by Hilary Morris, User Support and Communications for the Southeast and South Atlantic Blueprints
In case this is your first time reading about SECAS with the launch of the newsletter, here is a quick recap of where SECAS has been and where it’s going. Read on to catch up on the history of this initiative!
SECAS was initiated by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) back in Fall 2011. SEAFWA recognized the need to rally conservation partners around a common vision for sustaining natural resources in the Southeast through 2060. Ed Carter, the Executive Director of Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and Cindy Dohner, Southeast Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, were strong early champions for SECAS. In May 2012, Ed invited the Southeast Natural Resource Leaders Group (SENRLG) to help lead SECAS. SENRLG agreed, establishing an early governance structure made up of SEAFWA Directors and SENRLG Principals. Together, these SECAS leaders represented the state and federal agencies working on natural resources issues in the Southeast region. Each SEAFWA Director and SENRLG Principal also chose a Point of Contact from their organization to participate in more detailed discussions and provide a complementary “bottom-up” governance framework.
In Fall 2013, SECAS leadership set a goal of developing a first generation Southeast Blueprint for landscape-scale conservation by Fall 2016. Many different conservation planning efforts were already underway, but most eco-regional plans only covered parts of states, while state-specific plans stopped at the state line. The results of all this parallel planning did not yet add up to an integrated regional strategy.
To help advance progress on the Blueprint and other landscape-scale conservation efforts, the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center funded the Vital Futures project. Vital Futures directly supported SECAS by assessing the implications of climate change and other drivers of landscape change for existing conservation goals and management objectives.
At the Fall 2015 SEAFWA annual meeting, the first ever SECAS symposium provided a status update on progress toward developing the Blueprint.
A year later, Version 1.0 of the Southeast Blueprint was first introduced at a SECAS summit at the Fall 2016 SEAFWA annual meeting. The summit inspired so much enthusiasm that the meeting space was standing room only, with people lined up in the doorway trying to catch a glimpse! Development of this first Blueprint relied heavily on Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) across the Southeast and Caribbean and the diverse public and private organizations participating. The involvement in LCCs of regional partnerships like the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP) was particularly important in integrating products and planning across LCC boundaries. This plan provided the first ever integration of spatial plans developed through the South Atlantic, Appalachian, Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks, Gulf Coast Prairie, North Atlantic, and Caribbean LCCs. Southeast Blueprint 1.0 was finalized and released in December 2016.
At the Fall 2017 SEAFWA annual meeting, Version 2.0 of the Southeast Blueprint was released. This kicked off the annual process of updating SECAS products for the SEAFWA meeting every fall. Southeast Blueprint 2.0 incorporated the improved subregional Blueprints from several LCCs and established priority connections with western states through the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool. Significant improvements over the first version included improved consistency across LCC boundaries, improved consistency in climate change response, and improved integration beyond the Southeast. The SEAFWA Directors also charged SECAS with establishing an overarching goal for the SECAS initiative. SECAS leadership and the Points of Contact had all recognized the need to identify a key objective to define what SECAS is working toward, and develop supporting near-term metrics to measure progress.
A year later, at the Fall 2018 SEAFWA annual meeting, both the SECAS goal and Version 3.0 of the Southeast Blueprint were unveiled. The goal was developed to be both ambitious and achievable—to galvanize meaningful landscape-scale change for natural and cultural resources, while also recognizing the need to be realistic in the face of significant threats from urban growth, climate change, and more. The long-term SECAS goal called for a 10% or greater improvement in the health, function, and connectivity of Southeastern ecosystems by 2060. The near-term metrics called for a 1% improvement in the health, function, and connectivity of Southeastern ecosystems, supported by a 1% increase in conservation actions within the Blueprint, every 4 years. Version 3.0 of the Southeast Blueprint was released in February 2019 . It included full coverage of Texas, integrated threat layers covering the full Southeast, and the addition of a hubs and corridors layer covering part of the region.
As an added wrinkle, the development of Blueprint 3.0 and the goal occurred during a time of transition for the LCC Network where the structure and function of some LCCs was changing. Despite these changes, the capacity and commitment to continue to support Blueprint users and improve the Southeast Blueprint has remained strong, evidenced by the many examples of Blueprint implementation, as well as recent progress on spatial coverage, connectivity, and threats. Today, more than 150 people from 70 organizations have used or are using the Blueprint in their work. And SECAS is on track to deliver on some exciting updates this year!
Exciting updates, you say? So what’s next?
2019 (THE NOT-SO-DISTANT-FUTURE)
Southeast Blueprint Version 4.0 will be released at the Fall 2019 SEAFWA annual meeting. Rua’s most recent blog provides a great synopsis of some of the improvements you can expect in this version, including improved approaches in areas with overlapping inputs, updated inputs, an expanded marine area, an expanded hubs and corridors layer, and more. This year’s SECAS symposium will also include the first-ever assessment of progress toward the SECAS goal! Future blogs will give you a sneak peek of what that looks like.
TO STAY CURRENT
From here on out, you can rely on the SECAS blog and monthly newsletter to keep you up to date on the latest progress, accomplishments, and opportunities to get involved!
FOR THE HISTORY BUFFS
If you’re still looking to brush up on your SECAS history (though I promise this will not be on the exam), the first ever post on the SECAS blog also pulls together a collection of links to past news posted on the South Atlantic LCC website in the years before a SECAS blog existed. Many of those posts are already linked here, but not all, so happy reading!