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IUCN Students as Catalysts Competition 2014 Winners Announced

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is pleased to announce its 2014 winners of the IUCN Students as Catalysts Competition. The Students as Catalysts Competition sought proposals from undergraduate and graduate students, recent students, and young conservation professionals based at colleges, universities, and independent research organizations that participate in and lead projects forwarding conservation initiatives around the world. Submissions ranged from the natural sciences, social sciences, policy, and professional studies to the arts and humanities, and spanned initiative locations from the United States and Canada, to Vanuatu, Melanesia and Sulawesi, Indonesia. The five winners of this competition represent Canada, the United States, Brazil, and Switzerland, and offer an impressive range of scope and scale of their projects. 

Chosen for their catalytic work in large landscape conservation efforts around the globe, the five winners will publish short papers describing their conservation efforts, and will be presenting their work at the upcoming IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia in November, 2014. Winning proposals were chosen based on their novelty, measurable effectiveness, strategic significance, and transferability to other jurisdictions and nations throughout the world. 

Below, please find brief initiative descriptions of the impressive 2014 Students as Catalysts winners.

Alessandra Lehman, Brazil, Stanford University
Landscape-Level Compensatory Mitigation: Developmental Needs and Environmental Integrity Reconciled

The framework for compensatory mitigation in the US is in pressing need of a new approach. Currently, mitigation measures are an afterthought in the permitting process, being considered in a late, limited, and fragmented manner – or not at all. A new, comprehensive  framework based on investments in landscape-scale with tangible environmental benefits is both environmentally and administratively preferable to time-consuming efforts associated the development one-off mitigation projects. Such a holistic approach, which could set an example to be followed by fellow nations, has the potential for simultaneously making permitting less burdensome for both the administration and the developer and achieving better environmental results – a clear win for all stakeholders.

Fabian Huwyler, Switzerland
Credit Suisse: Investor-Driven Support for Large Landscape Conservation  



Market-based financing mechanisms from the private finance sector have great potential where the conservation of large landscapes is concerned, but they remain underdeveloped. There is without a doubt demand for conservation-related financial products among both private and institutional investors. To be marketable to a broad range of investors, conservation finance mechanisms need to be simple and modular, ideally structured as combinations of investments in underlying ecosystems and cash-generating mechanisms. An analysis of available framework conditions at a to be defined World Heritage Site should prove the viability of the concept.

Brendan Boepple, USA
State of the Rockies Project

The State of the Rockies Project is in its eleventh year, and seeks to increase public understanding of vital issues affecting the Rocky Mountain West. Building upon Colorado College’s 130 years of service to the region, the Rockies Project conducts state-of-the-art research helping Rockies residents clearly see their communities, environments, and economies so they may better shape the future of the region. The Project strives to inform stakeholders about critical regional issues, while encouraging dialogue and collaborative action to protect and nurture the Rockies. Through the Project’s two-year focus on the Colorado River Basin, traditional and emerging media was used to highlight the growing issues surrounding water in the Southwestern United States. The Project now continues that approach to inform and engage the region on the topic of large landscape conservation, and its growing importance in the American West.

Delaney Boyd, Canada
Role of Military Lands in Environmental Stewardship

This project presents a re-envisioning of the role and management of military lands for environmental stewardship with emphasis on a Canadian large landscape example. The intent is to highlight the remarkable, and somewhat initially surprising, environmental assets housed on military lands, but also the complex array of cumulative land use pressures requiring heightened sustainable land management capacity. Focused planning and research efforts are underway to enhance organizational performance and decision-making by the Canadian Department of National Defence, the largest federal landowner in Canada, as well as promote more sophisticated management of what have become some of the most environmentally relevant lands in the world.

Priscila Franco-Steir, Brazil
Tingua-Bocaina Biodiversity Corridor 

The Tinguá-Bocaina Biodiversity Corridor (CBTB) is an area of 195 thousand hectares in the state of Rio de Janeiro, in a region identified as a biodiversity hotspot. Moreover, the CBTB is localized in the Guandú Watershed, responsible for up to 80% of the water and 20% of the energy supply of Rio’s metropolitan area, inhabited by over 8 million people. To catalyze the CBTB initiative, ITPA, a local NGO, employed entrepreneurship strategies reaching sounding results both in conservation and socio-economic dimensions. Whether the transferability of its strategies requires a persuasive catalyzer able to narrate legitimacy and engage stakeholders, its structuring actions, based on public incentives, are largely replicable and are already being adopted in other states.

News

Save the date: 

NATIONAL WORKSHOP ON LARGE LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION

October 23 and 24, 2014

Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 

Washington DC

Join conservation practitioners and policy makers from across North America to share ideas on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in implementing large landscape conservation initiatives. For all the details see here.


INVESTING IN RESILIENCY

5/7/14 Webinar hosted by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and the Harvard Program on Conservation Innovation, with contributors Abigail Weinberg, Andy Finton, and Tom Lautzenheiser

As part of the Catalyst grant program, Mass Audubon and the The Nature Conservancy Massachusetts Chapter have scaled the data for Massachusetts and examined how much of the resilient lands were converted to development between 2005 and 2013. Their findings will be released as part of the highly anticipated Losing Ground report in June of this year. 

This webinar reviewed the science and applications at play, the workings of the catalyst grant program, and offered a preview of the findings from the upcoming addition of Losing Ground. For more on this webinar and to hear a recording, click here.



