Conservation issues

Aquatic habitat connectivity

Restoring access for anadromous fish (species that migrate between marine and freshwater) to upstream areas for spawning and rearing young is a significant contribution to the improvement of stream health and water quality. Stream barriers such as dams and road crossings prevent native species from moving up and downstream to important habitat.

To restore native fish migration in the Great Lakes tributaries, the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC created a decision support tool that prioritizes fish passage projects across the Great Lakes basin.

Climate change

A recent national news program posed the question, “Will the residents of Kivalina, Alaska be the first climate change refugees in the U.S.?”

The 400 residents of Kivalina depend on marine mammals for subsistence. They are already encountering difficulty obtaining seals, walrus and whales due to changes in the thickness and timing of freeze-up and thawing of the ice pack. Fall storms that used to blow harmlessly across a frozen sea now bring pounding waves and storm surges that threaten to flood the village. Scientists predict that Kivalina could fall below sea level as soon as 2025.

Wind farm

Energy development and landscape-scale conservation are not mutually exclusive activities. LCC partners can support science and stakeholder forums to help minimize risks to fish and wildlife while improving certainty for energy developers.

For example, the Appalachian Mountains are a landscape filled with globally significant biological diversity and cultural resources that provides essential benefits to large cities and surrounding human communities. The region is also rich in energy resources that meet national and regional demands for energy. As wind, natural gas and oil energy development expand along with traditional coal, there is an increasing need for research to inform discussions on how to meet immediate and future energy needs while sustaining the health of natural systems. 

Satellite image of the Gulf of Mexico

Midwestern states within the Upper Mississippi River watershed currently contribute the greatest nutrient load to the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone. Often called “dead zones,” hypoxic areas have oxygen levels that can decrease to the point where the zone can no longer support living aquatic species. High concentration of nutrients — particularly nitrogen and phosphorous — is one of the major events that contribute to Gulf hypoxia.

To reduce water quality impacts downstream to fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, the conservation community identified the need for tools that prioritize the design and configuration of actions that appeal to upstream agricultural communities. As a result, the Mississippi River Basin/Gulf Hypoxia Initiative (MRB/GH) was created.

Conservation Blueprint workshop

Landscape Conservation Design (Design or LCD) is of broad importance for achieving the goals of the Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) Network. The LCC Network has developed an LCD definition, eight key characteristics of LCC Design, and an interactive Mapper to explore the 26 LCC-Supported Designs underway.

Male greater sage grouse photo

LCCs work collaboratively with federal and state agencies, industries, non-governmental organizations and private landowners to address the conservation of declining species in priority landscapes. State fish and wildlife agencies, in particular, play a key role in providing expertise to identify the specific management needs of species, priority areas to do this work and receptive landowners.

LCC capacity helps to support pre-listing conservation by:

Photo of expansive sagebrush landscape

The sage-steppe is one of the largest ecosystems in North America and is highly imperiled. It’s home to more than 350 western wildlife species including big game, sagebrush obligates, migratory song birds and rare fish.  

Historically, conservation of the sage-steppe has not been a high priority because of its wide geographic distribution, relative remoteness, lack of dramatic scenery and its perception as a “working landscape.” Yet, the recent documentation of greater and Gunnison sage-grouse population declines has focused long-needed attention to the landscape.

Research now clearly shows that degradation in the quality, integrity and connectivity of sage-steppe habitat is the primary mechanism for sage-grouse declines. This habitat decline also impacts a host of other species and ecosystem services in the interior west.

Photo of a melting glacier

Along the Pacific coast, rising sea levels, shifting precipitation patterns, erosion and changing frequency and intensity of storms are threatening the landscape and seascape and the people, fish, wildlife and plants that depend upon them.

The U.S. Geological Survey Climate Science Centers, with support from the California and North Pacific LCCs, is modeling sea level rise to help develop adaptation strategies across the Pacific coast to provide valuable ecosystem services such as filtering pollutants from water and buffering cities from storm surge and flooding.

Photo of a leopard frog

State Wildlife Action Plans are blueprints for wildlife conservation within individual states and are revised every ten years. A wealth of regionally focused information exists that could be incorporated into the revision process if synthesized and made accessible. Additionally, recognizing that species-ranges, -habitats, and -threats cross state borders, linking shared priorities and efforts will lead to greater efficacy of conservation actions.

Urban conservation

The Eastern Tallgrass Prairies and Big Rivers LCC and the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC developed the Ecological Places in Cities (EPiC) program to form an interconnected network of cities and landscapes where people live in harmony with nature. The mission is to provide people living in cities with resources to harmonize people, wildlife, natural, and working landscapes and to cultivate the love of life and living systems. The overarching goals of EPiC are to

Mountain vista

That's how we see it. Occasional views and commentary on landscape conservation and the importance of collaboration in sustaining natural and cultural resources for generations to come.