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The 2016 Federal Budget: How did Large Landscapes Fare?

By Brenda Barrett January 11, 2016

small-logo-lighthouseAfter months of uncertainty, weeks of negotiations and two short-term extensions to keep the government open, Congress passed and the President signed the 2009 page omnibus spending Bill, titled the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. How did federal initiatives that support landscape scale work and fund our natural and cultural conservation program fare?

 

The Land and Water Conservation Fund

Ding, Ding, Ding! Only three dings as Congress limited reauthorization of the now 50-year old fund to just three years. However, the good news is that it is still around and with $450 million allocated for the coming fiscal year much good work can be accomplished at the state and national level. Landscape work was specifically recognized in an appropriations for a number of large scale projects including an appropriation for the Rivers of the Chesapeake. This Collaborative Landscape proposal received $11 million for land conservation in the Chesapeake region and $2 million for supporting a range of public access and conservation efforts along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. It is estimated that this targeted funding will protect 2,100 acres of land in this threatened watershed.

The Historic Preservation Fund

small-logo-bridgeNot quite such good news to kick off the celebration of the fiftieth Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. The appropriations bill did not include the reauthorization of the Historic Preservation Fund, which expired on September 30th. 2015. This means that action on a bill (HR 2817) to reauthorize the fund will have to wait till the New Year. However, there was some good news. Overall the bill funds the HPF at $65.41 million, an increase of $9 million over FY15 enacted levels.

The funding breakdown for State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices is as follows: $46.925 million for SHPOs (equal to FY15 enacted levels),
$9.985 million for THPOs ($1 million above FY15 enacted levels),
$8 million in grants to preserve the sites and stories of the Civil Rights Movement and $500,000 in grants for underrepresented communities.

The National Heritage Areas

Generally good news as funding remained level at $19,821 million. Since the program has been without strong administration support, just holding on to a level appropriation has been an annual struggle. In addition the 2016 act extended the funding authorization for three areas and increased the funding authorization caps for four other areas. Overall Congress showed an interest in sustaining the program.

One twist to watch is the transfer of $625,000 funding that in the past went to the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor https://blackstoneheritagecorridor.org   from the national heritage areas program account to the new Blackstone Valley Historic Park. As for now the heritage corridor and the new park are working closely together. The heritage corridor’s level of staffing and on the ground facilities like visitor centers are a boon to a park that is just finding its feet. How will blurring of the lines between what has been traditionally been an external program and a new unit of the national park system work out in the long run? Since this is a year-to-year arrangement, we have to wait and see.

The Landscape Conservation Cooperatives

small-logo-archaeologistFive years ago the Department of the Interior launched the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCC) to better integrate science and management to address climate change and other landscape scale issues through collaborative networks that are grounded in science. As one might imagine congressional funding for this program has been a point of contention. Despite threats to severely reduce or even eliminate the program, the final appropriation for the 2016 budget the LCC was only reduced by $1 million in the Cooperative Landscapes account — from $13,988,000 in FY15 to $12,988,0.  The LCC budget in the Adaptive Science account remains at the FY15 level — $10,517,000. So the final outcome should be seen as a win for the landscape approach to resource management. To learn more about the LCCs read the just released National Academy report A Review of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.  

Overall this is good news considering the current congressional environment. Can we see any patterns in these encouraging outcomes? Well a few:

  • The public sees such programs, particularly the long established ones, as beneficial and conserving the things they care about.
  • Advocacy is an essential part of program survival. High marks go to the coalition to reauthorize the Land and Water program. They have had an impressive ground game and media presence.
  • While not conclusive, positive evaluations of the program such as the recent study on the LCCs and the reports on the National Heritage Areas might have turned the tide on the funding issue.

Readers do you have any other observation? All good ideas welcomed as next year will not be any easier!

PS If you like the posters celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, you can order them at the Preservation 50 web site!  

 

 

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Long Landscapes: How Big is Big Enough?

By Brenda Barrett September 29, 2014
Credit: 5W Infographics for Smithsonian Magazine

Long Landscapes in North America. Credit: 5W Infographics for Smithsonian Magazine

The conservation movement has embraced the idea of preserving large landscapes as the only way to provide the necessary resilience and protection for the world’s ecosystems challenged by climate change and the impacts of global development. But how large a landscape is large enough? One of the most world’s most eminent scientists, the evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson, has an opinion on this. In a recent interview with Tony Hiss writing for Smithsonian Magazine, he said “It’s been in my mind for years,” … “that people haven’t been thinking big enough—even conservationists. Half Earth is the goal, but it’s how we get there, and whether we can come up with a system of wild landscapes we can hang on to.”

Read the entire piece here.

This is not a completely new idea. The organization Nature Needs Half is committed to protecting and connecting half of the earth’s land and water based on the best science and commonsense, and is a vision for a new relationship between people and nature. One of the featured large landscapes on the Nature Needs Half’s web site is the Yellowstone to Yukon  or as it sometimes known Y to Y. Marking its twentieth anniversary this year, the Y to Y initiative envisions an interconnected system of wild lands and waters stretching from Yellowstone to Yukon, harmonizing the needs of people with those of nature. The Y2Y region traverses two countries, five American states, two Canadian provinces, two Canadian territories, the reservation or traditional lands of over 30 Native governments, and a number of government land agencies. To carryout its work the Y to Y works with five sub regional landscape collaborative including the Crown of the Continent.

