January 2021 - In This Issue:
Mont Pinacle © C. Daguet
News from Staying Connected

Dear SCI partners and supporters,

As always, I am grateful for the opportunity to share these stories of connectivity success with you. It is exciting to see in these stories the theme of SCI partners turning connectivity science and data into action. While there is always so much more to research and learn, our partners also are able to make science based decisions right nowMore and more, through collaborative and cross-boundary efforts, we have the tools we need to target our efforts. 

In a time of crisis, where there are many additional economic and social stressors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, having the knowledge of where to spend resources in already identified key linkages or habitat cores allows us all to get more done. With federal conservation efforts beginning and underway in both the Canada and the US, such as Canada's Pathway to Target 1 commitment and the new Biden Administration's commitment to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, there will be many opportunities to further share the knowledge of landscape connectivity that the SCI partnership brings, through our protection, policy, land use planning, and transportation solutions.

Core to our partnership is the commitment of partners to share successes and challenges, and plan collaboratively for the future. While we will not be gathering in person this year, please mark your calendars for the SCI all partners virtual gathering May 18 and 19, 2021. As we will be meeting virtually, registration for the event will open closer to the event. Until then, I hope you find ways to enjoy the many outdoor experiences winter has to offer. 

Best Wishes,

Erin Witham

This month, the Government of Canada announced a $1.07-million investment over four years for the conservation of species at risk in the Northern Green Mountains of southern Quebec. These funds were granted to Appalachian Corridor who in turn announced the establishment of an innovative collaborative group to advance conservation efforts in the region. This unique regional working group includes: Réseau de milieux naturels protégés, Conseil de gouvernance de l'eau des bassins versants de la rivière Saint-François, Organisme de bassin versant de la Yamaska, Fondation SETHY, QuébecOiseaux, Conservation de la Nature Canada and the Granby Zoo

Bicknell's Thrush © Richard Guillet
Adjacent to the Canada-US border, the natural region of the Northern Green Mountains includes large, wooded areas and distinguishes itself with a particularly high concentration of lakes and wetlands. This region is also part of a SCI linkage area. 

The vast southern Quebec region is home to close to two-thirds of all species inventoried in Quebec. The main threats to critical habitat of species of concern in the Northern Green Mountains natural area are destruction, fragmentation, and degradation of natural environments; increased recreational activities; expansion of the road network; overexploitation of resources; increased presence of invasive species and certain problematic native species; agricultural activities; and climate change. 

For the coming years, these organizations will work collaboratively to share best practices; monitor key species at risk; protect key natural areas; support municipalities in their efforts to promote connectivity and adaptation to climate change; and host various educational and awareness-building activities to emphasize the importance of conservation in adaptation to climate change. 

For more information, contact Marie-Hélène Thibeault

Map of the Resilient and Connected Network with red circle indicating the focus area of the grant program © The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy in New York has launched the Resilient and Connected Network Grant Program to support protection work by land trust partners aimed at furthering connectivity goals. This is a pilot program with a goal of increasing protection of key connectivity areas in the Resilient and Connected Network of lands identified by scientists at The Nature Conservancy.

For New York's Resilient and Connected Network Grant program, grants of up to $25,000 will be awarded for projects within SCI linkages in New York as well as additional areas that help connect the Northern Appalachians/Acadian ecoregion to the Central Appalachians to the south, and across the Saint Lawrence Valley to the north. These grants are intended to help Land Trust Alliance accredited partners with both fee title and easement protection as well as to support planning and capacity needs. Initial grants will be awarded this spring. The Nature Conservancy hopes to be able to expand on this pilot program in the coming years. For more information, contact Matt Levy.
Connectivity Opportunity in the Chignecto Isthmus Linkage

"He bought the land because he loved those wild woods & the wild animals that live there, and wanted to protect the land from development. Now it is on me to decide how to protect the wilderness land forever. The Nature Conservancy of Canada seems to be the perfect steward." - Dr. Monika Caemmerer, Hans Caemmerer's daughter 
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is currently pursuing an opportunity to increase the amount of protected land on the Chignecto Isthmus. A landowner is prepared to donate 566 hectares (1,400 acres) which will connect existing NCC lands conserved for wildlife movement on the Ithsmus. Dr. Monika Caemerrer is donating the land to NCC in memory of her father, Hans Caemmerer. The property was identified as a high priority for conservation within NCC's  conservation planning efforts in Nova Scotia. This project will build on the significant habitat protection currently underway in the Chignecto Isthmus in Nova Scotia and in neighbouring New Brunswick.

The land includes Acadian forest species typical of the Chignecto Isthmus, including a diverse mix of forest stand types and ages. Little Duck Lake and significant amounts of shoreline on both Big Duck Lake and the Portage Lakes will also be protected by this donation. The property provides habitat for many species, including species at risk (Olive-sided Flycatcher & Canada Warbler), migratory waterfowl, and mainland Moose.

Learn more about NCC's work in the Chignecto Isthmus here.

Richard Bostwick in the field © Maine DOT
At the 2020 Northeastern Transportation and Wildlife Conference (NETWC), Richard Bostwick, a Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) Biologist, was awarded the NETWC Lifetime Achievement award in recognition of his professional contributions to transportation ecology and habitat connectivity in the state of Maine and beyond. 

