high priority species

Jeremy Frencha and Brittney Viers, Quail Forever/Southeastern Grasslands Initiative

The southeastern region of the U.S. was one of the most diverse grassland regions of North America, yet more than 99% has been lost due to such factors as conversion to row crop agriculture, forest succession, and wetland drainage. Reversing the decline in grassland biodiversity will require a regional effort with a multitude of partners. Our objective is to use NRCS-RCPP (Regional Conservation Partnership Program) funds to conduct a multifaceted conservation program that will complement existing efforts, especially near protected landscapes. This RCPP is led by the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture (CHJV) and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC). Our RCPP includes efforts needed to recover populations of grassland bird species deemed in need of conservation attention by Partners in Flight, as well as the native biodiversity associated with the historic grassland landscapes of the Interior Low Plateaus ecoregion of Tennessee and Kentucky. Habitat improvements for the bird species of concern, which are more dependent on vegetation structure than on species composition, can be accomplished by opening up suppressed native grasslands with removal of woody cover and prescribed fire, reconversion of cropland or fescue pastures to native grasses, increasingforb-to-grass ratios, changing grazing intensities, and altering haying regimes. We are also focusing on imperiled grasslands simply in need of management practices to restore them back to their natural conditions. This strategy will be employed in cases where higher native plant diversity is important to maximize benefits to a wider variety of organisms. Three species of grassland-breeding birds were designated as priorities for the CHJV in the 2016 Landbird Conservation Plan: Northern Bobwhite, Henslow's Sparrow, and Eastern Meadowlark. The CHJV region supported an estimated 6.5 million-acres of native grasslands (prairies, savannas, barrens, glades) at the time of European settlement, but nearly all of it has been lost or degraded due to conversion to row-crop agriculture or non-native pasture grasses, succession to woodlands and forests, and urban development. As a result, it is critical that we work with NRCS and other partner agencies and organizations to implement farm bill programs that favor grassland restoration, either through biodiverse focused conservation practices or establishing native warm season grass pastures that mutually benefit livestock and native grassland species.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Allyson Read, Natural Resource Specialist, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, National Park Service 

The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area stretches along 48 miles of the Chattahoochee River from Buford Dam at Lake Lanier to Peachtree Creek in the city of Atlanta. The federal park includes the river plus 16 land units that provide almost 70% of the region’s greenspace offering diverse recreational opportunities and ecosystem diversity within the urbanized environment. The river corridor in this rapidly growing metropolitan area includes many utility rights of way that pre-existed the park in addition to the constant expansion and improvement of local infrastructure. In an effort to minimize resource injury yet allow the utility companies full access to their lines for maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation, CRNRA has created a program to ensure the utilities maintain structure integrity while protecting the park resources. An integral part of the program are several management tools that when used with existing agreements and resources makes the program easily transferable and available for use on most utility corridors. Collaborative efforts among local and national utilities, botanical gardens, non-profits, and individuals have facilitated the ability to promote the utility corridors as locally critical early-successional habitat. The result has been a decrease in resource injury and an increase in the botanical and biological diversity within these corridors and within the urban environment.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Jim Ozier, Environmental Specialist, Environmental and Natural Resources, Georgia Power Company

The Georgia Power Company is an investor-owned utility that generates, delivers, and markets electricity throughout most of the state. The company is one of the state's largest private landowners; conservation attributes of these lands include a refuge for the world's only population of Georgia alder (Alnus maritima georgiensis) and federally designated Critical Habitat for Georgia rockcress (Arabis georgiana). Georgia Power also manages the vegetation on thousands of miles of powerline corridors to ensure safe and reliable power delivery. This is generally accomplished through an integrated approach of mowing every 6 years and targeted backpack spraying of woody encroachment every 2 years inbetween. Incidentally this maintains valuable open habitat needed by many grasses and forbs. Sites known to harbor rare species are designated for management using only hand tools as needed. Examples include several pitcherplant (Sarracenia spp.) bogs and habitat for the federally endangered hairy rattleweed (Baptisia arachnifera). Additionally, Georgia Power is a partner in a Candidate Conservation Agreement for the Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum) and conducts surveys, monitoring, and special management for this species, which appears to be doing well on company lands and rights-of-way.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Dennis David, National Wildlife Refuge Association; Chuck Hunter, US Fish & Wildlife Service; Duke Rankin, US 
Southeastern Partners in Plant Conservation 2020 Conference Abstracts - 38 -
Forest Service; Joanne Baggs, US FS; Carrie Sekerak, US FS; Jeff Hall, NC Wildlife Resources Div.; Pierson Hill,
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Com.; Greg Titus, FWS; Amy Jenkins, FL Natural Areas Inventory; Lesley
Starke, NC Plant Conservation Program; Jeff Beane, NC State Museum of Natural Sciences; Andy Walker, Croatan &
Uwharries National Forest; Megan Keserauskis, FW; John Dunlap, FS; Jorge Guevara, FS; Janna Mott, The Nature
Conservancy of FL; Jeff Marcus, TNC of NC; Thomas Crate, NC State Parks; Chris Jordan, NC Wildlife Resources
Commission; Jennifer Fawcett, Prescribed Fire Work Group at NCSU, Vernon Compton, Longleaf Alliance, John
Matthews, FS; Dan Frisk, FWS; Chris Petersen, DOD Navy; Jeff Talbert, Atlanta Botanical Garden at Deer Lake;
Jennifer Ceska, GA Plant Conservation Alliance; Jenny Cruse-Sanders, State Botanical Garden of GA; Carrie
Radcliffe, Atlanta Botanical Garden

