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NFC: The Nature Conservancy's Freshwater Initiative (fwd)

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 5 Feb 1999 14:12:02 -0500 (EST)
From: Konrad Schmidt <flier at uswest_net>
To: nfc at actwin_com
Subject: The Nature Conservancy's Freshwater Initiative

The Nature Conservancy's Freshwater Initiative Recommended Strategies for Advancing Freshwater Conservation

The Freshwater Initiative is a Conservancy-wide integrated program, designed to help TNC and our partners accomplish the goals set in Conservation by Design.

Freshwater biodiversity is in serious jeopardy in the United States
Freshwater biodiversity is in serious jeopardy in the United States. Freshwater plants and animals are proportionately more imperiled than their terrestrial counterparts. Biological inforrmation indicates that two-thirds of mussels, half of crayfish and one-third of fishes and amphibians are now imperiled. In most states more than 80 percent of riparian ecosystems have been lost and more than 50 percent o four nation's wetlands have disappeared in this century.

Two of the most predominant threats to freshwater biological diversity within the U.S. arc:

	Altered hydrological regimes from dams, water diversions and watershed development
	Agricultural runoff of sediment and other nonpoint source pollutants.

One cannot preserve the life of a place and not protect the waters that run through it Historically, The Nature Conservancy has targeted terrestrial species through protection of the habitats which they need to survive. We have had great success on this front, owning and managing the world's largest system of private nature preserves. But our thinking and methods have evolved over time and we recognize the connection between land and water is elemental: one cannot preserve both the terrestrial and aquatic life of a place without protecting the waters that run through it.

But to do so requires new biological data to help set our priorities, new conservation approaches and cooperation and coordination among conservationists, communities, land owners and governments. For the first time in the Conservancy's history, freshwater is the focus of the kind of integrated, vigorous and sustained conservation we've practiced on the land. The Freshwater Initiative is a blueprint for this action.

The Initiative
Freshwater biodiversity conservation is ultimately accomplished in local watersheds by employing scientific knowledge and expertise to drive community-based conservation approaches. The Conservancy has been working in more than 200 watersheds and is now uniquely positioned to leverage such work into more freshwater biodiversity conservation throughout the nation and in other countries where we work.

Three strategies anchor the Conservancy's Freshwater Initiative:
 Develop better biological information on freshwater biodiversity
 Reduce predominant freshwater threats at selected sites
 Exponentially increase the quality and frequency of information, data sharing and training among Conservancy personnel and partners.

Strategy One
This strategy entails gathering more and better data on freshwater biodiversity through state and federal agencies, academia, and natural heritage programs to serve conservation planning on an ecoregional scale. Ecoregions, as defined by the Conservancy, are large landscapes determined by climate and geology which, in turn, affect the kinds of ecosystems, animals and plants found there. With a better portrait~t of the natural life in freshwater ecosystems, the Conservancy and others can devise conservation measures to better protect those species and communities which are most vulnerable. A recent "Rivers of Life" publication soon to be released by TNC will illustrate some of the utility of recently acquired freshwater data in directing us to the most critical watersheds for freshwater conservation action.

Strategy Two
Two types of threats (alteration of natural water flows and farm pollution) affect a large majority of TNC's domestic freshwater sites. Abating these threats is complex and requires the concerted efforts of a number of land owners, water managers, and other interests. One has only to consider the number of agents which could be contributing to agricultural nonpoint source pollution in a watershed to understand the enormity of the challenge in reducing this threat. To alleviate hydrologic alteration threats, the Conservancy will need to learn the culture, laws, economics, and politics of water management. To improve conditions for downstream aquatic organisms, we will need to change the way that dams are operated or municipal and agricultural water needs are met. But, there is no reason to believe that the Conservancy cannot be as successful in these pursuits as we have been in our terrestrial work. Strategy Two will advance demonstration projects to lead the way.

Strategy Three
A Freshwater Learning Center will provide staff With the training, tools, data and other information needed to improve their effectiveness and knowledge. The emphasis here is to educate both Conservancy staff and conservationists at large, so freshwater biodiversity protection will be an integral part of any comprehensive, integrated conservation strategy of ecosystems.

The Next Five Years
In the next five years, the Conservancy will have gathered and analyzed the freshwater data needed to inform ecoregional planning as outlined in Strategy One. It will have field tested new ways to abate top threats at selected sites as Strategy Two outlines. Finally, as part of Strategy Three, the important process of freshwater information exchange and education will be spreading out through the Conservancy's biodiversity conservation efforts.

Funding and Cost

The Freshwater Initiative calls for the investment of an additional $42 million over the next five years, split nearly equally between public and private sources.

The Nature Conservancy's mission compels it to attend to the freshwater biodiversity crisis. By including freshwater conservation targets and sites as protection goals, the Conservancy can expand significantly the conservation community's success in biodiversity conservation.