Since Richard began at MaineDOT in 1984, he has been an integral part of the environmental process for many large projects including Sears Island and Verona Bridge in Bucksport, Augusta's Third Bridge, Route 180 Bypass in Ellsworth, and the Route 9 "airline" reconstruction. Throughout his career, Richard has been a wildlife advocate, collaborating with Maine Audubon, Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Staying Connected Initiative. 

Richard's excellence in the environmental field has awarded him many kudos including the 2011 Exemplary Ecosystems Initiative award for the Gorham Bypass Wildlife Passage and the 2015 Environmental Excellence award for his work on ARC Animal Road Crossing. The Northeastern Transportation and Wildlife Conference was the perfect (virtual) venue to celebrate Richard's many accomplishments within the fields of transportation ecology and habitat connectivity.

 Congratulations to Richard!
Efforts to Implement Resolution 40-3

Screen capture of the interactive map of projects from the ecologicalconnectivity.com web platform
Resolution 40-3 was signed by the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG/ECP) over four years ago, and since then a group of government representatives from all 11 jurisdictions of the region (now referred to as the Ecological Connectivity Working Group - ECWG) have developed plan to guide its implementation, with support from various SCI colleagues. A draft final report was created in June 2020 and provided to the Committee on the Environment (COE) for review and consideration. The report discussed progress made regarding collaboration and coordination on the interests of the resolution within and across jurisdictions and with partners, how information related to ecological connectivity conservation is being shared more broadly throughout the region, how current science informs these efforts, and a summary of existing efforts related to transportation projects, land conservation efforts, and land use planning that incorporate considerations for maintaining the connected landscape. Notably, the province of Quebec helped to fund development of a web-based system to share information on this subject that is now administered through McGill University.

The draft report also contained numerous recommendations for how to continue these efforts. In fact, there were so many recommendations that the COE and NEG/ECP expressed a need for further clarification of implications to other state and provincial interests. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual NEG/ECP meeting that had been scheduled to take place in Connecticut in 2020 was cancelled. Despite these challenges, the COE was clear about its continued support of the Resolution and directed the ECWG to develop an interim work plan to guide efforts over the next year. This has since transitioned into a directive to develop a new resolution on ecological connectivity with an emphasis on its value to human health and pandemic recovery. In part, this is necessary because the original Resolution has effectively expired and needs to be reauthorized. In addition, some of the Governors and Premiers who supported the original resolution are no longer in office and there is a desire for them to put their own stamp of approval on this important issue. That presents an important opportunity to keep the spotlight on this important issue for SCI partners, all the jurisdictions, and others interested in a region-wide approach to maintaining the connected landscape.

For more information, contact John Austin.

In 2019, Maine's Governor and Legislature established the Maine Climate Council, tasked with creating a climate action plan for Maine. The Council - comprised of scientists, industry leaders, bipartisan local and state officials, and engaged citizens - developed a four-year plan to put Maine on a trajectory to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 and at least 80% by 2050. 

Maine Won't Wait, the four-year plan for climate action, was published in December 2020, with a goal of ensuring that Maine's people, industries, and communities are resilient to the impacts of climate change. The Plan outlines eight key strategies based on the work completed by the six working groups and Scientific and Technical Subcommittee over the past year. To read the executive summary, click here. 

In particular relevance to SCI partners, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee published a Scientific Assessment of Climate Change and its Effects in Maine report. Within the scientific assessment report, the chapter on biodiversity highlights the important role of connectivity in protecting biodiversity in Maine. The connectivity recommendations within this report include: 
  • Conserving climate resilient landscapes and strongholds, biogeographically diverse landscapes, wetlands, streams and riparian areas, and the connections among these areas so that species can move unimpeded across the landscape.
  • Promoting habitat connectivity in state planning efforts through practices identified by the Staying Connected Initiative.
For more information about Maine Won't Wait and the Maine Climate Council, visit the Council's website.

Downstream view of the wildlife crossing under US Route 3 in Stratford.
In November 2020, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) completed construction of northern New Hampshire's first wildlife underpass project, a crossing in Stratford. A 5x7-foot box culvert with stream simulation design and a wildlife shelf replaced the previous 4x4-foot box culvert that was perched 4 feet at its outlet. The new crossing is designed to provide safe passage for wildlife and fish.

Throughout the three-year process, The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire (TNC) provided planning and coordination support for this project. TNC monitored species movement through the structure before construction and continues to monitor the site to inform both the success of this project and future projects elsewhere. As shown in the photo collage above, within just a few weeks of the project's completion, the wildlife camera detected wildlife, including mink and raccoon, taking advantage of this new safe passage under US Route 3.

Project funding was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's New England Forest and Rivers Fund, NHDOT, and The Nature Conservancy. For more information contact, Pete Steckler.

The Nova Scotia Ecological Connectivity Network was established to bring together a diverse group of organizations with an interest in connectivity. The network is focused on collaboration between these organizations through information-sharing and relationship-building. It currently includes 20 members from non-governmental organizations, indigenous organizations, federal, provincial, and municipal governments, and academic researchers. 

The network has supported collaboration between projects and has coordinated resources to advance ecological connectivity through creation of wildlife corridors and private land acquisition within the province. Moving forward, the network aims to expand its partnerships and strengthen the ties between current efforts across its membership through connecting projects, information, and resources. For more information, contact Morgan Rice.
Upcoming Events

May 18-19, 2021: SCI All Partner Virtual Retreat For more information, contact Erin Witham.

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.