During the At-Risk Workshop series 2015 to 2016, an interagency status review identified habitat degradation caused by
fire exclusion as the primary reason for decline of more than 114 Southeastern wetland species now trending towards
Federal listing; this critical disturbance regime has also been recognized as essential for the recovery of Federally
Threatened and Endangered wetland-dependent guilds of taxa. In 2019, two workshops funded jointly by the US Fish
and Wildlife Service and the US Forest Service and coordinated by the National Wildlife Refuge Association were held,
with the main objective of strategizing getting more fire into isolated ephemeral wetlands to help at-risk species. Over
130 conservation professionals from more than 40 agencies and organizations from the SE US contributed knowledge
of tools and restoration techniques used to manage ephemeral wetlands. Local subject matter experts, biologists, fire
practitioners, ecologists and land managers convened to discuss and share best restoration and management practices for
ephemeral wetlands to address at-risk species management (plant and animal) with a focus in the longleaf ecosystem in
the Coastal Plain. Carrie Sekerak, Deputy District Ranger, Ocala National Forest will present on the state of these
isolated wetlands, the current issues in isolated wetland management, and a snapshot of best practices being applied.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Dr. Elizabeth Crisfield and Karen Terwilliger, Strategic Stewardship Initiative

State boundaries have always been invisible to biota. But now, as climate change shifts climatic regimes over the landscape, as more invasive species become established, as people move native and exotic species from place to place – regional collaborative conservation across state lines is needed more than ever to provide effective stewardship of native biodiversity. In concert with other regional conservation initiatives, one way to specifically communicate shared priorities for rare plants is by creating a list of Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need. These are species for which the 17 states and territories comprising the SePPCon footprint represent more than 50% of the plants’ native range and whose populations are in decline. In some cases, threats responsible for species’ declines are shared in the region and can be mitigated collaboratively. In other cases, genetic diversity in the SePPCon region can be studied to support stronger conservation programs. The Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need list can help communicate shared priority species between colleagues in agencies, academia, and non-profit conservation partners. The list can also facilitate inclusion of plants in the 2025 revisions of the State Wildlife Action Plans, as well as being referenced in grant proposal justifications to demonstrate the importance of research and other activities. In this presentation, we will explore the opportunity to develop a Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need list for plants in the SePPCon geographic area.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Dr. Jon Ambrose, Georgia DNR, Chief of Wildlife Conservation

All state wildlife agencies in the Southeast have developed State Wildlife Action Plans, strategic plans for conservation of rare or declining species and their habitats. Some states have included plants as species of greatest conservation need, and others are considering doing so in the next revision of their plans. In recent years, states have recognized the need to focus additional resources on landscape scale conservation planning and implementation. The Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS) is a regional conservation initiative that spans the Southeastern United States and Caribbean. SECAS emerged as a response to the unprecedented challenges facing our natural and cultural resources, including urban growth and climate change. Participating states and organizations have contributed to the development of the Southeast Conservation Blueprint, a dynamic spatial plan that identifies the most important areas for conservation and restoration across the region. The shared vision of SECAS is a connected network of lands and waters that supports thriving fish and wildlife populations and improved quality of life for people as well as a goal of 10% or greater improvement in the health, function, and connectivity of southeastern ecosystems by 2060. In addition, SEAFWA states recently collaborated on a project to develop a list of regional species of greatest conservation need from the very large number of species identified as priorities in fifteen State Wildlife Action Plans. This list, which serves as a complement to the Southeast Conservation Blueprint, will facilitate prioritization of conservation projects and collaboration among states within the region. Developing and implementing conservation plans across landscapes and suites of species requires financial resources well in excess of those currently available to state agencies and partner organizations. Recovering America's Wildlife Act (HR 3742), introduced in July 2019, would allocate a total of $1.4 billion annually to state and tribal agencies to address the full range of conservation needs articulated in State Wildlife Action Plans. A national coalition of organizations is working for passage of this landmark federal bill, which will provide critical funding for conservation of native species and natural communities throughout the country.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020