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Featured Voice: Emily Bateson

By Eleanor Mahoney April 27, 2017

Emily M. Bateson is the Coordinator for the Network for Landscape Conservation. Before becoming Coordinator, Emily was the Network Co-Chair, and helped move the collaborative from its early formative stages to a more established, funded, and widespread network with active strategies and specific programs to help advance conservation at the landscape scale.

LLO: How did you become interested in the field of landscape conservation?

Morning in the Adirondacks. Credit: Thomas Cooper

Morning in the Adirondack Mountains, New York State. Credit: Thomas Cooper

Bateson: For me, landscape conservation is much more a matter of logical continuum rather than one recent “ah-ha” moment.

I spent my childhood summers in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States. Protected under the New York State Constitution as “Forever Wild,” about half of the land within the six million-acre “Blue Line” is actually private land and populated hamlets, and the objective is management that sustains both natural and human communities. Founded in 1892, the Adirondack Park is one of the earliest examples of landscape conservation and management in the U.S.

My environmental career started at the New England-based Conservation Law Foundation, where we had a long battle in the 1980s, in and out of the courts, to keep offshore oil drilling out of the Georges Bank fishery off the coast of New England and Canada. I worked with diverse experts and stakeholders, including scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, local fishermen’s associations in New Bedford and Gloucester, MA, recreational interests on Cape Cod and the islands, and our Canadian counterparts to stop the drilling from going forward. This trans-border marine ecosystem was highly valuable ecologically, economically, and culturally, and needed to be managed as an integrated system – all the elements of landscape conservation today. That was when I learned to appreciate the critical need to work at the ecosystem scale, connecting sound science and local communities to environmental planning and policy.

Adirondack Mountain Lake. Credit: Thomas Cooper

Adirondack Mountain Lake. Credit: Thomas Cooper

As I moved on to land-focused New England projects and positions, I cannot think of a single example where working across whole landscapes was not fundamental to long-term success. At CLF, where I was Land Project Director for 16 years, we appealed a 1986 Management Plan for the White Mountain National Forest that looked at biodiversity piecemeal rather than across the whole Forest or across the whole region. Large-scale biodiversity protection was ecologically vital but not common practice at that time (and our appeal was actually before the word “biodiversity” was in use). As a funder at Sweet Water Trust in the 1990s, we worked to help people in New England protect larger and more connected areas based on biodiversity values – key components of landscape conservation and resilience today.

I then co-founded and served as the first director of Two Countries, One Forest, an early landscape conservation initiative founded in 2003 to help connect and protect the 80 million-acre Northern Appalachian/Acadian region in the eastern US and Canada – particularly through conservation of nine key habitat connectivity areas (work that continues to this day through its Staying Connected Initiative).

That initiative broke a “green ceiling,” since U.S. conservation maps (and associated conservation activity) had previously just shown white space above Maine. But the fundamental difference between political and ecological boundaries, the importance of ecological science to conservation planning, and the difference between top-down and collaborative conservation was already clear to me and to many, many others who had worked in conservation for the past 20 years.

LLO: How does landscape conservation differ from other approaches to the protection of places with cultural and ecological significance?

Bateson: The U.S. has a remarkable conservation legacy and impressive ongoing programs and progress. However, the loss of our natural and cultural heritage continues to occur at an alarming rate. The fact is that current programs and traditional, piecemeal conservation is simply no match for the ecosystem scale of the challenges confronting us today. Habitat loss and fragmentation, water scarcity and degradation, climate change impacts, and more threaten the integrated systems upon which human and natural communities depend.

We know today that even our largest protected areas are not big enough or connected enough to protect our ecological and cultural heritage. Conservation at the landscape scale is the practice of people working together – horizontally, not top down – across sectors, cultures, and geographies at the necessary ecosystem scale to conserve and connect our natural and cultural landscapes. This highly collaborative conservation approach embraces the complexity of working across these boundaries, from the urban and suburban environs to our wildest places, and across the public-private land continuum.

Today, more and more people across the country, continent, and the globe are advancing a landscape approach, working together to conserve their local landscapes for clean water, healthy outdoor recreation, climate resilience, sustainable local economies, connected wildlife habitat, cultural heritage, and local sense of place for the generations that follow.

