Ecological Restoration for Continental Conservation

SER Starts a New Initiative to Focus on the Restoration of Landscape Patch Connectivity and Large-scale Migration Corridors

On November 15-18, 2010, SER jointly sponsored a workshop with the Wildlands Network to examine the role of ecological restoration in continental-scale conservation efforts. Although restoration programs around the world have made great strides over the last two decades, they are most often planned and implemented on a small, local scale without adequate consideration for their role in ensuring the ecological integrity and connectivity of vital habitats across entire landscapes or regions. In order to address this concern, SER and the Wildlands Network organized this workshop as a first step toward uniting their respective efforts within a larger conservation framework and developing a broader initiative aimed at bridging the gap between the science and practice of ecological restoration and the practice of conservation biology and landscape ecology within the context of connecting regionally significant fragmented wildlands in North America.

The objectives of the workshop were as follows: 

  1. Identify/bridge gaps between the science and practice of ecological restoration and the practice of conservation biology and landscape ecology within the context of connecting regionally significant fragmented wildlands in North America.
  2. Establish strategic partnerships involving mixed land uses to promote ecological restoration as a best practice in the reconnection of large ecosystems across North America.
  3. Integrate the needs of all large mammals as a key element to restoration ecology.
  4. Document and disseminate the results of ecological restoration and conservation strategies via publications, conferences, and the websites of SER and WN.
  5. Identify ways to strengthen future collaboration to maximize conservation results.

Click here to view the complete meeting agenda.

The workshop brought together 30 key leaders from federal and state agencies, universities, non-profit NGOs, and private companies in an atmosphere that allowed for the dynamic interchange of experience and ideas among restoration ecologists, restoration practitioners, wildlife biologists, conservation biologists, land use planners, and land managers. A series of presentations over two days examined case studies of large-scale restoration projects currently underway in North America; mapping and modeling programs for conceptualizing landscape connectivity and prioritizing management actions; and social and political issues that need to be addressed in order to advance this vision of continental-scale conservation. The following is a list of the participants, in the order they presented, along with their professional affiliations and the titles of their presentations: (Note: Wherever available, the presentations can be viewed by clicking on the corresponding title.)

Keith Bowers, Biohabitats
Large-scale Ecosystem Restoration Programs

Michael Soulé, University of California, Santa Cruz
A Framework for Integrating Ecological Restoration and Biological Conservation in Order to Achieve Continental Connectivity

Roger Creasey, High Lonesome Ranch
The Montane Research Program 2007-2013

Dave Theobald, Dept. of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources & Natural Resource Ecology Lab, Warner College of Natural Resources, Colorado State University
Natural Ecosystem Connectivity for Continental-Scale Conservation

Mark Anderson, The Nature Conservancy
Estimating Climate Change Resilience for Places and Habitats

Rob Baldwin, Clemson University
Conundrum: Continental Conservation Flies at 30,000 ft and Most Restoration is Local and Small

Richard Pritzlaff,  Biophilia Foundation
Financial Aspects of Ecological Restoration

David Johns, Portland State University
Obstacles to Large-Scale Conservation and Continental-Scale Connectivity We Envision

Carol Ostergren, National Geospatial Program, U.S. Geological Survey
USGS Report to the Ecological Restoration for Continental Conservation Workshop

Greg Eckert, National Park Service
National Park Service and its Involvement in Restoration Projects

Peggy Olwell, Bureau of Land Management
Native Plant Materials for Ecoregional Restoration

Kevin Moody, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Technical Services
The Knowing-Doing Gap

Pete David, New Mexico Habitat Link Assessment Tools
New Mexico Priority Linkages

Wendy Francis, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
Yellowstone to Yukon’s Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor: Restoring a Trans-boundary Linkage Zone to Benefit Large Carnivores

Patty Cramer, Utah State University
Wildlife Connectivity:  Keeping Wildlife Moving and Alive

Dennis Jorgensen, World Wildlife Fund, Great Plains
World Wildlife Fund: Northern Great Plains Program

Fraser Shilling, University of California, Davis, Road Ecology Center
Understanding Restorable Connectivity

Michael Hogan, Integrated Environmental
Managing Ecosystem Resilience:  The Case for Dirt

Bethanie Walder, Wildlands CPR
Rightsizing the Forest Service Road System: An Opportunity to Restore Watershed and Landscape Connectivity

In addition to this series of presentations, the workshop concluded each day with a lively discussion about the best way to communicate these issues and ideas to others in our respective fields as well as landowners, policy makers and the general public; the best way to present this new initiative at the SER2011 World Conference on Ecological Restoration, August 21-25, 2011 in Merida, Mexico; and the specific actions SER and the Wildlands Network can take in the immediate future to advance landscape connectivity and habitat restoration at the continental scale. A detailed summary of these discussions, as well as the discussion surrounding each presentation, is available by clicking here.

Workshop participants had the unique opportunity to experience firsthand the kind of large-scale, integrated vision underlying this new initiative, as the workshop was held at the 300-square mile High Lonesome Ranch in DeBeque, Colorado, a mixed-use landscape on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains that is being managed for biodiversity conservation and ecological connectivity. The ranch’s owners have undertaken an ambitious effort to restore degraded habitat on their lands and create more favorable conditions for wildlife with a view to ensuring that the ranch forms an integral part of an envisaged conservation corridor stretching the length of the Rocky Mountains. This setting made the workshop especially dynamic and provided an added source of ideas and inspiration by allowing participants to see how ecological restoration and conservation biology can inform one another and the kinds of results they can produce together on the ground.

By the end of the workshop, there was great en­thusiasm and productive energy behind the ideas generated during the discussion, and participants were eager to see the momentum carry over into a new ini­tiative that would build upon this bold vision and work to bring this synergy between restoration and conser­vation to fruition. Four focus areas were identified to guide future work:

1)   Primer – Create a primer document that clearly defines the role of restoration in achieving large landscape connectivity and establishes principles and best practices to guide this approach.

2)   Policy – Develop strategies for informing land management policy in the U.S. and Canada, including preparing briefings and critiques to raise awareness among state/provincial governments and federal agencies, and reaching out to NGOs and foundations working on issues related to restoration and conservation.

3)   Communication – Develop strategies for communicating these principles and ideas to a wide audience, including scientists and practitioners, landowners, policy makers, resource managers and the general public, among others.

4)   Demonstration project – Identify a project that could serve as a ‘living lab’ in order to demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of this approach in addressing important conservation issues within challenging and complex land-use contexts. This project could be developed from the ground up, but we could also look to partner with a project already underway. 

A more detailed synopsis of the outcomes and action items produced as a result of this meeting is available by clicking here.

If you are interested in receiving more information about this initiative or would like to contribute ideas or suggestions in any of the four program areas described above, please contact us at

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