What Isn't For Sale?

Researchers on this project include Mauri Liberati, Phd Student, Dr. Chad Rittenhouse, Center Affiliated Assistant Research Professor in Landscape Ecology and Conservation, and Dr. Jason C. Vokoun, Center Affiliated Associate Professor of Fisheries

Conservation efforts have historically relied on the permanent protection of land, which usually means purchasing the property outright or purchasing partial-rights, called easements. In short, governments and nonprofits buy land to permanently protect it from future change. These lands form a protected lands estate, which in the US, makes up the backbone of fish and wildlife conservation.<

Connecticut has the 12th highest average land value and is the 4th most densely populated state. What are the options for conservation when there is no undeveloped land to buy or owners are unwilling to sell? How do we reach conservation goals in the face of these landscape constraints?

WFCC Faculty member Dr. Chadwick Rittenhouse, PhD Student Mauri Liberati, and WFCC Director Dr. Jason Vokoun developed a planning approach that better addresses 21st century goals. "Landscapes are becoming increasingly constrained by people and competing land uses," explains Liberati. "Planners need to think creatively and intentionally about integration of conservation options that include, but are not limited to, creating protected areas."

Their planning approach demonstrates that using multiple conservation actions that include, but are not limited to protection, can lead to more conservation opportunities. These actions can be organized into bins including Protect, Connect, Restore, Manage, Partner, and Inform and form the PCRM-PI Approach. These actions are then integrated using multi-criteria decision making methods into strategies to address conservation goals.

The approach was demonstrated for an upland game bird of regional conservation concern, the American woodcock. Woodcock rely on grasslands for nesting and spring breeding displays and also need early succession wet forest for feeding - both habitats are also of regional conservation concern in New England.

The study compared a protection-only strategy with multi-action strategies. Conservation goals for woodcock in Connecticut were only reached with strategies that included more than just protection. Only those strategies that integrated multiple actions from the PCRM-PI Approach reached acreage goals for the species.

"It is important that people understand conservation planning because our collective values, beliefs, and priorities influence decisions about what we do with land and ultimately what the landscape will look like," says Liberati. "Conservation planning integrates values and decisions to map the what, why, when and where of nature on the landscape."

To learn more about this study, read the new publication:

Liberati, M. L., C. D. Rittenhouse, and J. C. Vokoun. 2016. Beyond protection: Expanding “conservation opportunity” to redefine planning in the 21st century. Journal of Environmental Management 183: 33-40.

Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation Center 

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