Local Engagement and Capacity Planning
Providing Data to Decision-Makers
Local people who are developing the vision for natural resource management and wildlife connectivity in their town can take advantage of Staying Connected Initiative programs that translate regional connectivity science into local action.
The first step is often engaging residents in an appreciation of their natural history. Talks about wildlife movement or species of interest, walks that point out local natural history and citizen science programs to track wildlife along roadways can engage communities and equip individuals to participate in local planning efforts.
Local engagement efforts have also sparked the formation of groups to address connectivity across one or many towns, such as Cold Hollows to Canada which focuses on a seven town region of northern VT. SCI supports and promotes the capacity of such groups to provide local leadership and connects them with topic experts and partners interested in connectivity science, land protection, land use planning, transportation and other disciplines.
Local Engagement and Capacity Planning Success Stories
In the Tug Hill Plateau to the Adirondack Mountains linkage area, SCI partners developed a technical handbook for planners called Make Room for Wildlife: A Resource for Local Planners and Communities in the Adirondacks that lays out development options that minimize the impact on wildlife. Two towns within the linkage, Ava and Trenton, have drafted connectivity language to include in their comprehensive land use plans.
In the Adirondacks to Greens linkage area, SCI has organized nearly 60 events (presentations, walks, meetings) attended by more than 1,000 people over 3 years. These events fostered a sense of enthusiasm and interest in habitat connectivity conservation in critical areas.
On the Vermont side of the Adirondacks to Greens linkage area, we conducted outreach on habitat connectivity to 16 non-governmental groups through events such as the New York/Vermont cross-border stakeholder meeting “A Place in Between” for approximately 30 participants. A summary report (Synthesis_A_Place_In_Between) captures meeting results, provides maps of existing conservation work, and identifies gaps and opportunities for collaboration to continue the great efforts in the region to protect connectivity.
In the Worcester-Northeast Kingdom linkage area we provided technical assistance to three land trusts – Northern Rivers Land Trust, Greensboro Land Trust, and the Vermont Land Trust (a statewide SCI partner) – to incorporate landscape connectivity into project planning. SCI’s wildlife-related events, from guided walks to a “Deer of North America” presentation were an opportunity to network with local fish and game clubs and other hunting-oriented organizations about shared landscape values. We also sponsored An Enduring Place, a publication branding the linkage and exploring connections between the region’s ecology and people, and one that acts as a platform for outreach and engagement with a wide assortment of local organizations. We also established a partnership with the Craftsbury Outdoor Center; COC will serve as a local “hub” of habitat connectivity advocacy in the linkage moving forward.
In the Northern Greens to Canada linkage area, a particular focus has been the establishment of the grassroots Cold Hollow-to-Canada Forest Link Project, a community-based partnership working across seven Vermont towns. In the Towns of Montgomery and Eden, a series of presentations and technical assistance including prioritization of habitat block and connectivity areas, and participation in public hearings, resulted in improvements to zoning bylaws to protect wildlife habitat and landscape connectivity. “Community Values Mapping” workshops have helped identify places in the local landscape that are valued by residents of the towns for various reasons (wildlife habitat, recreation, forest products, aesthetics, “sense of place”, etc.).
In the Taconic Mountains to the Southern Green Mountains linkage area, technical assistance has also been provided to the Battenkill Conservation Group.
In the Northeast Kingdom to Western Maine linkage, SCI partners provided GIS data related to forest blocks and potential connectivity areas to the Mahoosucs Land Trust.
In the Green Mountains to Hudson Linkage, partners are providing outreach to communities and partners to share analysis and identify opportunities for infrastructure, land protection, and management projects in the highest priority areas across the region.
A few examples of local outreach and education programs that could help your community get engaged and stay connected include the WildPaths Tracking Project, a workshop on the Deer of North America, and a course on Wildlife Track Identification.