1. Collaborative Science Projects to Benefit Fish, Wildlife and Communities of Upper Midwest and Great Lakes

     Urban conservation, climate adaptation and aquatic connectivity among key research themes

    Aurora borealis at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of Bryan Worth.

    Aurora borealis at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of Bryan Worth.

    Fish, wildlife and communities of the upper Midwest and Great Lakes will benefit from leading edge science projects that aim to inform on-the-ground conservation efforts and natural resource management across the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region.

    The Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), a partnership of more than 30 agencies and organizations vested in long-term sustainability of our natural resources and regional communities, announced funding for new and ongoing research projects that aim to connect science with land and water resource managers and policymakers.

    “Our partnership is founded on a collaborative approach to problem-solving.  Working together across federal, state and non-governmental lines, we are identifying, and filling, key gaps in our collective body of scientific knowledge. By leveraging our resources, we are more equipped to respond to the natural resources challenges of today, and to build and improve upon the decision-support tools future generations will need tomorrow,” said Dave Scott, Assistant Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and LCC Steering Committee co-chair.

    The upper Midwest and Great Lakes are home to a diverse range of fish, wildlife and plants supported by the Great Lakes, North America’s largest freshwater resource, coastal wetlands, major rivers, boreal forests and prairie-hardwood ecosystems. Many of these ecosystems surround heavily populated urban centers. Physical and social stressors like climate change, energy development, water demands, invasive species and the demands to support a growing human population are all threatening the ecological integrity of the region.

    New research projects receiving 2014 LCC funding include:

    Developing a Decision Support System for Prioritization and Restoration of Great Lakes Coastal WetlandsCentral Michigan University
    By leveraging recently collected coastal wetland monitoring data, a basin-wide coastal wetland prioritization tool will be developed to help wetland managers across the Great Lakes basin prioritize, protect and restore coastal wetlands.

    Climate Change Impacts on Wisconsin’s Natural Communities and Conservation Opportunities Areas: Updating Wisconsin’s Wildlife Action Plan – Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
    State Wildlife Action Plans are important conservation planning tools for state natural resource agencies. Natural resource experts will develop detailed climate change vulnerability assessments for natural communities in Wisconsin, and work to integrate valuable information on climate change impacts and natural communities into the State Wildlife Action Plan.

    Quantifying and Mitigating the Impacts of Emerald Ash Borer on Black Ash Forests in the Upper Great Lakes Region – University of Minnesota
    The emerald ash borer poses a tremendous threat to ash forest across the upper Great Lakes. This project will increase understanding of the potential regional impacts of emerald ash borer on black ash forest and associated wildlife by leveraging funding and existing research experiments and field trials located across Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    Implementing a Conservation Design with Many Landowners in the Chicago Wilderness Region – Audubon Society
    An expansive network of citizen scientists, volunteer land stewards, public land management agencies and non-governmental organizations have pioneered sustainable grassland restoration and management work in the Chicago area, benefiting grassland bird communities on both public and private land. Statistical models of grassland bird distributions and grassland cover will be developed and integrated with Chicago Wilderness’ Green Infrastructure Vision to provide a more holistic and integrated approach to conservation planning and achieving natural resource objectives.

    Collaborative Restoration of Aquatic Resources in the South Central Lake Superior Basin -Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
    A collaborative geo-database of inventoried connectivity barriers within the South Central Superior Basin will be used to prioritize restoration for approximately 1,800 inventoried stream crossings.  This pilot landscape conservation design project will contribute to the LCCs ongoing aquatic connectivity initiative by prioritizing restoration projects within regionalized watersheds. A suite of current remote sensing tools, including light detection and ranging technologies, will be used to target restoration and management needs to meet multiple natural resource objectives.

    Ongoing projects receiving 2014 LCC funding include:

    For complete information on all new and ongoing research projects supported by the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC, visit

    The grants totaling $755,000 were funded in part by the President’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; an interagency effort led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  For more information on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service activities related specifically to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, please visit

    The Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC envisions a conservation community that while governed by their unique purposes and missions, collaborates on sustaining lands and waters that support natural and cultural resources and the services they provide. Our mission is to support and sustain this conservation community by facilitating communication, coordination and collaboration to bridge cutting-edge scientific research with natural resources management. For more information, visit

  2. Nature and the Urban Environment

    Urban Planners and Wildlife Conservation Experts Convene to Connect Cities with Nature

    Kids playing outdoors near St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Ashley Spratt/USFWS.

