Ten case studies were one result of the workshop, including:
Restore New Mexico
Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative
California Coastal National Monument
Desert Managers Group
Crown Managers Partnership
Utah Partners for Conservation & Development
Cienega Watershed Partnership
Northern Sierra Partnership
Mattole Restoration Council
Each summary case study was developed by workshop participants. Enjoy.
The BLM manages more than 13 million acres in New Mexico, but the Restore New Mexico program doesn't consider even that vast area in isolation. It is a landscape-scale Healthy Lands Initiative project that aims to conduct restoration work on large tracts of land, often across jurisdictional boundaries. Since 2005, the program has conducted restoration treatments on lands both public and private. It has restored arid grasslands that had become overgrown with mesquite or creosote, removed invasive saltcedar from riparian corridors, and rehabilitated abandoned roads and oil well sites.
The program began at the initiative of Linda Rundell, BLM's New Mexico state director. In 2005 the Natural Resources Conservation Service dedicated $1.25 million in funding from its Environmental Quality Incentives Program toward the restoration of BLM grasslands in southeastern New Mexico. The BLM matched the funding. Since then funding from the NRCS has continued, and the BLM has committed more than $20 million of its own funding in the last five years. The success of this collaboration has also leveraged funding from other sources, including ranchers, local communities and irrigation districts, conservation organizations, sportsmen's groups, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and private interests. Local Natural Resource Conservation District offices have been able to serve as fiscal agents that accept federal funds from multiple agencies, as well as private funds that are then used for a single unified project.
"In the past, one of our biggest problems occurred when the budget was distributed and specialist received a few thousand dollars to do their individual projects on the ground," says the BLM's Doug Burger. "That ended up with one acre being treated here, five acres there, and maybe a big treatment would be a hundred acres. Today we focus on 22 priority watersheds within the state. All the NEPA planning is done up front. At that point we combine all the funding we can find into focusing on these landscape areas."
That funding has been critical in the program's success, but so, too, have been the partnerships that have arisen. Restore New Mexico has enabled the BLM to work together with a wide variety of groups such as tribal governments, the Boy Scouts, oil companies, ranchers, and the Peregrine Fund on projects of mutual benefit. As a result, restoration projects have been implemented on more than a million acres in a wide variety of habitats across much of the state. The practice of focusing on the ecological needs of a landscape, rather than on the property lines that cross it, is promising: Restore New Mexico planners have already identified more than four million additional acres they want to work on next.Back to Top
The Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative began in 2007 as an effort to balance conservation and ecosystem restoration with development at the landscape scale. The initiative covers 19 million acres of the Green River basin and adjacent areas—an area that contains tremendous natural habitat and over 1,400 family farms and ranches, and large amounts of recoverable natural gas reserves.
The initiative works at various levels to integrate interested groups; its executive committee consists of eight members from participating agencies (BLM, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, the Wyoming County Commissions Association, and the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts). Six other committees provide scientific and technical support, coordinate information among federal agencies, and communicate with the public. Four geographically based local project development teams involve local parties in developing common conservation priorities and providing input into specific projects.
Initiative participants believe that the best way to reconcile competing land uses is to integrate science-based habitat assessments, conducted across the landscape, as well as local input, into the planning process. They have, therefore, six goals:
1. habitat conservation
2. supporting sustainable agriculture
3. improving knowledge of the southwest Wyoming ecosystem
4. synthesizing information and communication
5. supporting partnerships
6. providing mechanisms for data and information exchanges.
In pursuit of these goals, members began with shelf-ready projects that could be accomplished effectively, such as combating invasive species and modifying old and substandard fencing on public and private lands alike. As of summer 2010, the organization is developing a conservation plan to strategically focus efforts over the next five years.
Public outreach through press releases, meetings, e-mail, and a website is an important component of the initiative's work. The initiative holds regular meetings to inform the public and to receive input. For example, four meetings in different locations were planned for August 2010 that would outline the organization's accomplishments. These include the purchase of conservation easements, invasive species and noxious weed treatments, restoration of forests and wetlands, and extensive ecosystem monitoring.
