As a living spatial plan, the Blueprint is always a work in progress. We maintain a list of the problems with the Blueprint that have been identified in the review process so far, which we call “known issues”. These known issues are part of our commitment to transparently documenting the Blueprint’s strengths and weaknesses. They also help us prioritize the most important issues to fix in the next update cycle.
Here are the known issues identified with Southeast Conservation Blueprint 2022:
- Some managed grasslands are underprioritized. Examples include Prairie Wildlife grasslands west of Vinton, MS; Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in TX; Caddo National Grassland in TX; Lyndon B. Johnson National Grassland in TX; Black Kettle National Grassland in OK; parts of Taberville Prairie Conservation Area in MO; restored glades on the eastern and northern edge of Ozark National Forest in AR; areas along Pretty Ridge Rd. east of Cove Lake in KY; May Prairie State Natural Area in TN; Bark Camp Barrens Wildlife Management Area in TN; DuPont State Forest and some surrounding areas in NC; and the Voice of America site east of Chicod, NC. Improvements to the fire frequency and grassland indicators could fix this in the future.
- Some important riverscour grasslands downstream of major dams are underprioritized (e.g., part of the Rockcastle River in Daniel Boone National Forest in KY). Improvements to the reservoir mask, which currently removes these areas from the prioritization, could fix this in the future.
- Some pastures are overprioritized in TX and OK. Examples include an area of small-parcel improved pastures southeast of Austin, TX; an area of non-native pasture east of Cherokee, OK; an area of non-native pasture east of Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in OK; and non-native pastures east of Cashion, OK. This could be fixed in the future with improvements to the Great Plains perennial grasslands indicator.
- Parts of some important ecological corridors are underprioritized. Examples include parts of the corridor between Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park and Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in GA; parts of the corridor between Fort Campbell, Land Between the Lakes, and Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge in KY and TN; some of the areas from Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in NC; multiple corridors coming out of Okefenokee Swamp in GA; and the Osceola to Ocala corridor in FL. Improvements to prioritization methods and indicators will likely fix these in the future.
- Some upland areas in large habitat patches that are fragmented by dirt roads are underprioritized. This issue impacts parts of some national forests and military bases. Improvements to the intact habitat cores indicator and/or new prioritization methods currently under investigation will likely fix this in the future.
- Some patches of open pine with good local conditions are underprioritized. Examples include parts of Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park in FL; important gopher tortoise habitat in an area just east of Mauk, GA; Fort Rucker in AL; an area east of Bexley, MS; and Daniel Boone National Forest in KY. Ongoing updates to the fire frequency indicator could continue to improve this issue in future updates.
- Some parts of small, low-elevation islands are underprioritized. The exact boundaries of these highly dynamic islands can be hard to predict. The boundaries used in the islands indicator and areas used for critical habitat of key island species don’t always align perfectly—especially in the most dynamic parts of the island. A potential improvement to address this is under investigation. Examples include Tybee Bar in GA, Lanark Reef in FL, and the Chandeleur Islands off of LA.
- Within the Interior Plateau subregion, planted pine areas are being overprioritized when they are part of intact habitat cores. Potential indicator improvements to fix this are under investigation.
- Some recently developed areas are overprioritized (e.g., a solar field near Wedgefield, FL and the Moncure Megasite in NC). Updated landcover and indicator updates based on newer landcover should fix this issue.
- Some new conservation areas where restoration has only started recently are underprioritized. Examples include Wolfe Creek Forest in FL, an airfield north of Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park in FL, and the Wolf River corridor in MS. Updated landcover and indicator updates based on newer landcover should fix this issue.
- Some important urban natural areas are underprioritized. For example, an area east of Puryear Park in St. Petersburg, FL; Kapok Park in Clearwater, FL; the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance education hub in Atlanta, GA; Lost Corner Preserve in Sandy Springs, GA; part of Chattahoochee River National Recreation area in GA; and part of Simpsonwood Park in Peachtree Corners, GA. Improvements in indicators related to urban natural areas could fix this in the future.
- Culturally important historic areas are underprioritized through the Blueprint. This is particularly true in areas outside of the Piedmont, Atlantic Coastal Plain, and East Gulf Coastal Plain subregions. Even within these subregions, where there is an indicator for these areas, there are significant gaps. Some low-urban historic areas in these subregions are underprioritized because 1) they are not yet part of the National Register of Historic Places (e.g., Lost Island Farm on Roanoke Island, the likely landing site for the Lost Colony at the mouth of the Chowan River, and Native American sites on the Dan River near the NC/VA border), 2) because their location isn’t publicly shared (e.g., sensitive archeological sites), or because 3) the GIS depiction of their spatial boundaries has significant errors (e.g., sites in GA and AL).
- Some areas with important ecological communities are underprioritized in TX and OK (e.g., shinnery oak scrub).