We are erasing the hard lines between protected “versus” populated, and nature “versus” people. The landscape conservation approach recognizes that our natural and cultural landscapes are invaluable, intertwined, irreplaceable, and part of the very fabric of our society.

LLO: Could you provide some examples of how landscape conservation works – what do these types of initiatives look like on the ground and how might they differ based on location and community needs?

Bateson: Although many of the older landscape conservation efforts are regulatory in origin (such as the Adirondack State Park and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) many of the new landscape conservation initiatives are community-grounded, informal efforts. Many of these initiatives are also “nested,” so that an initiative focused on one culturally and geographic appropriate landscape is also part of a larger effort. And a good number have support from the growing number of state and federal programs that recognize achieving regulatory mandates must include support of conservation beyond public land boundaries.

For example: in central Massachusetts, the 500,000-acre North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership, founded in 1997, focuses on conserving “ecologically, historically, and culturally significant lands.” Local municipal leaders, land owners, land trusts, agencies, conservation organizations, and academic partners work together on key activities, including mapping conservation and climate resilience priorities, expanding trail systems, promoting agricultural sustainability, improving conservation zoning, and developing a land acquisition transaction costs regrant program. Together, partners have conserved more than 12,000 acres of high priority lands, attracting far more in federal funding and making a far greater contribution to the future of the region than they ever could have alone.

Although this may appear small in scale to some, the North Quabbin Initiative is also the southern anchor of the equally effective two million-acre Quabbin to Cardigan Partnership that stretches up into the White Mountains of NH. And these two efforts are also part of a larger Network of 45 landscape conservation initiatives or “regional conservation partnerships” that together cover more than 70 percent of New England and increasingly learn from each other and work together on shared regional goals. This scale and structure fit the geography and culture of New England.

In the intermountain west, the Blackfoot Challenge in Montana focuses on conserving the 1.5 million-acre Blackfoot watershed (“Better Rural Communities through Cooperative Conservation Action”). Although the focus may be more on rangelands than the forests and agricultural lands around the North Quabbin, this group is similarly focused on watershed protection and has also had notable success through consensus-based and community-grounded collaborative conservation. They are also nested in larger efforts, including the 18 million-acre Roundtable on the Crown of the Continent and the 2,000-mile long Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) Conservation Initiative. As Executive Director Gary Burnett stated in a recent presentation, “But our watershed is a small place, and we need our neighbors – right across the fence and clear across the county – to sustain our local work and bring it to scale for people, water and wildlife.”

Are there differences across landscape conservation initiatives? Yes, context matters. And despite the similarities between North Quabbin and the Blackfoot Challenge, groups choose different governance structures, conservation priorities, and approaches. For example, The Intertwine Alliance, more than 150 public, private and nonprofit organizations working to integrate nature more deeply into the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region, is wrestling with higher density populations, local urban-specific priorities, and smaller scales than the Blackfoot Challenge. Their strategies and solutions may not look identical.

But I would suggest that there are more similarities than differences. Landscape conservation initiatives are working to achieve conservation that is both locally grounded and regionally significant. They are working, by and large, to look at conservation more expansively to include culture, community, traditional local economics, health, recreation, and local sense of place, while never losing sight of the long-term importance of healthy, connected natural systems for the future of their own landscapes and the world overall. Landscape conservation helps put the future back into the hands of informed and committed people living and working on the landscapes they love.

LLO: What are the biggest challenges as well as opportunities right now in the field of landscape conservation and how might the roles of public vs. non-governmental entities be changing in the coming years?

Bateson: Regardless of geography and scale, initiatives often share similar challenges regarding 1) meaningful collaboration and effective governance; 2) conservation science and planning at the local-to-landscape scales; and 3) funding for and commitment to long-term collaboration and conservation implementation.

One major challenge has been that there was no central place for sharing information, identifying best practices, tackling common challenges, and developing cutting edge research and analysis in this new field. That of course is what we are trying to change through the Network for Landscape Conservation.

Although I hope I am wrong, I think the current federal administration may be a challenge, which is too bad as conservation has been a robust bipartisan issue for many years. And recent Republican and Democratic administrations have made so much progress on moving toward a landscape conservation approach at the federal agency level, from the National Park Service Scaling Up program to the Landscape Conservation Collaborative Network and much, much more.

