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Landscape-level Conservation Planning on the Southern Cumberland Plateau

South Cumberland Conservation Action Plan


In partnership with the Lyndhurst Foundation and the Land Trust for Tennessee, Sewanee helped to coordinate a regional conservation action plan for the southern Cumberland Plateau. The plan encompassed almost 2 million acres of various land use, and employed ecological studies and geospatial analyses to focus on identifying priority areas for conservation easements, quantified landscape values and threats, and proposed a vision for future management of compatible development in the region.  In producing this plan, we developed close working relationships with dozens of different stakeholders including federal, state and local government agencies, non-profit organizations and business alliances.   Many of these relationships had already been established through our work addressing pine conversion in the region.


Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge

The South Cumberland Action Plan was instrumental in galvanizing the resolve of several stakeholder groups involved in the planning for the Paint Rock National Wildlife Refuge in southern Franklin County, TN.  This new federal conservation area in the southern Cumberland Plateau would represent the one first wildlife refuges in the U.S. to be designated in upland habitat.  The University, partnering with The Land Trust for TN, also helped organize stakeholder meetings between 2010 and 2011.  The Landscape Analysis Lab provided a large amount of geospatial data to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which helped determine the areas of highest priority for the new refuge.

Open Space Institute - Resilient Landscapes Initiative

The Open Space Institute’s (OSI) Resilient Landscapes Initiative engages land trusts and public agencies across the eastern United States to respond to climate change. Through the Initiative, OSI seeks to increase (1) protection of lands, through acquisition and conservation easements, that can facilitate adaptation of plants, animals and natural systems to climate change, and (2) access to and use of climate science. OSI’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative is underpinned by Resilient Sites for Terrestrial Conservation, an approach developed by scientists at The Nature Conservancy to identify places most likely to be resilient to climate change.  In 2014, OSI is launched the Southeast Resilient Landscapes Fund, with $6.2 million from The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, to apply the TNC resiliency science in nine southern states (Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia).  Jon Evans was selected to serve on the OSI Science Advisors Panel that used a two-step process – a science filter and a feasibility filter – to select two to four focus areas within which OSI will make land protection grants available.   Partly based on the data already available through the South Cumberland Action Plan, the South Cumberland Region was chosen as the first focus area of this intiative.


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