Development of Model Guidelines for Assisting Local Planning Boards with Conservation of Species of Greatest Conservation Need and their Key Habitats through Local Land Use Planning

RCN Topic
Guidelines for Local Planning Boards

The major goals of this project were to integrate conservation information on Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and their habitats with land use planning decisions. Our intent is for decision-makers, particularly those at a local scale and volunteers who may not have extensive training, to be able to access the information they need to answer their questions within a few simple keystrokes. NatureServe and its partners at Defenders of Wildlife, the Environmental Law Institute, the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, and the Virginia Natural Heritage Program were awarded this RCN grant to develop an initial toolkit for planners that addresses: a)  easily providing SGCN and habitat information; b) funding sources to aid wildlife resource planning; c) legal frameworks in each state that address SGCN; d) Best Management Practices; e) and delivery mechanisms for these information sources. 

A regional and state-by-state overview of wildlife conservation practices in the northeast will help identify priorities for future studies, reveal gaps in our information and highlight successful programs. This work builds on the Terrestrial Ecosystem and Habitat Map of the Northeastern United States developed by The Nature Conservancy and NatureServe under a separate RCN grant. The study also builds on a wealth of information previously compiled by each partner, as well as an inventory of existing delivery mechanisms, legal requirements, Best Management Practices, funding sources, and key networking and dissemination opportunities available in the Northeast region. Through in-depth interviews with state wildlife agencies, as well as selected land trusts and municipalities, the study identifies gaps in the existing delivery system that may be filled through an expanded toolkit.

This project was completed in February 2012. The final report provided below includes: a) an overview of wildlife and conservation information available from a national / regional and state level, as well as detailed information (see Appendices 1-14) – also provided below in Excel spreadsheet format; b) case studies of integrating biodiversity conservation into planning in Virginia (Appendix 15) and Pennsylvania (Appendix 16); c) legal conservation frameworks for each state (Appendix 17) ; d) funding sources for conservation by state (Appendix 18); and e) links to a demonstration toolkit for three states (Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire) on NatureServe’s LandScope America designed to bring together maps, data, and stories about natural places and present them in highly dynamic and accessible formats.

Land use planning is a complex and challenging, continuously evolving endeavor. Effective planners must be able to rapidly integrate a vast amount of information in the face of competing priorities of businesses, developers, politicians, private individuals.  As conservationists, how do we ensure that protection of wildlife and habitat are also a priority in planning? In order to address wildlife conservation, decision-makers must be able to readily address not only questions such as:  “what wildlife species and habitat is of concern in my jurisdiction?” and “where it is located?”, but also “how can we ensure that wildlife and habitat are conserved?” within this very challenging context.

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