Funding has, thus far, been provided by federal agencies and has been directed by the WLCI towards specific projects as needed. In 2008, the USGS, USFWS, and BLM set aside funding totaling $4.25 million. Non-monetary support is important to the initiative and is provided by individuals, organizations and agencies. Such support can consist of expertise, in-kind support, and general information sharing. WLCI works to provide a forum for information sharing of activities going on about the area, even those not initiated through WLCI.
"We're able to build upon these partnerships," says Renee Dana of the BLM. "So far we've been able to match every one WLCI dollar with about five dollars from partners, plus in-kind services."
2010 marked the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the California Coastal National Monument, as well as the BLM's National Landscape Conservation System, of which the monument is a part. Created to protect and conserve scenery and habitat along the 1,100 miles of California coast, the California Coast National Monument comprises more than 20,000 small islands, rocks, and exposed reefs that stretch from San Diego to the Oregon border.
The monument's full-time staff consists of only two employees, who work closely with the managers and staffs of BLM California's five field offices that have coastal counties under their jurisdiction, as well as with other personnel from the BLM California State Office to which the monument staff is attached. The monument is governed through a memorandum of understanding between the BLM, the California Department of Fish and Game, and California State Parks. Through this agreement, these agencies provide support to the BLM for preserving monument resources, including assisting with project evaluation and oversight, mapping and resource assessment, and public outreach.
Partnerships with a broad assortment of federal and state agencies, local governments, tribal groups, non-profit organizations, and coastal communities are essential for the monument's management. These partnerships fall into three categories: core-managing, collaborative, and steward. The core-managing partners include the three main agencies (BLM, DFG, and State Parks). More than two dozen collaborative partners work with the BLM on a wide range of the monument's activities, including the "California Coastal National Monument Gateways" initiative. Currently, six organizations with ownership or responsibility for land adjoining the monument are "stewards" and serve as the local representative for an assigned portion of the monument.
"We're tasked with coordinating," says Rick Hanks, the monument's manager. "One of our major efforts is focused on creating a forum for the various agencies, organizations, and communities to work together so that there is more awareness and more cooperation, and no repetition of services, so that everyone is able to take advantage of efforts that have been made previously."
One of the monument designation's most important results has been the economic impact on local communities that have been able to increase tourist interest in their coastal resources. The monument staff has worked with designated "gateway" communities to promote awareness of the coast, for example by creating joint brochures for visitors.
"It usually takes an extremely long time," says Marcia deChadenedes, the monument's outreach and partnership coordinator, "but that's what it takes to create a relationship. It's not about the brochure. It's about creating the foundation for the relationship."
The networking work performed by the monument staff has also helped generate some innovative funding for the protection of coastal resources. For example, they have worked with National Geographic and six different counties to facilitate the production of a Geotourism MapGuide for the entire northern California coast region. The MapGuide is intended to help increase tourism potential and visitor awareness.
"I think that's one of the best things we can do is not be out in front, but behind," says deChadenedes, "and help the people who are already on the coast be in the driver's seat."
Established in 1994, the Desert Managers Group is an inter-agency effort focused on cooperation between federal and state agencies, county governments, and Native American working on issues within the California desert, an area of 25 million acres that includes two national parks, one national preserve, six military bases, 72 wilderness areas, 10 state parks, the California Desert Conservation Area managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and eight county jurisdictions. Along with this jurisdictional complexity come people, lots of them: this area is within a day's drive of 40 million people, and its population is expected to continue growing to over one million residents by 2020. Therefore, land management challenges will continue to grow as the area becomes more popular for both recreation and development.
The DMG works as the coordinating body through which a wide variety of agencies can coordinate projects and plans. Though it originated in Washington—it became one of Vice-President Gore's federal re-invention labs in 1995, and was chartered at the assistant secretary level in 2000—it was re-chartered in 2005 at the regional director level.
"That's taken the involvement at the federal level from inside the Beltway to the regional offices that more closely manage and supervise the resources of the California desert," says Russell Scofield, the Department of the Interior's DMG coordinator. "By bringing the involvement closer to the desert, there's much more buy-in and support from the regional directors who are directly allocating resources to the projects we work on."
