Report: Large Landscape Conservation Key to Nature Preservation

Thumbnail image for cover_nelandscapes.jpgConservation needs to be approached at the regional level in order to ensure that wildlife habitat, water supplies and working farms and forests throughout the U.S. Northeast are protected for future generations, a new report by Regional Plan Association and America 2050 concludes.

The research examines how landscape conservation initiatives are working across the Northeast to protect vital natural and cultural resources. The report, "Landscapes: Improving Conservation Practice in the Northeast Megaregion," makes recommendations for improving conservation efforts that stretch across city and state boundaries, from addressing governance questions and ensuring adequate financial resources to creating tools for measuring the impact of these regional efforts.

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The findings are the result of a two-year research effort to study how multi-jurisdictional and multi-objective programs are protecting land and water, and addressing the critical challenges to conservation, including urban growth, creation of transportation and energy infrastructure, limited funding and climate change.

As the population grows and development expands, environmental conservation needs to help shape - and not simply react to - decisions about land use and urban infrastructure. Landscape conservation is about taking a holistic approach to managing watersheds and habitats and addressing long-term issues such as climate change. It means looking beyond property and political boundaries.

Protecting natural resources is particularly important in complex geographies like the Northeast, the densely developed area from Maine to West Virginia that is now home to 72 million people. According to the analysis included in the study, the region is expected to add 15 million people by 2040, resulting in the development of an additional three million acres of land. The study examined conservation projects in the 13 states from West Virginia to Maine. The analysis found more than 165 conservation initiatives that have already taken a whole-systems, large landscape approach. The report found that the growing understanding of ecosystem processes, the potential impacts from large scale energy projects, and widespread suburban development have led the conservation community to take a comprehensive approach that stretches across property boundaries and political jurisdictions. These initiatives can serve as models for communities around the U.S. that want to take charge of their future.

To help further the practice of landscape conservation, RPA will be providing funding for qualified non-profit organizations to participate in a peer exchange program in the fall of 2012. The program will pair emerging landscape initiatives with more established projects in a series of workshops across the Northeast.

The full report and the Request for Expressions of Interest to participate in the peer exchange program are available at www.rpa.org/northeastlandscapes/.

The report was produced with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.