The first goal of the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (NFWPCAS, 2012) is to build and maintain an ecologically connected network of terrestrial, coastal and marine conservation areas that are likely to be resilient to climate change and support a broad range of fish, wildlife and plants under changing conditions. Pursuant to this goal, the President's Interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience's Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America's Natural Resources (Priority Agenda, 2014), called for federal agencies to work with states, tribes and other partners to select flagship geographic regions and identify priority areas for conservation, restoration, or other investments to build resilience in vulnerable regions, enhance carbon storage capacity, and support management needs. It also directed the agencies to work with their partners to identify and map an initial list of priority areas within each of the selected geographic landscapes or regions.
To realize this directive, in 2015, Federal agencies working together with states, tribes, and other partners, identified seven Resilient Lands and Waters Partnerships across the country. These partnerships built upon existing efforts to conserve and restore important lands and waters in discrete geographies and make them more resilient to a changing climate. Each showcases the benefits of landscape-scale management approaches and serves to demonstrate diverse approaches to working with stakeholders to identify priority areas for conservation, restoration, and management actions.
This report summarizes the experiences of each of the seven partnerships during 2015-2016 and highlights some key challenges, lessons learned, and recommendations to carry forward this method of large landscape-scale conservation planning. The challenges and lessons learned from the partnerships are organized in to three major themes: building relationships and balancing competing needs; information to address the complexity of conservation needs and efforts; and resource limitations. This report also highlights many of the dynamic maps and tools that the partnerships have produced to help them identify priority conservation areas and actions in their landscapes.
The Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative was shaped by input from the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience's Climate and Natural Resources Working Group, an interagency working group that developed the Priority Agenda, with support from the Department of the Interior (DOI), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies. All seven of the partnerships represent existing collaborations among federal, state, tribal, and local partners. The partnerships were chosen for their exemplary collaborations, diverse suite of approaches to planning for climate resilience, existing resources, feasibility of meeting the charge within the timeframe, and range of scales, geographies, and ecological stressors. The Initiative is currently supported by a DOI-NOAA Steering Committee with support from the NFWPCAS Joint Implementation Working Group (JIWG). The substantial progress made thus far could not have been achieved by any single agency or organization. The range of partners that make up these landscapes have contributed greatly to the initiative's success and will continue to play a critical role in future activities.
The Resilient Lands and Water Initiative consisted of seven partnerships that worked to increase climate resilience at the landscape scale. Just as the landscapes involved varied from the coral reefs of Hawai'i to the Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes, so too did the approaches each partnership took to meet the Initiative's goals. Some built off one agency's ongoing planning process, while others were led by multi-agency and stakeholder collaborations such as the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs). Likewise, some partnerships used this initiative to help drive new goals and products, while others incorporated the Initiative's task into their existing planning frameworks and outcomes. The products and outcomes from this initiative are as diverse as the landscapes themselves. While they all identified priority areas and produced science-based mapping tools, the format each took was tailored to the needs of their respective partnership.
The following sections highlight some of challenges, lessons learned, and recommendations from across the Initiative. The partnerships have clearly demonstrated that by working together, across diverse landscapes and political boundaries, collective groups can identify and prioritize conservation actions that can help our natural resources and those who depend on them to become more resilient to a rapidly changing world. It is hoped that many of the successes and lessons learned by this Initiative will help guide future efforts, and when feasible, be incorporated into other efforts around the Nation to make natural landscapes more resilient to climate change.