The DMG is led by two coordinators from the Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense. Their challenge is to motivate and inspire the rest of the organization to work collaboratively across jurisdictional lines. The governance structure of the DMG allows federal backing for coordinated projects. However, according to Scofield, "it is insanely difficult to share money across bureaus and departments to fund common projects."
"We refer to it as 'tin-cup budgeting,'" he says. "We'll have a project that everyone in the room agrees to as a high priority. We'll say 'OK, who has money they can contribute to this project?' Four or five managers will raise their hand: 'I can throw in two thousand.' 'I can throw in three thousand.' Then comes the challenge: how do you put all that money in one place?"
The DMG coordinators work closely with regional agency representatives and local officials. The group holds regular meetings on particular projects, though Scofield points out that the informal networking that occurs during or after the meetings—often over dinner or during a field trip—is "where the rubber meets the road," where the most important work gets done.
"One of the reasons the DMG has persisted is the trust and relationship building that has occurred, even though none of the managers who started it in 1994 are still around," he says. "For any newly forming partnership, it's important to get that relationship building done."
Private citizens provided the impetus for the creation of the Blackfoot Challenge, and they remain critical in enabling the organization to bring people together with land management agencies to generate positive, proactive solutions to land issues that transcend public-private boundaries. For example, the group has recently worked with The Nature Conservancy to place 89,000 acres of former private timberland into a network of public and private management.
The board consists of 18 members. Nine are private landowners; potential board members are selected by a nominations committee and elections are held at the board's annual meeting. One member is from The Nature Conservancy, one from Plum Creek Timber Company, and representatives of state and federal agencies (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Bureau of Land Management; U.S. Forest Service [two members]; Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation; and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks) round out the rest of the board. In addition to an executive committee with oversight of funding and strategic planning, the organization relies upon a number of committees (education; conservation strategies; water resources; forestry; weeds; and wildlife) for effective and efficient resource management.
In 2009, seventy-seven percent of the collaborative's funding came from government and was mostly project-directed, while the remaining funds came from individuals, corporations, foundations, and other miscellaneous sources that largely funded program capacity. Developing private donor sources more fully is a current priority, as is creating an endowment to help ensure long-term funding and project capability. The most important elements of collaborative leadership, according to executive director Gary Burnett, are being inclusive, working towards consensus, thinking long-term, acting flexibly—and remaining open to the diversity of ideas that will be brought to the table.
"It's a bit of a messy process," Gary says. "It's a time-consuming process. The best thing to do is to find something that people can work on together and have some early successes"—otherwise, people will lose interest amid endless meetings. One way to do this is to start slowly and realize that collaboration, especially when it plays out among a variety of agencies and citizen interests, is a long process; values do not change within a year or even two, but rather through long-term dialogue, listening and working together.
The initial workshop was considered a great success, and a steering committee formed to continue to develop further advances in ecosystem management and collaboration across political borders. The workshop became an annual event that resulted in the formation of the Crown Managers Partnership. A unique example of international cooperation on a landscape scale, the partnership started with modest goals of communication and information sharing, but has developed over a short period of time into a successful example of collaboration that has dealt with such complex, cross-border issues as climate change, wildfire and watershed management, decline of whitebark pine ecosystems, the impacts of tourism, and the control of invasive plant species.
The vast area covered and the wide array of jurisdictional participants means that, according to Mary Sexton, the director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, it is essential for those involved to have "experience with diverse aspects of the Crown, broad vision, patience, dedication." Bringing Native American tribal members into the process early and often was also critical in an area that includes sovereign tribal landscapes: indeed, the CMP is a rare partnership that encompasses governments of multiple sovereignties. It focuses on voluntary agency partnerships—has too, given the different mandates members have.
"Members have limitations with their own jobs and their own missions," Sexton says. "How far people can go in their management decisions—it's a sensitivity issue. But my staff has found it very helpful to know what's going on with the Canadian provinces, or with the National Park Service."