Tony Hiss describes his vision of what is big enough in to conserve natural resources in North America. Bigger than the Y to Y corridor, but scaled down from half the earth. He calls these places long landscapes, a permanent network of protected and interconnected wild landscapes that would offer resiliency in the face of changing climates. For example, such huge corridors would allow southern species to move north in the face of global warming and western species to move east to escape drought conditions.

So how do we make this happen? As the work on the Y to Y corridor and its five sub regional landscapes show us, many of the pieces of the puzzle are out there just waiting to be assembled. A good place to start is with the many organizations and agencies that are already working hard to conserve their little piece of the continent. The upcoming National Workshop on Large Landscape Conservation in Washington D.C. is a great opportunity to inspire these practioners to work local and think global (or at least think about 50% of the globe).

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New Report: Climate Change Threatens United States’ most cherished historic sites

By Guest Observer July 30, 2014

A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists documents the consequences of climate change that are putting many of the country’s most iconic and historic sites at risk. From Ellis Island to the Everglades, Cape Canaveral to California’s César Chávez National Monument, these sites face a perilous and uncertain future in a world of rising sea levels, more frequent wildfires, increased flooding, and other damaging effects of climate change.
Read the full report: National Landmarks at Risk

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What Makes Us Take on Large Landscape Conservation?

By Guest Observer June 27, 2012

Dealing with Threats (and Opportunities) at Sufficient Scale. (Part 1 of 2)

Editors’ note: In this first of a two part series, author Amy Rosenthal, secretary of the board of the Amazon Conservation Association, explores the history, contemporary challenges and benefits of working on a landscape-scale in the southwest Amazon. As the scale and rate of industrial development in the region grow exponentially, local communities and associations, place-based nonprofits and other collaborators have come together to plan and execute an ambitious initiative to address the environmental and human needs of this unique place.   

The southwestern Amazon has been a remote place for most of human history. It is a steamy region, where lush jungles support an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. Bands of monkeys swing through the trees. Jaguars and pumas hunt white-lipped peccaries and capybara. Harpy eagles and macaws nest in trees 16 stories tall. The giant, ancient arapaima vies with schools of piranha to rule the rivers. And, many-colored ants, butterflies, grasshoppers, and beetles number in the millions. We are still discovering new species today.

Unlike historically populous areas of the Amazon, this area now known as the MAP Region (Madre de Dios, Peru; Acre, Brazil; and Pando, Bolivia) is thought to have been inhabited by small, disperse bands of peoples. The first waves of non-Indigenous immigration took place in the late 1800s, when colonists sought to reap the benefits of the rubber and gold rushes. Yet, roads and urban construction – the hallmarks of the human footprint – were slow to appear. The first paved roads arrived only in the 1980s, accompanied by rampant violence and deforestation, and the world’s first eco-martyr, Chico Mendes.

The impacts of mining are visible in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo courtesy of Amazon Conservation Association

Today, the MAP Region is being transformed. From the air, instead of a rich green carpet, you see what appears to be a long spine, with a series of fishbone cuts deep into the jungle. Dusty red cities crop up –Cobija, Puerto Maldonado, Iberia – and one metropolis – Rio Branco – full of cars and shopping malls. Peri-urban zones are flat, yellow or grayish green and dotted with white cows; they spread in every direction and along the spine as far as you can see. On the Peruvian side, smoke wafts up from grey-brown holes in the forest – gold mines; these sites appear almost overnight, quickly fill with Andean migrants and mercury, and over days are dug down to sand and bedrock. On the ground, in many places, there is no reminder of the cathedral forests and the crouching jaguars, save the early morning sounds of macaws flying overhead or the lonely sloth that wanders into an urban downtown.

On the one side, this is a story of successful development: paved roads, modern bridges, sparkling new cities, and more jobs for the Andean poor.

On the other, it’s a calamity for people and for the environment. In 2009, the U.S. EPA measured urban air emissions of mercury in this region to be the highest found almost anywhere in the world. Waters, fish and birds are poisoned, and people are afraid to eat local foods. Indigenous groups have no alternative sources for their water and protein needs and so they suffer some of the worst health effects. The forest burning literally chokes the cities. Over the past decade, Rio Branco has had to close its airport numerous times because of low visibility due to smoke. While living in Rio Branco in the early 2000s, I saw ash fall from the sky like rain. Rates of respiratory illnesses – especially in children – are up. Hunting has decimated many monkey populations. The fishbone roads, towns, and mining camps disrupt critical migration pathways for jaguars, macaws, and peccaries.

And, the effects of climate change are beginning to be felt: the region has had successive years of devastating floods in the rainy season and sickening droughts in the dry season. Thousands of people have lost their homes, and rainy season emergencies have become the norm. In the dry months, many people fall prey to water-borne illness and diarrhea. Rates of dengue and malaria have increased, and some studies have demonstrated a relationship between rates of infection and deforestation.

What can we do? Learn more in Part II:  What Makes Us Take on Large Landscape Conservation? Dealing with Threats (and Opportunities) at Sufficient Scale.

Amy Rosenthal contributed this article. Ms. Rosenthal, an occasional observer for this website, isScience-Policy Interface Specialist with the Natural Capital Project, a collaboration among the WWF, The Nature Conservancy, Stanford University, and the University of Minnesota to create tools that map and value ecosystem services and help policy makers, companies, and multinational institutions make good decisions about development. From 2007 to 2010, Amy was Deputy Director for Projects at the Amazon Conservation Association (ACA), where she designed and managed major conservation initiatives and established ACA’s REDD program. Prior to her work with ACA, Amy contributed to the book The Last Forest: the Amazon in the Age of Globalization and established an environmental management training program with the Federal University of Acre in Brazil.

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