In Focus: Conservation Lessons from Kenyon College

In the scenic town of Gambier, OH, Kenyon College has put itself on the map of global conservation efforts for its astounding innovations engaging a small liberal arts college in the process of private landscape-scale conservation. Ever since Bishop Philander Chase founded the college in 1824, Kenyon has prided itself on its picturesque rural campus that has won the hearts of decades of students, faculty, and visitors alike. Kenyon has tapped into the identity its community associates with the college campus and natural landscape in order to fuel conservation efforts and establish a legacy of land conservation that the college continues to expand with each passing year. Especially in the context of nearby farm auctions, land sales, subdivisions, and accelerating commercial development, timely and continuing action is necessary for a place like Kenyon College.

As a result of encroaching threats to Kenyon’s surrounding lands over the years, the Philander Chase Corporation (PCC) and the Owl Creek Conservancy (OCC) were both established in 2000 in order to promote land conservation throughout Knox County, where Kenyon is located. The principle objective of PCC is to preserve and maintain the open spaces, scenic views, farmland, and characteristic landscapes surrounding Gambier, OH. The OCC focuses on the conservation of natural and agricultural land primarily through the preservation of woodland, wetlands, farmland, waterways, scenic vistas, and wildlife habitats of environmental, historic, and community importance.  Both organizations operate as land trusts that are separate entities from the College, allowing the community to take advantage of agricultural and conservation easements that the College itself could not qualify for.

Through various successful alliances that the PCC and OCC established with government agencies, as well as partnerships with policy makers at the Township, County, and State levels, Knox County lands surrounding the College have been conserved at astounding rates over the past decade, all with the collaboration and input of both the local community and Kenyon College. To the best of our knowledge, PCC is the only land trust in the country that is part of an educational institution, and utilizes the catalytic and financial power of a college, its students, and its alumni network to advance local conservation efforts. Students were enlisted to aid local farmers in preparing funding application essays for conservation easements, and Kenyon student groups centered around conservation efforts establish mechanisms for students to be more directly involved in tangible local conservation efforts. Additional benefits to Kenyon’s catalytic conservation dynamic include more amiable relationships between Kenyon students and the local community, an increasingly impressive campus that draws prospective students and alumni to Kenyon’s campus, and enduring conservation efforts that will preserve the local heritage of natural beauty.

For more information on the conservation initiatives surrounding Kenyon College, a CCN profile written by Douglas Givens, can be accessed here: http://www.conservationcatalysts.net/members/kenyon-college-knox-county-ohio-land-preservation

A video on Kenyon College’s conservation efforts with PCC and OCC can be found here: http://www.kenyon.edu/x44947.xml

Below, please find maps of Knox County and conserved lands pursued by the PCC, and notice the incredible change in conserved lands between 1998 and 2013.

 

 


Resurrecting the Colorado River Delta

Multi-disciplinary focus helps to bring the estuary back to life

Since the 1930s, a series of huge dams along the Colorado River - including the Hoover Dam, which serves a variety of municipal, agricultural and industrial uses – have virtually drained the Colorado River Delta.  After the dams arrested the spring floods that had come for millenia, expanses of mudflats and invasive salt cedars could be seen in the dry riverbeds and seemingly empty estuaries stretching from the US-Mexican border all the way to the head Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez). Where Aldo Leopold and John Steinbeck had once observed abundant marine life and waterfowl was now left arid and relatively inhospitable conditions.

Although some experts had given up hope of seeing the Delta revived, others carefully studied and nurtured some modest springs of hope.  These springs of hope were both physical and virtual, ranging from inventively repurposed wastewater sources to cross-boundary research collaboratives. Today, with the help of universities, colleges and research institutions located throughout the Colorado River Basin and beyond, the Delta is slowly but surely coming back to life.

The video posted above describes the work of the Sonoran Institute, a Tucson-based organization that has focused both on science and on community development in the Delta area for a number of years. Their work, spearheaded by Francisco Zamora, has included a number of demonstration projects that show, literally on the ground, that bi-national collaboration can have dramatic impacts both on ecosystems and community expectations that a recovery of the Delta is a real possibility.

Several different departments at the University of Arizona in Tucson likewise are working on longstanding efforts to revive the Colorado River Delta. Prominent among them is the bi-national Research Coordination Network (RCN) that was initiated by Karl Flessa, head of the U of A’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, with the support of the National Science Foundation in the US.  Flessa discusses his work, and how it advanced conservation in the real world, in the video featured here.

In some cases, focusing institutional attention on the Delta has involved getting your feet – indeed, your entire body – wet. Very wet. The State of the Rockies project at Colorado College, based in Colorado Springs, is focusing for two consecutive years on the Colorado River, from its headwaters to the Delta.  Through the project, undergraduate researchers have engaged top decision-makers at the United States Department of the Interior in their explorations. Most dramatically, perhaps, is the interaction of two CC undergraduates who kayaked the length of the river and then spoke to senior Interior officials about what they saw.

The recovery of the Colorado River Delta is still in its very early stages, and the shape and pace that recovery will take is still very much in question.  What is much more clear is that the active participation of colleges, universities and research institutions will make critical contributions to the effort, adding expertise, in-depth experience in the region, and considerable energy and enthusiasm.


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The Conservation Catalysts network is a project of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.


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