CMP members also work with the Crown Roundtable, a voluntary forum of many different stakeholder groups that facilitates dialogue over regional ecosystem conservation. It also provides an avenue to reach out to broader publics, and to integrate the knowledge and experience of citizen stakeholders within the management process. That allows for important information-sharing across jurisdictional and watershed boundaries, and allows members to take a broad view of what links specific areas and projects.
"It takes dedication and patience," Sexton says, "but I think in the long run this is going to be the avenue of the present and the future in order to get good, large landscape work and projects done."
Most of the partnership's projects knit together more than one of these overarching goals. For example, the partnership's watershed restoration work following the 300-square-mile Milford Flat fire in 2007 focused on minimizing erosion, controlling invasive weeds, repairing damaged fencing, and revegetation. Together, these multi-agency efforts helped improve water supplies, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation opportunities, and in 2009 they won the partnership a federal "Partners in Conservation" award from the Department of Interior.
Rory Reynolds, watershed initiative coordinator for the state of Utah, says that the partnership focuses on project-driven efforts that can both be supported scientifically and explained to the public. The partnership allows for good communication, for leveraging of resources, and for eliminating some redundancy between the work of varied agencies. But Reynolds says it remains difficult to weave through a maze of confusing, and often conflicting, state and federal mandates. In the face of that complexity, he says, it is vital to get things done on the ground on a regular basis, as that's what keeps stakeholders involved in the process.
Just a short drive east on Interstate 10 from the sprawl and hubbub of Tucson, the grasslands and perennial creek waters of Las Cienegas National Conservation Area are a step back in time. Vistas of open land stretch to distant mountains; cattle ranchers ply their trade; animals such as gray hawks, yellow-billed cuckoos, mountain lions, and coatimundis roam riparian corridors that connect the forested mountains. Grassland species such as pronghorn, black-tailed prairie dogs, and grasshopper sparrows are finding new habitat in recently restored grasslands where mesquite has been removed.
It wasn't easy keeping this valuable tract of land from development—or to decide what to do with it at all. After it came into BLM management in 1988 through a land swap, a need for joint planning in this fast-growing region soon became evident. The BLM initiated a collaborative process that, some years later, led to the formation of the Cienega Watershed Partnership, whose mission is to facilitate cooperative actions that steward the natural and cultural resources of the Cienega Watershed while enabling sustainable human use. Today the Cienega Watershed Partnership fosters integrated management across the 42,000-acre NCA and a neighboring planning area of an additional 100,000 acres.
The congressional decree establishing the NCA mandated citizen involvement, and the partnership is focused on implementing the resource management plan that the BLM wrote, with extensive stakeholder input and buy-in, for the NCA.
"Federal agencies were never going to have sufficient resources to implement the RMP," says partnership board member Jeff Williamson. "They weren't going to be able to conduct the monitoring and restoration that needed to be done to keep the landscape from decline. So we told them, 'let us go where you can't. Use us as an experiment.'"
The experiment has been a success. In a landscape of many potentially competing interests, from cattle grazing to wildlife conservation to many types of outdoor recreation, the partnership offers a way to find common ground among divergent interests. Led by a nine-member board, it serves as a social hub and as an umbrella group for a number of community-based organizations in the region.
"We're trying to break through special interest and limited perspectives and create a broader understanding of what constitutes the common good," says Williamson.
From the BLM's perspective, it has been critical for the partnership to become a 501(c)3 organization so that it can raise funds to engage in particular projects that can't be funded by the BLM or other public agencies. Recently the partnership was awarded a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for a three-year project aimed at the inventory and restoration of the NCA's aquatic species and habitats. Volunteers will do much of the work, which should help the region's native frog and amphibian species.
The partnership is also engaged with other regional organizations in assessing and planning for the likely impacts of climate change in southeast Arizona. Williamson says that it is able to be more nimble than often understaffed and over-committed land- or wildlife-management agencies can be.
"Our focus right now," he says, "is on how to deal with rapid change in complex systems."
In the northern Sierra Nevada, a long-ago federal government decision to grant vast holdings of forests, alpine meadows, and riparian areas to the railroad company building the first transcontinental rail link has caused headaches for generations of land managers. It is difficult to effectively manage forests, wildlife, waters, and wildfires when land ownership is "checkerboarded" into alternating squares of public and private land—but that's exactly what managers have had to contend with in a huge tract of land stretching west from the Lake Tahoe region across 1.5 million acres of the Sierra Nevada.
