Strategic Habitat Conservation
Southeast Region

Landscape conservation through the SHC framework -- Six geographic boundaries, SARP to help step down population and habitat goals

Six geographic boundaries. Credit: USFWS

Six geographic boundaries. Credit: USFWS

Our challenge is conserving America’s fish and wildlife – doing the right conservation in the right places to ensure healthy populations in the face of accelerating climate change and a host of other stressors that complicate our work more than ever before. The answer for us and conservation in the decades ahead is landscape conservation through the strategic habitat conservation framework. We’ll bolster our landscape conservation work through the strategic habitat conservation framework. That’s the tool we’ve established.

The Southeast Region is home to more than 300 threatened and endangered species – more than nearly every other region in the Service. Working with our partners we provide wintering and stopover habitat for migratory birds, some of the most diverse aquatic habitats and species, and boast some of country’s best wildlife-dependent recreation generating more than $30 billion in economic activity annually.

Our work is critically important for the resource, our communities, and those who enjoy the outdoors.

The success our employees have had, and the landmark conservation accomplished by them, gives us the credibility to take another bold step in the way we do our work building on of the wisdom and vision of conservationists like Aldo Leopold and Theodore Roosevelt.

Landscape conservation through the strategic habitat conservation framework will be our compass building on all that we’ve learned through our agency’s storied past. A regional advisory team was established to help us chart a path forward implementing this framework.

As we move to aggressively implement this simple framework with national, regional, and local partners, we are taking steps to implement it in a manageable way. For the Southeast Region, the first step is identifying six geographies that will frame our fish and wildlife conservation work.

They are the Atlantic coast, South Florida and the Caribbean, the East Gulf Coastal Plain, the Central Hardwoods and the Appalachian Mountains together, the Lower Mississippi Valley and the Gulf Coast. These roughly mirror already established joint venture boundaries. For aquatics, we’ll rely on the Southeastern Aquatic Resources Partnership, a fast-growing regional partnership connected to the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. As we step down population objectives in national fish and wildlife management plans as well as recovery plans, refuge comprehensive conservation plans, state wildlife action plans and our climate strategy, these boundary areas will be useful in achieving our conservation priorities and goals.

They are simple, manageable, and already in place with existing partnerships that can be expanded with additional resources as knowledge gaps are identified within this habitat conservation framework. They make sense because the boundaries are widely acknowledged and don’t require us to “reinvent the wheel” wasting valuable time and resources the natural resources we are charged with conserving badly need.

Since many of our partners are already engaged in these partnerships and familiar with how they work, it will be easy to introduce new ones as needs and talents are identified, and we can focus even more on the most compelling conservation challenges of this young century.

Later this month our biologists will be meeting to help us frame our activities within these six geographic areas.

This framework will help us build on the success to date of these partnerships. It will help us fill gaps that have so far kept us from achieving even greater conservation benefits. Even in the Lower Mississippi Valley, the absence of expertise and capability in key areas has hindered biologists in this area from achieving every goal they have set.

Through partnerships in these areas like SARP and our joint ventures – some new and many already in place – we will provide leadership, coordination, and technical support. Collectively, our employees working with partners will expand existing capacity to fill gaps in our planning, conservation design, delivery, monitoring and research needs. The goal is to empower our employees to move aggressively to enhance our capability and expertise to achieve broad, landscape-level conservation across the Southeast.

Managers will dedicate funding and expertise from across various resource programs in the Service to complement the same resources available from our partners. Within these boundaries, we intend to refine our priorities to focus on population and habitat objectives for fish and wildlife.

Finally, we intend to work with neighboring regions even more to expand our ability to meet population objectives through this framework.

Our history: A legacy of conservation innovation and leadership, common sense solutions, and vast experience. The result over time: Conservation partnerships and solutions that work and foster healthy fish and wildlife populations.

Our experience coupled partnership and common sense has helped this agency make a long-lasting difference for fish and wildlife and helped make the Fish and Wildlife Service one of the premier conservation organizations. Landscape conservation through this innovative framework will help us do the right conservation in the right places to benefit America’s fish and wildlife.

To find out more, visit www.fws.gov/southeast/shc, www.fws.gov/southeast/climate, http://intranet.fws.gov/region4/climate, or http://intranet.fws.gov/region4/shc.

Last updated: December 3, 2012