December 2019 - In This Issue:
© Erin Witham
News from Staying Connected

Dear SCI partners and supporters,

Last month, along with many SCI partners, I attended the Regional Conservation Partnership Network Gathering in Amherst, Massachusetts. This was the tenth year that the network has brought together folks committed to collaborative conservation from New England and beyond. As you may know, SCI is a part of this peer learning network. In attendance at the Gathering were Regional Conservation Partnership (RCP) members, land trust representatives, planners, researchers, funders, students, and others interested in collaborative conservation and climate change solutions. The theme of the Gathering was "Natural Climate Solutions for All" and the workshops provided many opportunities to learn about creative and innovative climate solutions that RCP's are using. In addition, I had the opportunity to attend workshops on the economic case for conservation, strategies to engage landowners and communities, and trends in conservation funding.

It was a fulfilling day of learning, but for me the moment that stood out the most was when Bill Labich opened the conference by telling the story of the RCP Network gathering and how it has grown over the years. When the first group was gathered ten years ago, around thirty people came together to share ideas and strategies. This year there were nearly 400 people in attendance. As I learned more about the past projects of the network of conservation collaborators, I was struck by the expansive power of partnership work. I know that many of you have similar stories to share about the origins of collaborative projects and partnerships which have developed far beyond your initial vision. It was a good reminder that you can never know how far an idea will go. What can start as a small group of passionate people can grow to a movement. 

So, please enjoy these exciting success stories from our Staying Connected Initiative network and imagine the possibilities still to come.

Erin Witham
A New Linkage for SCI: Connecting to the South 

This month, SCI's steering committee voted unanimously to add a new linkage area to the partnership to connect the Northern Appalachians to the Central Appalachians. The new area is in the Mohawk Valley, between the Catskill Mountains and Adirondack Park in New York. 

Staying Connected Initiative partners, under the leadership of The Nature Conservancy's Adirondack Chapter, are working with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy to identify areas of connectivity importance and long-term conservation goals to restore and sustain connectivity in this region. In addition, students from the University of California's Bren School will provide mapping support, using a least-cost pathway analysis of the linkage area in early 2020. 

We look forward to updating our partners as work in this important linkage blossoms in 2020 and beyond! 
The red arrow indicates the general area of SCI's new linkage.
(Map created by Dan Coker, The Nature Conservancy)

© The Nature Conservancy
Rapid Assessment for Terrestrial Passage

A protocol for rapidly surveying bridges and culverts to understand how easily wildlife can pass through is now completed and fully integrated into the North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative website . Nearly 200 road-stream crossings in Massachusetts and New Jersey have been surveyed with this protocol, and a users' guide is available for those looking to use this protocol. 

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is using these data in their online project management system, so that contractors working on culverts and bridges that are key for wildlife passage will have information about how to maintain or improve wildlife passage during their work. A final report in February 2020 will use the terrestrial passage surveys to summarize the permeability of road segments in western Massachusetts to wildlife, and may be a useful tool for other SCI Linkages and states.  For more information, contact Laura Marx  at The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.
© Irwin Barrett
Grant for Collaborative Planning in the Chignecto Isthmus Linkage

Conservation organizations working in the Chignecto Isthmus linkage have received a grant from the Community Nominated Priority Places fund - part of the Government of Canada's Nature Fund. The two-year grant recognizes the deep community of conservation players and strong community support for conservation in the region, which is a critical connectivity corridor, home to noteworthy species at risk populations, and part of a heavily used migration route for waterfowl and shorebirds. 

The funding will bring partners together to advance collaborative planning, with goals of developing a shared plan of action and improving coordination in delivering conservation programs. The planning will be guided by the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation and will help identify a broad suite of conservation strategies for the region. For more information, contact Craig Smith at Nature Conservancy of Canada in Nova Scotia.
Wildlife Crossings Planned in the Three Borders Linkage 

In 2013, with the announcement of an upgrade from two to four lanes on Highway 85 in the Quebec portion of the Three Borders linkage area, Two Countries, One Forest took on the challenge of incorporating connectivity into the road design. Leveraging funds from Transports Québec, researchers from the University of Quebec at Rimouski modeled  the best locations for wildlife corridors and road crossings. These efforts have resulted in the integration of wildlife crossing considerations in the road construction design plans. 
©  Miryam Leclerc

At a recent press conference, Transports Québec confirmed that the new construction will include eight crossings for large mammals and fourteen crossings for small mammals. The designs and technical details for the crossings will be shared in the future. Construction should be completed in 2025. 

From the outset, local and regional stakeholders have been engaged in understanding the importance of connectivity in the region, learning about results of the research. Now, spearheaded by SCI partner Horizon-Nature Bas-Saint-Laurent, stakeholders are engaged in conserving land in the corridors connecting to the wildlife crossings. The work achieved in the Three Borders area has been recognized as a connectivity conservation success by the Canadian government's Pathway to Target 1 Connectivity Working Group.  Questions? Contact Louise Gratton .
Route 100 Crossing © The Nature Conservancy
$500,000 Investment for Connectivity in Vermont 

Vermont's Route 100 connects visitors and residents to some of the state's most beautiful landscapes. It also bisects a forested landscape, including the last remaining corridor connecting the Green Mountains and Worcester Range. The Shutesville Wildlife Corridor Partnership is focused on this region surrounding Route 100 near the Waterbury-Stowe town line, which includes one of the most important wildlife crossing areas in the state of Vermont. 

