Large Landscape Conservation
The most important land and water conservation issues facing North America—including land use patterns, sustainable water management, biodiversity protection, and adaptation to climate change—require new approaches. While most of these conservation challenges need to be addressed at several scales simultaneously, ranging from the local to the global, it is increasingly imperative to address them at the scale of large landscapes. The territory of these issues often transcends the legal and geographic reach of existing jurisdictions and institutions.
Since no single entity has the power or authority to address cross-boundary land, water, and wildlife conservation issues, there is a gap in governance and a corresponding need to create informal and formal ways to work more effectively across legal and physical boundaries. Large landscape conservation also provides significant economic and fiscal benefits to rural and urban communities.
In response to increasing conservation activity at the large landscape scale, leaders from the public, private, and nongovernmental sectors participated in two national landscape management policy dialogues and many other informal discussions in 2009. Convened by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy at The University of Montana, the intent of the dialogues was to synthesize what we know about large landscape conservation and to identify the most important needs as we move forward.
There is general agreement that the promise of large landscape conservation is its focus on land and water problems at an appropriate geographic scale, regardless of political and jurisdictional boundaries. While it is hard to define precisely what constitutes a large landscape conservation effort, there is a growing consensus that such efforts are multijurisdictional, multipurpose, and multistakeholder, and they operate at various geographic scales using a variety of governance arrangements and public-private partnerships.
The common currency in large landscape conservation is regional collaboration—the ability to work across boundaries with people and organizations that have diverse interests yet share a common place. While there is no single model for large landscape conservation, ten key elements are evident in the most successful efforts. Practitioners apply these elements on a case-by-case basis to create homegrown, community-based conservation solutions for particular places.
With the increasing movement toward large landscape conservation, several barriers still must be addressed for this approach to land and water conservation to endure. In response, participants in the national policy dialogues, along with other many planners, practitioners, and policy officials, believe that large landscape conservation can be improved significantly by implementing the following recommendations:
- Gather and share information to improve the science and governance of large landscape conservation. Establish a common, coherent scientific database, and develop an annotated atlas of governance efforts to clarify who is doing what and what needs to be done.
- Encourage a network of conservation practitioners to build capacity. Catalyze collaboration through a network akin to the Land Trust Alliance to identify best practices and advocate for policy reforms.
- Establish a national competitive grants program to catalyze, enable, coordinate, and sustain promising efforts. Facilitate homegrown community partnerships, improve coordination among ongoing efforts, and recognize the most promising approaches to large landscape conservation.
- Improve the policy toolkit to achieve large landscape conservation. Strengthen incentive-based tools for landowner conservation and improve coordination and participation by federal and other governmental agencies.
- Facilitate innovative federal funding opportunities to support large landscape conservation. Maximize and focus the use of existing federal and state programs and authorities that can be implemented quickly and without significant new funding.
About the Authors
Matthew McKinney is director of the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy (CNREP) at The University of Montana, where his work focuses on collaboration and conflict resolution. He is also an adjunct professor at The University of Montana’s School of Law and chair of the university’s Natural Resource Conflict Resolution Program; senior partner with the Consensus Building Institute. He was director of the Lincoln Institute–CNREP joint venture partnership.
Lynn Scarlett is an independent environmental consultant working on issues pertaining to climate change, ecosystem services, water, and landscape-scale conservation. From 2005 to January 2009 she served as deputy secretary and chief operating officer of the U.S. Department of the Interior, a post she took on after four years as the department’s assistant secretary for policy, management, and budget.
Daniel Kemmis is a private consultant, working primarily in the natural resource and philanthropy arenas. He is a senior fellow of the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy, and an associate of the Charles F. Kettering Foundation. He is a former mayor of Missoula, Montana, and a former speaker and minority leader of the Montana House of Representatives.