    Kids playing outdoors near St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Ashley Spratt/USFWS.

    Less than an hour’s drive through the scenic Mississippi River towns north of St. Louis sits Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), home to one of the largest concentrations of wintering bald eagles in the U.S., and thousands of birds as they rest and refuel during spring and fall migrations. Many refuge visitors come from the St. Louis metro area to hike, bird-watch and simply connect with their natural world.

    Like Two Rivers NWR, many national wildlife refuges are within just an hour’s drive of one or more major metropolitan areas. In the Midwest, Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge offers citizens of the Detroit area birding and wildlife-viewing opportunities, while Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge offers outdoor education opportunities for inner city school groups from Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.

    “More than three-quarters of people in the Midwestern United States live in urban areas. As a natural resource professional for more than 30 years, I have seen a recent trend in the conservation community towards an increased focus on our urban landscapes,” said Tom Worthington, Deputy Regional Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System.  “We have to make sure that people living in and near cities have opportunities to enjoy and learn and help care for our fish and wildlife heritage.”

    That’s why both the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are committed to enhancing existing and creating new urban refuge partnerships in demographically and geographically varied cities across the country.

    As part of the effort to connect with urban audiences, Worthington and other Service staff met with urban planners and state, federal, private and nonprofit organizations from across the Midwest in a first of its kind movement to connect and integrate landscape-scale conservation efforts in and around urban areas. The effort kicked off with a Midwest Urban Conservation Workshop at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in the heart of St. Louis this May.

    Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge at the intersection of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers is less than an hour’s drive from downtown St. Louis and provides important stopover habitat for migratory birds along the Mississippi Flyway.. Photo by Katie Steiger-Meister/USFWS.

    Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge at the intersection of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers is less than an hour’s drive from downtown St. Louis and provides important stopover habitat for migratory birds along the Mississippi Flyway.. Photo by Katie Steiger-Meister/USFWS.

    The workshop provided a venue to discuss challenges facing urban communities as they continue to expand, and established a platform for conversation about the future of urban conservation in the Midwest. The workshop was organized by the Eastern Tallgrass Prairie and Big Rivers Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC and other local and regional stakeholders vested in landscape-level conservation and management in urban areas.

    Natural resource experts and city leaders discussed the adoption of green infrastructure to improve water quality, quantity and flood control, and the value of connecting people to nature through management initiatives that improve continuity of wildlife habitat.

    Paul Botts, Executive Director of The Wetlands Initiative and one of more than 40 workshop participants said, “I came away with a clear sense of how much the awareness of and interest in urban conservation has grown among conservation professionals. Twenty, or even ten, years ago a new network of people and organizations pursuing restoration and/or land protection in Midwest cities would have been a smaller gathering both in numbers and in collective vision; the change is striking and exciting.”

    Event organizers with the Eastern Tallgrass Prairie and Big Rivers LCC say the workshop was inspired by a collective-impact approach to conservation planning, an approach that leverages capacity across natural resource agencies and organizations, engages the public and decision makers in creative solutions, and builds upon already existing urban conservation efforts.

    “We continue to learn how interactions with nature are important to quality of life – both from an economic perspective and in terms of human health and well-being,” Worthington said.  “This workshop was a chance for Midwest conservation leaders and urban planners to start a dialogue on how we can work together at landscape scales to realize a world where humans, wildlife and natural processes can coexist in healthy and vibrant ways.”

    The Eastern Tallgrass Prairie and Big Rivers LCC and partners will facilitate continued collaboration across agencies and organizations to identify effective urban planning techniques, and to find ways to draw connections between our growing cities and nature. To get involved, contact LCC Coordinator Glen Salmon at

    For more information about the Service’s Urban Refuge Initiative, visit

    For more information about the Eastern Tallgrass Prairie and Big Rivers LCC visit

    For more information about the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC visit



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Photographs of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes can be found on the LCC Flickr page