The Biden administration has proposed a bold conservation agenda to address biodiversity, environmental justice, and climate change. Through an Executive Order and the subsequent “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful” report, the administration proposes an unprecedented and visionary response to the current environmental crises. However, this guidance does not detail how the principles, priorities, and objectives outlined in the report will be implemented.
The Center for Large Landscape Conservation and the Alaska Conservation Foundation have provided a potential roadmap for how to operationalize and achieve these ambitious goals through a national framework for landscape conservation. This roadmap, a report entitled “Build Back a Better National Landscape Conservation Framework,” was crafted by experts with decades of experience in collaborative landscape conservation. They assert that connecting regional, collaborative conservation partnerships through a nationwide network will be essential to accomplish the country’s conservation goals.
“Ecosystems transcend political and geographic boundaries. Collaborative landscape conservation moves beyond piecemeal conservation of individual parcels and towards a comprehensive, integrated approach that is capable of sustaining connected ecosystems and healthy communities.”Gary Tabor, President, Center for Large Landscape Conservation
The National Landscape Conservation Framework report lays out a new national structure for supporting inclusive and science-based landscape collaboratives that can achieve locally led conservation outcomes at scale. It includes specific policy recommendations for coordinating and funding a national network of landscape conservation partnerships.
The Department of Interior used to coordinate such a program through the Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) Network—a structure to integrate existing landscape partnerships across the nation to sustain natural and cultural resources in the face of climate change and other threats. However, in 2017, with the transition to a Trump administration, the LCC Network lost much of its institutional and funding support.
“There is currently no national framework in place that can collaboratively and holistically address pressing 21st century landscape conservation challenges,” says John Mankowski, co-author of the report and past coordinator of the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Collaborative. “With a new support system in place, we could take what we learned through the former LCC structure and build an even better and more inclusive conservation framework that can endure for generations to come.”
A common element in the report’s recommendations is the importance of providing institutional support for bottom-up conservation approaches and positioning communities at the heart of landscape conservation. It stresses the crucial need to bring together a full range of stakeholders, including Tribes, private landowners, private industry, nonprofits, and local, state, and federal agencies to tackle conservation challenges.
“Successful landscape conservation will involve bringing new voices to conservation and stitching together place-based, community-supported conservation efforts,” says Aaron Poe, network program officer for the Alaska Conservation Foundation. “It is essential that a broad range of people participate in planning for and investing in the future of the places where they live, work, and recreate.”