Despite the challenges, there are boundless opportunities in this rapidly growing field. We have enormous forward momentum in specific landscapes, and an increasing number of examples of effective initiatives and enduring success. Conservation at the landscape scale is increasingly embraced in local and regional landscapes across the country, continent, and beyond. It is the groundswell of local understanding and support that will carry this imperative conservation approach inexorably forward.

LLO: Your organization recently changed its name from the Practitioners’ Network for Large Landscape Conservation to the Network for Landscape Conservation. Does this reflect a shift in its mission or area of emphasis?

Bateson: The Network has only shortened its name, and not changed its mission. We decided it was evident we are a network for “practitioners,” and we dropped the “large” because many people thought it suggested only large, wild landscapes and not the equally valuable efforts in urban or other smaller-scale settings.

Founded in 2011, the goal of the Network continues to be building a “big tent” network and a robust community of practice to support and advance the rapidly growing landscape conservation movement. Before the Network, there was no central forum for landscape conservation practitioners to connect – there was too much reinventing of the proverbial wheel and opportunities for progress and innovation were being lost. Our Network of professionals in the private, public, non-profit, academic, and philanthropic sectors has already grown to almost 100 organizational partners and 2,000 individual practitioners.

We work with partners to build a valued nexus for connecting with peers, accessing information and resources, building skills, leveraging individual efforts, improving on-the-ground performance, and innovating new landscape conservation. One of our highest priorities continues to be connecting practitioners to each other and showcasing their work for the broader community.
We are all figuring out this pivotal, new landscape conservation approach together. I hope individuals and organizations will continue to join the Network for Landscape Conservation to help build the conversation and the community of practice, shaping the future of the local and global landscapes that will sustain our grandchildren and the many generations to follow.

Learn more: Network for Landscape Conservation : Advancing the Practice of Conservation at the Landscape Scale 

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New York State’s Recreational Areas Deserve Spotlight

By Guest Observer November 30, 2014

By Paul M. Bray

Photograph Courtesy of the National Park Service

View of Central Park in New York City. Photo Courtesy: National Park Service

As a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas, I’ve met park managers and activists from all parts of the world. I have seen how America’s National Parks are well known internationally. The National Park System is called the best idea America has ever had. The National Park Service is renowned for its skill in managing parks from Yellowstone, known as the mecca of parks, to portions of Lowell, Mass., an old industrial city.

But New York state has not gotten such national and international attention for its great parks and protected areas.

Consider the state’s protection of wilderness areas.

One of the nation’s most important environmental laws turned 50 this year: the Wilderness Act. New York played an important role in its establishment. The state passed a constitutional amendment in 1894 declaring the public land within the boundaries of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks shall remain “forever wild.” This is the only constitutionally protected wild land in the nation, a large portion of which is being managed as “wilderness.”

Howard Zahniser, former leader of the Wilderness Society, was instrumental in the creation of the Wilderness Law. Zahniser had a cabin in the Adirondack Park near a cabin owned by Paul Schaefer, a leading advocate for protecting New York’s forest preserve. Zahniser was impressed by the forest preserve and spent many hours talking with Schaefer about New York’s experience with the forest preserve.

Like our National Park System, New York has a wide range of top notch parks and protected areas. Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park and Prospect Park in New York City are renowned as urban pastoral gardens. Olmsted also selected the location of Albany’s Washington Park. Regrettably, Albany’s city fathers rejected Olmsted’s insistence on designing a coordinated system of parks and parkways, and he moved on to Buffalo, where he went on to do just that, the first such system of its kind in the country.

In 1892, the state established the vast Adirondack Park, which is now 6 million acres in size. It was followed in the early 20th century by the Catskill Park. Both parks are a matrix of wild forest lands and inhabited areas.
Robert Moses led New York to establish the nation’s first state park system, now composed of 179 state parks and 37 historic sites. The system includes Niagara Falls, the oldest state park in the nation, Letchworth State Park, known as the Grand Canyon of the East, and the vast Jones Beach on Long Island.

In 1982 the state enacted the nation’s first Urban Cultural Park System. It is now called the Heritage Area System. It has 20 State Heritage Areas ranging from Harbor Park in New York City, portions of cities like Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, villages like Seneca Falls and Sackets Harbor, and regional heritage areas like the Concord Grape Heritage Area.

Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

New York Heritage Areas. Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Heritage Areas have been called “partnership” parks because successful management depends upon partnership between the state, localities and the private sector. Sadly, they have been limping along because the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has not wanted to uphold its share of the partnership. Notwithstanding the troubles some of the Heritage Areas have had with the state, the first of the 49 National Heritage Areas which followed in New York’s footsteps is having a 30th anniversary this year. New York again led the nation.

Our state also has established greenways like the Hudson River Greenway, stretching from New York City to Saratoga and Washington counties, and preserves like the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, which was recently designated by the U.S. Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark, and the Long Island Central Pine Barrens.

We should be proud of our parks and protected areas in New York state. Many of us enjoy, are inspired by and make good recreational use of one or more of our parks and protected areas, but I don’t think we have proudly proclaimed how world class our parks, protected and heritage areas are. We need to show our pride if we are to be known as a desirable place to live.

This article originally appeared in the Albany Times Union on October 12, 2014

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The Italian-New York Connections on Parks and Protected Areas

By Guest Observer October 30, 2013

By Paul Bray

For 6 months in 1996-97 I had the opportunity of living at the American Academy in Rome as a recipient of a Rome Prize.

As an advocate of parks, protected areas and historic preservation in New York State and beyond, my interest has been less with the traditional public estate parks (local, state and national) and more with area wide parks, greenways, landscapes and heritage areas like the six million acre Adirondack Park, the 3 million acre Hudson River Greenway and state and national heritage areas.

I expected to find historic landscapes in Italy that were being managed as parks, but thanks to the emerging effect of the European Union (“EU”) I found more park interest and activity than I expected. The EU set a standard for each EU nation to have at least 10% of its land mass be managed as park or protected area. At the time this standard was established Italy had only 4 National Parks and 1% of its land mass protected. By 2000 Italy could claim it met the 10% standard and it had more than 20 national parks complemented by regional parks like Alpi Apuana, a mountain top region of northern Tuscany with the marble mines that provided the marble used by Michelangelo.

My interaction with Italian park and conservationists was interesting and enriching. As an American, I was welcomed as a national of a nation with the global Mecca of parks, Yellowstone National Park.

Yet, as I got to know the Italians and told them about the Adirondack Park and our heritage areas, we had a new and unexpected common ground. I was not the “know it all American” but someone who admired and wanted to learn about Italian parks like the Italian Abruzzo National Park, the Po Delta Park and the Pisa Regional Parks.

Abruzzo landscape. Photo: Wikimedia commons user Wento

Abruzzo landscape. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia commons user Wento

The Abruzzo Park about 2 hours from Rome and Naples in the Apennines was a small 100,000 acre model of the Adirondack Park, but it was also awesome in its beautiful surround of 6,000 foot mountains, its medieval villages strung along its basin and its remarkable wild life including a sustainable population of 50 wolves. The wild life was nurtured at the same time eco-development was fostered in the Park’s villages through, for example, visitor centers in each village and stores selling products of the park. This was happening as mountain villages in other parts of Italy were dying.

To make a long story short, ties were established between parks and protected areas in New York State and Italy. A conference with Italians from all parts of Italy was held in Rome at the American Academy and a couple of the Italians suggested “twinning” Italian and American parks like sister cities. A description of some of the twinning activity can be found at the following: http://www.braypapers.com/IAPT.html

As a result of the Great Recession in 2008 and some changes in leadership in some of the parks, the formal exchanges have declined. Now the only formal, ongoing twinning is between the Central Pine Barrens on Long Island and the Pisa Regional Parks. Thanks to the assistance from the Brookhaven Lab and the links for ongoing, real time through camcorders biodiversity projects that were established between schools on Long Island and Pisa, the Pisa-LI twinning continues. Informally, contacts continue between people that where involved in the other formal twinnings. Contacts between planners and academics in Italy and the USA led to the recent publication of Parks and Territories: New Perspectives and Strategies edited by Francesco Morandi, Federico Niccolini and Massimo Sargolini. Retired Professor Roberto Gambino is coordinating another book of articles on park and landscape planning.

