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.