- Some upland areas in the Upper Coastal Plain of GA are overprioritized. Improvements in prioritization methods could improve this in the future.
- The Trail Ridge area east of Okefenokee Swamp in GA, which has significant longleaf restoration potential and is an important movement corridor for longleaf species, is underprioritized. Improvements in prioritization methods could improve this in the future.
- Some small patches of pine rocklands habitat in South FL are underprioritized.
- Some small or newer quarries are overprioritized (e.g., American Stone Quarry near Chapel Hill, NC). While most quarries are classified correctly as developed, smaller or newer ones don’t have large enough areas of barren landcover in the 2019 National Landcover Database to be filtered out in the resilient terrestrial sites indicator. If not identified as non-natural, quarries tend to score very highly on landscape diversity given all the elevation change that happens within them. This issue could be fixed in a future update to the resilient terrestrial sites indicator.
- Some important wetlands are underpriorized. Examples include the east and west sides of Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge in AR; Ten Mile Pond Conservation Area in MO; the southeast part of Big Oak Tree State Park in MO; xerohydric flatwoods in Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge in KY; white fringeless orchid habitat in Daniel Boone National Forest in KY; wetlands just east of Macedonia, TN; depressional wetlands southeast of Raeford, NC; the Stony Run wetlands in Northeast Dunn, NC; the Tar River wetlands in Northeast Greenville, NC; and a section of the Waccamaw River floodplain between Edward E Burroughs Hwy and SC 31 in SC. Improvements to indicators and prioritization methods could fix these in the future.
- Some ephemeral wetlands are underprioritized. New prioritization methods under investigation for next year could address this.
- A small set of bottomland forest areas in areas flooded by dams are underprioritized (e.g., the area between Summerfield and Faircloth, LA and the Little River wetlands in Millwood Recreation Area in AR). These areas are misidentified as open water reservoirs in the current reservoir mask. Improvements to that mask for future Blueprints are under investigation.
- Some inland areas that play particularly important buffering roles for key offshore habitats are underprioritized (e.g., St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve in FL). New prioritization methods under investigation for next year could address this.
- Sections of the Everglades on either side of US Hwy 41 are underprioritized. Indicator improvements under investigation could fix this in the future.
- Important Carolina bays are often included in large patches of medium priority, but the bays and nearby areas should be higher priority. Different methods for resolving this issue are under investigation.
- Some forested wetlands in the West Gulf Coastal Plain subregion that are southeast of Alexandria, LA are underprioritized. The source data for the Mississippi Alluvial Valley forest birds protection and reforestation indicators have data in this area, but they weren’t included in the prioritization due to an oversight in which indicators were included for those subregions. The West Coastal Plain and Ouachitas forested wetland birds indicator doesn’t extend to this area in the West Gulf Coastal Plain subregion, resulting in a coverage gap for forested wetland birds in that subregion.
- A small number of forested wetlands along the western edge of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley subregion are underprioritized. The source data for the West Coastal Plain and Ouachitas forested wetland birds indicator has data in this area, but it wasn’t included in the prioritization due to an oversight in which indicators were included for those subregions. The Mississippi Alluvial Valley forest birds protection and reforestation indicators don’t extend to this area in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley subregion, resulting in a coverage gap for forested wetland birds in that subregion.
- Some important areas of tidal freshwater marsh are underprioritized (e.g., Mackay National Wildlife Refuge). Indicators that better represent waterfowl habitat needs could improve this in the future.
- The salt marshes on the west side of Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge seem to be underprioritized. Improved indicator and priority methods could fix this in the future.
- Some important caves for Ozark big-eared bat, Northern long-eared bat, and Indiana bat are underprioritized. A potential indicator to address this is under investigation.
- Some important upland habitat for range-restricted species is underprioritized (e.g., Texas kangaroo rat). Indicator improvements under development could fix that in next year’s update.
- Some coastal marsh areas important for diamondback terrapin are underprioritized (e.g., Cedar Point marsh in AL).
- Some important areas for salamanders in the Appalachians are underprioritized (e.g., the Little River headwaters south of Masseyville, GA).
- Some islands particularly important for species that don’t yet have critical habitat spatially mapped (e.g., red knot) or are not federally listed species (e.g., seabirds, heron rookeries) are underprioritized (e.g., Ogeechee Bar in GA and Walker and Robinson Islands in AL).
- Some Florida panther habitat that is important for breeding and movement in South FL is underprioritized.
- Some parts of Cape Sable seaside sparrow critical habitat are being underprioritized. All critical habitat for this species is prioritized in the Blueprint, but it is currently a mix of high and medium priority. Multiple indicator improvements under investigation could fix this in the future.
- Important areas for beach birds that are not on islands are underprioritized in the FL Peninsula and all other Gulf coast subregions.