The Italian-NYS park twinning fits very well with the observation of Canadian’s J.Gordon Nelson and Lucy M. Sportza in their article ‘The Evolving Shift in Protected Area Thought and Practice”:

We are living in a shifting and evolving framework for protected areas, nature conservation and sustainable development. This situation is marked by the involvement of many government agencies and private groups not only in the lands and waters in and around protected areas, but those that are far away. In these circumstances concerned agencies and private groups cannot easily regulate or direct on another’s activities. Civic arrangements need to be encouraged so that the array of stakeholders concerned about protected areas, nature conservation and sustainable development can learn mutually for one another and find ways to communicate, negotiate, plan and act in the individual and the common interest. In this respect pluralism needs to be explicitly recognized and to be dealt with in a collaborative rather than a predominantly or exclusively corporate manner. The human dimension of protected area planning, management and decision making requires as much attention as science at the local, provincial or state, national and international scales of thought and practice.

The human dimension of the park twinning which included park officials, managers, advocates and various stakeholders allowed many to “learn mutually from one another and find ways to communicate, negotiate, plan and act in the individual and common interest”. Mutual learning complemented by ongoing communication continues.

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Adirondack Park: Landscape No Longer Contested

By Guest Observer September 2, 2013
Guideboater on Long Lake Adirondack. Credit: Adirondack Council

Guideboater on Long Lake Adirondack. Credit: Adirondack Council

When I was a bill-drafter for then-state Assembly Environmental Committee Chairman Maurice Hinchey in the 1980s, I accompanied him to meet with a group of local government officials in the Adirondack Park. The town supervisors complained nonstop about Adirondack Park Agency, the state agency implementing the state’s Adirondack Private Land Use Plan.

They didn’t like the plan’s strict density restrictions for private development and that a majority of the APA members came from outside the Adirondack Park. Almost half of the Park land is public “forever wild” forest land and therefore outside the bounds for development.

Hinchey listened respectfully as the local officials complained about land use control by outsiders. In the case of the Park, the courts ruled that an overarching state interest justified state control rather than local control. When the local officials finished with their complaints, one supervisor conceded that if the State had not intervened in the park, there would be no local land use planning.

A couple of years later, then-Manhattan Assemblyman Pete Grannis proposed to Sen. Ron Stafford, the leading Adirondack Park legislator, legislation for a study on how to promote tourism for the whole Park. Stafford agreed, and I drafted the bill.

The Adriondack Park includes a number of county tourism promotion agencies that received state funds for tourism promotion. Language was included in the bill that nothing in the recommendations would limit the roles of the existing tourism agencies. The director of one such agency complained to Stafford about the bill, and he withdrew it.

Credit: Adirondack Council

On Pitchoff Mountain in Adirondack Park. Credit: Adirondack Council

These two anecdotes exemplify why Eleanor F. Brown wrote on the occasion of the Park’s 1992 Centennial that “the Adirondack Park is still undergoing the painful process of creation” and Adirondack writer Phil Terrie titled one of his books on the Park “Contested Landscape.”

Before the Adirondack Park was created by the State Legislature in 1891, the Forest Commission that would be responsible for its management correctly forecast that it could not “call the Adirondack Park into existence by the touch of a wand.”

It’s long past time for the creation of an Adirondack Park that is truly an inspirational, educational, recreational, ecological and economically sustainable. That potential was very visible at the seventh annual Adirondack Common Ground Alliance Forum that occurred in July in the town of Newcomb. The forum’s theme was collaboration, with less “us versus them” and less “infighting and fragmentation.”

Many individuals and entities have played a role in creating the Adirondack Park’s recent progress. Common ground started an open discourse to find what the people in the Adirondack Park agreed upon. The state provided $1 million for smart growth planning that wasn’t just for Main Street projects but included, for example, funding to bring broadband to the entire region.

Outreach engaged neighboring regional economic development entities like the Center for Economic Growth in the Capital Region and the North Country Chamber of Commerce. This helped join three of the governor’s regional economic development councils with portions of the park to work together to finance the Adirondack Park Recreation Web Portal Project to promote recreation in the whole park.

Unlike the ill-fated Grannis-Stafford bill, this time support came from all sectors of the park, including the tourism agencies. Local officials like Bill Farber, the Morehead town supervisor as well as the Hamilton County legislative chairman, are successfully advocating for holistic regional planning.

It helped when Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the Adirondack Challenge that included New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a whitewater raft race in Indian Lake.

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Baxter Mountain in the Adirondacks. Credit: Adirondacks Council

From what I saw at the Newcomb Forum, the Park’s former contested landscape is becoming a more collaborative landscape.

 

This article originally appeared in the Albany Times Union on August 12, 2013

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