It was in part to resolve the checkerboarding issue that conservationists from local and national groups alike joined together in 2007 to form the Northern Sierra Partnership. Two land trusts active in the region joined with The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, and a business group to form the partnership, which has the goal of implementing local and regional conservation projects that contribute to the globally important role of the Sierra Nevada as a carbon sink and water source. Among the most critical short-term goals are the acquisition of ecologically valuable private parcels that are at risk of development—and that make it difficult to manage the surrounding matrix of public forestland.
Working in a highly visible landscape in a state with a long tradition of private philanthropy, the partnership has been blessed with an active base of private donors whose contributions have been matched by state and federal funding. According to partnership staff, the combination of established national-level organizations with regional groups such as the Feather River Land Trust and Sierra Business Council lends a high degree of flexibility to the partnership, and leads to an increased level of buy-in from other local interests. The partnership has been able to leverage private donations with public funds, and its long-term economic health appears very sound.
Although the Partnership is active in many areas of the Sierra Nevada, working with the checkerboard area remains one of its key projects. At the end of 2008 the Partnership was able to celebrate a conservation success at Perazzo Meadows, a lovely, nearly thousand-acre meadow complex along the Little Truckee River. A combination of private and public funding allowed the partnership to purchase the once-checkerboarded tract so that it can be turned over to the Tahoe National Forest. And that, in turn, will allow forest officials to use more integrated planning and management as they deal with challenges such as forest fire and the ecological changes that will be brought to the Sierra by climate change.
Founded in 1983, the Mattole Restoration Council is a veteran among the nation's community-based restoration organizations. It works in the watershed of the Mattole River in northern California, an area that has been drastically affected by past logging practices, changes in stream hydrology, and invasive species. Though much of the watershed's roughly 300 square miles consists of private land, about 20 percent is managed by the BLM.
A true grassroots group whose members live within the watershed, the council began its work in response to the severe endangerment of the river's steelhead and coho and Chinook salmon. Early projects aimed at monitoring fish and improving their habitat made it clear that riparian restoration in steep and forested terrain could not succeed without extensive attention to the uplands; it was especially critical to control the erosion of fine sediments washed downslope from logged areas and poorly constructed roads. So since the 1980s the council has worked with landowners and with numerous public agencies to remove poorly designed culverts, improve road maintenance practices, control invasive species, and manage fuel loads. As a result, the river, undammed in its 62-mile length, and some of its tributary creeks flow clearer and cooler than they once did.
It is a mark of the group's success that more than 50 percent of the landowners in the Mattole watershed have participated in council projects since the 1980s; though controversies remain, local buy-in to the group's work has increased a great deal since its inception. Hezekiah Allen, the board co-chair, says ensuring that community members remain involved has been an ongoing challenge: "At one point the board was so busy talking to each other that it didn't listen to other people. Since then we've been working on a system for encouraging and welcoming community members back to the process. It is a challenge to get people to the table."
With a staff of about 20, an active board, and a good track record of gaining funding from state and federal grants and fee-for-service contracts, the council is vibrant. The quality of its work has helped assure a steady stream of funding.
"Professionalism has really proven itself to be the fundamental thing that we can do to keep our funding—doing quality work, and making sure we cover all the bases in terms of funder relations," says Allen. "We maintain very long relationships with our funders."
Still, concerns about long-term viability remain. In particular, changing economic circumstances, such as rising land values, often make it difficult for young area residents to remain involved in restoration projects in the long run. Not coincidentally, the council operates an environmental education program that complements its on-the-ground projects; it is intended to teach local youth about the region's ecological values and the human efforts to sustain them. Its decades of work are aimed at the goal of restoring long-term natural processes, and the core belief that underlies that work is this: in an area that is most often off the radar screen nationally, and even at the state level, it is the people who live where the work needs to be done who will care most deeply about their place, and who are most likely to dedicate their time and energy to its improvement.