caribbean jurisdictions.
The Caribbean LCC staff started working with the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture a few years ago and released a bird conservation planning effort for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in early 2015. It discusses historical and present habitat threats, conservation opportunities, and management strategies to protect important native and migratory birds in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
The LCC Network will develop an action plan for addressing the recommendations and will provide a “report card” to document progress over the coming year. The National Academy of Sciences’ A Review of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives is available at www.nationalacademies.org.
The Caribbean LCC thanks the NAS panel and staff for their careful review of the LCCs and extends our gratitude to the individuals from the greater conservation community who provided input. The Academy’s recommendations will further help each agency and organization engaged in the Caribbean LCC and the LCC Network to take stock of progress to ensure that, collectively, the program is efficiently and effectively addressing landscape- and seascape-scale conservation priorities using the best science available.