September 2019 - In This Issue:
Looking North on Otter Cove in Acadia National Park
News from Staying Connected

Dear SCI partners and supporters,

After a busy summer season of field work and implementation, I am happy to share with you this collection of stories from around the SCI region.

First, a quick note of introduction. I recently began a new role to provide administrative and communications support for SCI. I will be working closely with Jessie Levine to support her in partnership coordination. I am lucky to be familiar with several of the SCI partners through my work in land conservation in the state of Maine, where I am based. I recently returned to Maine  after I completed a masters degree from UMass-Amherst. I am currently living in the Acadia National Park region (see photo above), also working as the coordinator of the Downeast Conservation Network. You should expect to hear from me as I collect stories, send out this newsletter, and as I begin to update various member resources. 

I am looking forward to building connections with SCI partners and learning about the broad range of on-the-ground work partners are involved in. My career in natural resource protection began with surveying road-stream crossings for fish passage, so I am excited to return to my connectivity roots, this time as a part of a larger network of landscape connectivity stakeholders.

I hope to connect with many of you over the coming months to learn more about the projects and work you are doing in your own organizations as well as learn about the ways the SCI can better support your organization with tools and information sharing across our large and diverse partnership.

Please be in touch with any questions or ideas, I can be reached at  Witham.Erin@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Erin Witham

Securing the Long-Term Financial Future of SCI

This month, SCI's proposal to the Network for Landscape Conservation Catalyst Fund titled "Securing the Long-Term Financial Future of the Staying Connected Initiative" was awarded in full. SCI was one of only 14 recipients from an initial set of 225 proposals!

This grant will enable SCI to undertake an in-depth assessment to identify a long-term, sustainable funding model for the Initiative's core functions. The funds will also support development of a general report summarizing lessons learned and insights for other partnerships seeking to address this critical issue of sustaining landscape conservation collaboration over time. Creating a sustainable funding model for supporting core collaboration activities will be central to SCI's ability to realize a network of connected lands that sustains healthy, resilient wildlife populations across the Northern Appalachian-Acadian ecoregion.
 
Thanks to many of you for your contributions to the successful proposal!

For more information, check out the Network for Landscape Conservation website.
©Alex Abbott
Maine's Stream Crossing Grant Program Going Strong!

After missing a year, Maine's stream crossing upgrade grant program is back on track. Created in 2015 to administer bond funds earmarked to assist municipalities in upgrading culverts that were blocking fish passage, the Stream Crossing Grant Program has already awarded nearly $8 million to upgrade over 100 road/stream crossings across the state of Maine.  

This grant program was the brain child of a group of dedicated partners who also happen to work together as part of the Stream Smart Program. Stream Smart is an outreach program aimed at improving fish and wildlife passage while protecting infrastructure and public safety. Under Stream Smart, state and federal agencies, as well as NGOs like Maine Audubon, landowners, and foresters work together to reconnect aquatic habitat by replacing undersized and poorly constructed road/stream crossings.

The Maine Stream Crossing Grant Program has increased the ability of towns across the state to be a part of that effort. The program is administered by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection as a competitive grant program, with highest marks going to projects that will provide the greatest benefit to fish and wildlife as well as public safety. 

The latest round in the grant program opened on September 9, 2019, and will provide another $2.5 million towards reconnecting Maine's aquatic habitats.  For more information on the grant program, visit the Maine Department of Environmental Protection culvert grant page, and for more information on Stream Smart, go to  streamsmartmaine.org
Development of the Ecological Connectivity Platform 

SCI government agency partners are collaborating to create, populate, and launch the  Ecological Connectivity web platform . The platform aims to inventory and present projects designed to maintain or restore ecological connectivity of terrestrial and aquatic landscapes in New England and Eastern Canada. The platform is an initiative of members of the Ecological Connectivity Working Group established in response to Resolution 40-3 on Ecological Connectivity, Climate Change Adaptation and Biodiversity Conservation, adopted by the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG / ECP) in 2016. The platform is new, and adjustments will be made in the coming months. SCI partners are encouraged to contribute to the platform!  Learn more.
©The Nature Conservancy
Culvert Replacement to Provide Fish and Wildlife Passage in New Hampshire

New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) is finalizing construction plans for a culvert replacement project in Stratford, NH that will accommodate both fish and wildlife passage.  The existing culvert is in urgent need of replacement due to current condition. The crossing has a four-foot vertical drop at its outlet so is a complete barrier for fish passage. The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) wildlife camera monitoring has found it to be a well-used passage under US Route 3 for weasels, mink, otter, and raccoons. We had hoped to construct the project in 2019 but the federal government shutdown set the project schedule back; construction is now scheduled for 2020.

This wildlife camera photo captures an image of a mink ice climbing up the 4-foot perched outlet at project site last winter. The replacement structure will eliminate the perch, reconnecting habitat disconnected for native brook trout for the first time in many years (TNC estimates 50+ years), and construct a shelf for terrestrial wildlife passage. TNC will monitor species movement through the structure post-construction to understand the effectiveness of the replacement structure for passing a broader suite of species, and to inform culvert replacements for wildlife passage elsewhere. For more information, contact Pete Steckler
Partnership Between Conservation and Forest Management in Quebec 


RESAM is made up of over 28,000 woodlot owners and 39 different forest management groups. Through this partnership with NCC,  woodlot owners will have the opportunity to better understand their critical role in the conservation of animals and plants. With the help of a series of tools, the partnership will engage in collaborative efforts towards maintaining connectivity between natural environments for the survival of wildlife and humans alike, as these natural areas provide countless ecological services. In addition to woodlot owners, this project aims to engage municipalities, local stakeholder networks and citizens to protect connectivity areas and counter the effects of climate change on biodiversity. 

©The Nature Conservancy
Wolcott Floodplain Restoration and Connectivity Project 

An exciting connectivity restoration project across Vermont Route 15 in Wolcott, Vermont is now underway. This project involves a  number of SCI partners in Vermont - including The Nature Conservancy, Vermont Agency of Transportation, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, and Lamoille County Planning Commission - along with the Town of Wolcott. 

The first steps in improving connectivity began with heavy equipment which recently re-directed a small drainage ditch into the floodplain of the Wild Branch to restore floodplain wetlands. In subsequent years, one defunct bridge will be removed from the site, another bridge will be modified to increase its suitability for use by wildlife for moving under VT Route 15, and the entire site will be planted with trees. We anticipate that all work on the site will be completed by the summer of 2021. This project brings connectivity to a  major fragmenting road in an important wildlife area in the Worcesters to Northeast Kingdom linkage. Questions? Contact Paul Marangelo.
Upcoming Events

October 7-10, 2019:  Canadian Parks Conference, Quebec City.

October 17-19, 2019: Land Trust Alliance Rally, Raleigh, North Carolina. 

November 13, 2019:  Regional Conservation Partnership Network Gathering, Amherst, MA. 

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

September 20-23, 2020: Northeastern Transportation and Wildlife Conference, Atlantic City, NJ.
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.