- Some areas that are important for mottled duck nesting in the edge of the Texas Blackland Prairie and West Gulf Coastal Plain subregions are underprioritized.
- Some river sections important for aquatic diversity are underprioritized. This is especially true in WV where the data used are older than in other states. Underprioritized areas include some sections of Shoe Heel Creek in NC that are important for broadtail madtoms and other endemics; Neuse River waterdog habitat in the Trent River near Croatan National Forest in NC; the VA section of the Nottoway River; the lower section of the Little River in NC; some parts of the lower Neuse River in NC; Buck darter streams near Shopville, KY; some sections of the Edisto River in SC; parts of Ashley River northwest of Charleston, SC; an area near the confluence of Black Mingo Creek and the Black River in SC; the headwaters of the Flint River; and sections of the Flint River north and south of the Atlanta airport. Ongoing improvements in the imperiled aquatic species indicators and prioritization methods should improve these issues.
- Some aquatic areas, particularly smaller rivers and streams, are overprioritized. The imperiled aquatic species indicator is at a subwatershed (HUC12) scale while the species hotspots it seeks to depict are often only a part of that subwatershed.
- Some important areas for migratory fish in Gulf of Mexico drainages are underprioritized. The source data for the Gulf migratory fish connectivity indicator didn’t include migratory fish species that are important for the Mississippi Alluvial Valley and all Gulf coast watersheds west of that subregion. Additionally, while the source data does have data for part of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley and the Central Gulf Coastal Plain, they weren’t included in the prioritization due to an oversight in which indicators were included for those subregions.
- Some important areas for migratory fish in Atlantic drainages (e.g., a section of the St. Mary’s River east of I-95) are underprioritized. Updated prioritization methods will likely fix this issue next year.
- Some open water areas of artificial waterbodies are underprioritized. In some cases, parts of these waterbodies can provide important species habitat (e.g., American crocodile habitat in cooling canals in South FL and waterfowl habitat in parts of some reservoirs).
- Some river areas are underprioritized in South FL (e.g., the north fork of St. Lucie river and Ten Mile Creek). Potential aquatic indicator improvements under investigation could fix this in the future.
- Some canals are overprioritized in South FL. Potential aquatic indicator improvements under investigation could fix this in the future.
- While the Blueprint tries to not prioritize the open water parts of reservoirs, a small number of small reservoirs were missed in the layer that estimates reservoir locations (e.g., Tired Creek Lake in GA).
- Some parts of the floodplain that are important for migratory fish are underprioritized in the eastern part of the Southern and Northern Appalachian subregions. The source data for the Atlantic migratory fish habitat indicator had data in those areas, but they weren’t included in the prioritization due to an oversight in which indicators were included for those subregions.
- Some riparian areas in the Piedmont in Northeast VA and the southern part of the West Gulf Coastal Plain subregion are underprioritized. The source data for the coastal shoreline condition indicator had data in those areas, but they weren’t included in the prioritization due to an oversight in which indicators were included for those subregions.
- Mouths of many priority rivers are underprioritized where they transition into the estuarine ecosystem. Improved estuarine indicators should improve this issue in the future.
- Nearshore and estuarine open water areas of the Gulf of Mexico are based only on the estuarine coastal condition index and seagrasses indicators. They do not include a number of other important natural and cultural components of that ecosystem. Underprioritized areas include Weeks Bay, AL and St. Louis Bay, MS. Additional indicators for this area are under development.
- Seagrass areas in South FL are underprioritized. Improvements to the seagrasses indicator and prioritization methods are under investigation and could improve this in the future.
- Some marine Blueprint priorities are at a coarser resolution due to the marine birds and marine mammals indicators. The coarser data results in what looks like parts of large squares and unnatural edges in priority going either north-south or east-west. Future improvements in indicator resolution should fix this in the future.
- Some marine areas in the far eastern part of the Blueprint, particularly beyond the Blake Plateau, may be underprioritized due a lack of survey data for marine birds and mammals in that region.
- Some important black-capped petrel feeding areas far offshore are underprioritized. Future improvements in the marine birds indicator should fix this.
- Some important ocean features are underprioritized (e.g., the Charleston Gyre). Improvements to prioritization methods could improve this in the near future.
Florida Marine & Caribbean
- The Southeast Blueprint underprioritizes parts of the nearshore Florida marine environment within the extent of the Base Blueprint. This area does not have full indicator coverage in the Base Blueprint, and the Florida Marine Blueprint prioritizes many of these areas more highly than the Base Blueprint does. However, because the Base Blueprint priorities took precedence in this area, the final Southeast Blueprint does not reflect these higher values.
- There are no “priority connections” within Puerto Rico and the Florida marine environment because these other input plans did not have a corresponding connectivity analysis.