by Mallory Martin, Coordinator for the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy

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The SECAS initiative has achieved a noteworthy record of conservation accomplishment since its inception in 2011, including the Southeast Conservation Blueprint v.3.0, adoption of an overarching goal and step-down metrics, and successful completion of a number of symposia, workshops, and technical sessions advancing collaborative conservation across the Southeast.

When SECAS began, LCC partnership networks and steering committees provided much of the technical support and coordination functions for SECAS. Since then, dedicated support for LCCs nationwide was substantially reduced, resulting in most LCCs disassembling or transitioning to new organizational structures. Due to these changes in the Southeast, some of the decision-making and directional guidance for SECAS that arose through the LCC partnerships and their extended networks is no longer available. To fill that gap, SECAS must refine its organizational structures and governance if it is to realize its full potential as a collective approach to addressing the conservation challenges of importance in the Southeast.

Additionally, the 2018 Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) resolution on Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Landscape Scales recognizes “the need to establish durable partnerships with strong governance structures that include relevant, engaged and contributing governmental members, private conservation organizations, private landowners, academic institutions and other partners…” This recognition is specific and timely guidance in support of formalizing the governance structures within SECAS that will ensure its sustainability and success into the future.

In 2018, Ed Carter, Executive Director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, requested the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to work with the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) specifically to collaborate in development of a best practices report on effective governance approaches for landscape conservation initiatives. To that end, the Science Applications program of the FWS drafted a scope of work for a project to address specific governance issues and needs regarding SECAS. The project, which is expected to begin this spring, is a collaborative effort between FWS and the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy at the University of Montana, directed toward the following tasks and deliverables:

  1. Conduct research on different governance structures currently in use by landscape scale conservation efforts across the country.

  2. Develop a practitioner’s guide based on the research findings, to include a succinct summary of different governance models that includes benefits, drawbacks, and other considerations as well as examples for different governance structures.

  3. Facilitate meetings with SECAS leadership to further their understanding and application of the research findings to advance the core purpose and objective of SECAS.

At the spring 2019 SEAFWA business meeting, the Directors established a subcommittee to participate in and provide guidance to this collaborative governance project and related actions to strengthen the SECAS initiative. The subcommittee of state Directors will review and approve any final recommendations from the project and oversee their implementation. The subcommittee will also report on its actions as appropriate at the fall and spring SEAFWA business meetings.