Three of the partnership's members -  Stowe Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, and Vermont Land Trust  - along with dedicated community members have raised $500,000 to permanently protect three to five key properties in this critical area.

The first project to launch the collaborative effort was the purchase of a 10-acre parcel whose significance is measured by geography rather than size. The Lackey tract is one of the few remaining undeveloped parcels with frontage on highly traveled and fast developing Route 100.  In addition, the Stowe Land Trust is actively working with the Trust for Public Land on the Hunger Mountain Headwaters project to conserve a 109-acre property nestled up against the Worcester Range in Stowe, and an additional 1,800 acres in Middlesex and Worcester. Both properties will be added to the adjacent C. C. Putnam State Forest and will add quality forested habitat on the eastern edge of the wildlife corridor.
Completion of Wildlife Connectivity Plan Connecting Adjacent Ecoregions to the Northern Appalachians 

Map showing the Connect the Coast region.

The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire and the Great Bay Resource Protection Partnership, in partnership with over 15 contributing organizations, are excited to announce the completion of a wildlife connectivity plan that identifies priority landscape connections between the North Atlantic Coast and Lower New England - Northern Piedmont ecoregions to the Northern Appalachians. 

Titled Connect The Coast , this project drew from conservation science and planning from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont to Northern New Hampshire Linkage of SCI. The project identifies a network of connecting lands that are a priority for maintaining regional opportunities for wildlife to move across the landscape, especially in the face of continuing habitat loss and a changing climate.  The project team focused on meeting movement needs of upland species like bobcat, fisher, and New England cottontail, as well as river and wetland associated species like otter, Blanding's and spotted turtles. 

Connect The Coast also identifies priority wildlife road crossings to enhance wildlife passage and improve safety for motorists. The project's final report  includes instructions for viewing Connect The Coast mapping online using the NH Coastal Viewer, and includes links to downloadable PDF maps of project results for each town within the project area.  For more information, contact Pete Steckler at The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire.
Ten Connectivity Projects Funded in Quebec 

La Fondation de la faune du Québec has approved $382,500 for ten projects to enhance habitat connectivity in Quebec. Faune-Forêt and Agir pour la faune provided support for the project with additional funding from the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks.

Approved projects are within five areas targeted by Quebec's Ecological Corridors project, including SCI's Northern Green Mountains and Three Borders linkage areas. Among the projects is funding for SCI partner Appalachian Corridor to establish a data collection method to document roadkill along a priority segment of Highway 10. The information obtained will support identification of measures to improve safe wildlife movement across the highway.

The Ecological Corridors project aims to mobilize woodlot owners, regional county municipalities, municipalities, local stakeholder networks, and citizens to protect the connectivity areas and counter the effects of climate change on biodiversity. Nature Conservancy of Canada, Nature-Action Québec, Appalachian Corridor, Éco-corridors laurentiens, the  Conseil régional de l'environnement du Centre-du-Québec and Horizon-Nature Bas-Saint-Laurent are the main implementing organizations, in collaboration with the Staying Connected Initiative. For more information, contact Annabelle Avery at  La Fondation de la faune du Québec.
New Conservation Science Assessment for the Northern Appalachians

Earlier this year, Two Countries, One Forest (2C1Forest) released a study, titled Rapid Assessment of New Conservation Science in the Northern Appalachian-Acadian Ecoregion . This new analysis builds on a 2008 2C1Forest report,  Priority Locations for Conservation Action , which identified key areas warranting protection based on their ecological importance and vulnerability to development. The information developed in 2008 has been used in the last decade by non-profit organizations, government agencies, and others to make the case for conservation and protection both locally and regionally. It has also served as a springboard for the implementation of much new conservation work on the ground, including in areas necessary to maintain connectivity among large blocks of
Northern Green Mountains   © Conrad Reining
intact habitat.  

The new report, authored by Dr. Karen Richardson and Dr. Wynet Smith, has three core objectives:

1) Synthesize key conservation challenges and opportunities that have emerged in the last decade in the Northern Appalachian-Acadian Ecoregion;
2) Provide an overview of what new conservation science tells us about the ecoregion;
3) Recommend conservation priorities and next steps that 2C1Forest and partners can undertake.  

This work was funded by the Open Space Institute. An executive summary of the study is available on the 2C1Forest website, together with a full analysis.
Upcoming Events

May 11-14, 2020:   International Association of Landscape Ecology-North America Annual Meeting, Toronto, Ontario. Theme of conference: "Landscape Ecology Across Borders."

June 7-11, 2020: Society for Ecological Restoration-North American Conference, Quebec City, Quebec.

June 11-19, 2020:  World Conservation Congress 2020, Marseilles, France.

September 20-23, 2020: Northeastern Transportation and Wildlife Conference, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Call for presentations opening soon!
The Staying Connected Initiative promotes wildlife habitat connections in an increasingly fragmented landscape. This unique cross-border public/private collaboration includes over 65 partners, spanning five northeastern U.S. states and three Canadian provinces, working to ensure that people and wildlife thrive together.