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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.

Read the Release | Read the Report (Web) (Print) | Read the Project Summary

Colorado 012.jpgAmerica 2050 is calling on landscape conservation practitioners and interested citizens to take the Landscape Conservation Tools Survey. The survey is intended to inform our efforts to create web tools for people working to protect and conserve large natural areas of open space, scenic beauty, historic significance, or wildlife habitat. The survey includes a list of questions to gauge how people might use a large landscape web portal and should take less than five minutes to complete.

The partners in this effort include: America 2050, Regional Plan Association, The Trust for Public Land, the University of Montana's Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and other members of the Practitioners' Network for Large Landscape Conservation, who are looking at ways to facilitate landscape conservation through on-line tools and websites. 

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Even in the damp northeastern United States, water is a precious resource. Whether it's to protect human health, sustain wildlife populations, or to support recreational opportunities, more than two thirds of the initiatives in an inventory of landscape conservation initiatives have protecting water resources as a priority.

To help understand how landscape initiatives are addressing water issues in the 13 state Northeast Megaregion, Regional Plan Association and America 2050 have compiled federal, state, and private information about water quality for inclusion in our Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas.

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Nature does not respect political boundaries, which is why landscape initiatives working across jurisdictions have been successful at conserving critical habitat. Landscape conservation initiatives protect the health of ecosystems by ensuring that core habitat needs are met, by providing corridors for movement and migration, and by helping to coordinate management. State wildlife action plans and other federal and state policies have stressed the need for landscape-scale planning to implement their recommendations. Pennsylvania's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy underscores the importance of forest landscapes for critical habitats:

Where large areas of contiguous, high-quality forest habitat remain, forest-dependent species may reproduce at high rates, creating a large population surplus on a yearly basis. On the other hand, forest species occupying highly fragmented forests, especially those in an agricultural or developed landscape, may have lower reproductive rates as a result of the effects of predators and nest parasites. Area-sensitive species may not occupy these patches at all (12-25).

To help understand how landscape initiatives are addressing habitat priorities in the 13 state Northeast megaregion, Regional Plan Association and America 2050 have compiled federal, state, and private information about habitat priorities for inclusion in our Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas

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Access to outdoor recreation has never been more difficult - or more needed. According the recent America's Great Outdoors (AGO) report, one out of three acres of urban land in the United States was developed between 1982 and 2007. It's no wonder that the AGO report finds that today's youth spend half as much time as their parents did outdoors. For the residents and visitors to the densely populated northeastern United States, landscape conservation can help secure meaningful outdoor experiences by offering close to home recreation and by protecting distinct landscapes that reflect the nation's natural and cultural heritage.

To help understand how landscape initiatives are addressing open space and recreation issues in the 13 state Northeast Megaregion, Regional Plan Association and America 2050 have gathered information about available open space in the Northeast for inclusion in our Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas. This information is being used to understand how landscape conservation initiatives can keep land open for recreation. We have identified over 165 landscape conservation initiatives. More than 110 of these initiatives have identified recreation and tourism as a priority.

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Regional Plan Association and America 2050 have added Agriculture and Forestry resource maps to our Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas.  Over the past several months, we have undertaken a major GIS-based mapping and research project to help the over 160 landscape conservation initiatives in our inventory succeed. With help from state agencies and other key stakeholders, we have created maps that reflect priority areas for conservation of important natural resources.  We have produced maps for the following resources:

  • Agriculture & Forestry
  • Water
  • Habitat
  • Open Space
  • Stewardship

Our Agriculture and Forestry resource maps show areas where food and fiber is an important part of the local economy, and where preservation of working farms and forests is a critical conservation concern. Map 1 shows the most important agricultural and forest lands in the Northeast, according to state agencies and the US Forest Service.  Map 2 shows the counties with the strongest agriculture and timber economies.  Map 3 identifies prime agriculture and forest land according to the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Click to see metadata

Regional Plan Association and America 2050 have published urban growth projections for the Northeast Megaregion through 2040. These maps are part of our Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas, a larger mapping effort to help landscape initiatives succeed in their conservation efforts.

Based on our growth projections, we know that development of new urban and suburban acres will proceed in many metropolitan areas of the northeast at an unprecedented pace and intensity.  The long-term health of critical wildlife habitat, water resources, agriculture and forestry economies, and recreational areas are all at stake. 

While landscapes will be challenged by urban growth on many fronts, landscape initiatives offer an important platform for addresses these challenges.  Landscape initiatives work across jurisdictions, which is often the necessary scale for implementing smart growth policies, and their members tend to think systematically about managing ecological and watershed processes.  

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Over the next generation, the 13-state Northeast Megaregion is expected to grow by 26%, adding about 18 million residents. To assess the implications of this change for landscape conservation, Regional Plan Association and America 2050's Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas now includes maps showing historic and current land use, and projections of future urban growth in the Northeast Megaregion through 2040.