Landscape Conservation Cooperatives in the Southwest
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is recalibrating the way we work with others in an environment of increasing complexity and uncertainty, especially because of climate change. Our leading role in Landscape Conservation Cooperatives is a key part of our modernized approach to conservation, called Strategic Habitat Conservation.
LCCs help bring people and resources together for strategic advantage, strengthening the collective impact of the conservation community. There are 22 LCCs across the country, three in the Southwest. Their boundaries are determined by landscape geography and ecology, not government jurisdictions or organizational parameters.
LCCs are self-directed conservation science partnerships with two main functions. The first is to provide the science and technical expertise to support conservation planning at landscape scales—beyond the reach or resources of any one organization. The second function is to promote more effective collaboration among LCC members in defining shared conservation goals. Then LCC partners identify where and how they will take action, within their own authorities and organizational priorities, to best contribute to a broader conservation effort and accomplish more lasting results.
Since LCCs are relatively new, many are in the process of getting fully established and setting up the means for effective coordination. LCCs also are defining shared goals, assessing science needs, pursuing vital research, and developing science applications on-the-ground.
Epitomized by the vast and colorful Southwestern deserts under notoriously vibrant blue skies, the Desert LCC encompasses areas within five states—California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas—and 27 Native American Tribes in the U.S. and portions of 10 states in northern Mexico. Some of the most well-known species in this region are the desert tortoise, Saguaro cactus, pronghorn, golden eagle, and Apache trout. The landscape is comprised of the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan Deserts, including springs, grasslands, shrublands, and isolated mountain ranges known as “sky islands.” Major waterways include the lower Colorado, Gila, San Pedro, and Verde Rivers and the Rio Grande. The Colorado River Basin provides hydropower and municipal water supplies for tens of millions of people and serves as the lifeblood for at least 15 Tribes and more than a dozen of our national public land sites. Major environmental challenges relate to changing climate conditions, such as prolonged drought and higher temperatures, reduced water availability, changes in wildfire regimes, and invasive species. The Desert LCC Steering Committee now includes 26 partners and there are many additional partners involved. To learn more, visit the Desert LCC website.
The Great Plains LCC is at the heart of America’s heartland, featuring lush prairie grasslands dotted with thousands of playas and dozens of saline lakes in parts of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. While temperate grasslands are one of the most altered ecosystems on Earth, these prairies still host more than 2,000 species of native plants and animals. The Great Plains’ playas, or shallow lakes, support 90 percent of the wintering waterfowl in the Texas panhandle. Playa wetlands also recharge the world’s largest aquifer—the High Plains (Ogallala) Aquifer—the most important water source in this region, supporting municipal water supplies and agriculture. Partners have identified several species to focus on conserving, including the whooping and sandhill cranes, lesser prairie-chicken, snowy plover, American bison, Topeka shiner, and American burying beetle. Major environmental challenges are changing climate conditions, especially prolonged drought; habitat loss from various land uses including agriculture; and energy development, such as wind farms. The Great Plains LCC Steering Committee now includes 20 partners and there are many additional partners involved. To learn more, visit the Great Plains LCC website.
From tallgrass prairie to cypress forests to tidal flats, the areas making up the Gulf Coast Prairie LCC boast a bounty of natural assets. This LCC encompasses areas within five states—Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas—and portions of three Mexican states. Several major waterways lace through the Gulf Coast Prairie region, including the lower Rio Grande, Guadalupe, Brazos, Trinity, Nueces, Arkansas, Red, San Antonio, and Mississippi Rivers, as well as some of our nation’s most wildlife-rich wetlands. More than 500 bird species and 300 butterfly species can be found here; well-known species include the endangered Atwater’s prairie chicken, aplomado falcon, and black-capped vireo. Major landscape stressors, including changing climate conditions, pose significant environmental challenges, such as unprecedented drought and reduced water flow in coastal ecosystems and rivers. Other challenges are habitat loss from various land uses including agricultural and urban development, pollution, and invasive species. The Gulf Coast Prairie LCC Steering Committee now includes 17 partners and there are many additional partners involved. To learn more, visit the Gulf Coast Prairie LCC website.
For more information on the Science Applications program and LCCs, please contact:
“The Gulf Coast Prairie LCC helps us deal with stressors on the landscape that most agencies couldn’t handle individually. Our partnership is looking at the landscape as a whole. We’re functioning in a new arena, without being boxed in by organizational boundaries.” --Bill Bartush, Coordinator, Gulf Coast Prairie LCC
“The Great Plains LCC has brought together many partners for a common purpose that have likely never come together before. The benefits to wildlife conservation are already being seen through the application of LCC -funded science to our programs, but also by creating an environment of collaboration and cooperation for future efforts.” --Keith Sexson, Chairman, Great Plains LCC and Assistant Secretary for Wildlife, Fisheries, and Boating, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism