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Newly Released Report on the Corps’ Civil Works Program and Landscape Conservation Cooperatives

Published May 4, 2018
Participation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program in Landscape Conservation Cooperatives

Participation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program in Landscape Conservation Cooperatives

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA.   The Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) were created by the U. S. Department of Interior (USDI) in 2009 to support independently directed, multi-organizational landscape conservation partnerships in twenty-two eco-regions of the United States and adjacent nations. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers was invited to join most of the LCCs. The purpose of this report, just released by the Institute for Water Resources, is to describe the LCC mission and administration, their relevancy to the USACE, the benefits of participation, issues thwarting further USACE participation, and possible approaches to issues management through to the end of 2016.  The great value of landscape conservation partnerships is now widely recognized among federal and state agencies as well as numerous nongovernment organizations.  After the research for this report was completed, the LCC partnerships began a transition into arrangements that appear likely to elevate the leadership roles of the States.  Regardless of future organizational evolution, the results described in this report should inform any USACE involvement in the conservation partnerships of the future.  

During the period of this study, the LCCs sought to develop and provide landscape-scale information useful for guiding conservation actions that will sustain ecological and cultural resources in rapidly changing environments.  Each LCC invited one representative from diverse government and nongovernment organizations to participate in a steering committee chaired by elected members. Representatives were expected to speak informatively for and with the authority of their home organizations.  Each LCC was staffed with a full-time LCC coordinator who administered to internal activities and coordinated with other LCC coordinators. LCCs also included research teams who advised the steering committee about research needs and progress.  Funding for research and related activities was largely provided by the USDI, but member organizations were encouraged to contribute.  

The products of those investments have been substantial and continue to grow.  An immediate focus of research integration and information provision was development of landscape conservation designs that map the priority of conservation needs among landscapes and seascapes. An LCC Council was formed to communicate LCC progress and needs at the highest levels of national organization leadership.  Surveys of participants and observations of LCC activities by IWR personnel revealed the main benefits of participation in conservation cooperatives included building connections and trust with other organizations, having a say about cooperative directions, and being well informed about cutting-edge research, including adaptation to climate change.  Despite benefits, most past USACE participation was generally temporary and technical.  Outside of IWR representation, only four USACE personnel have been identified as past participants on steering committees.  Greater and more sustained participation on steering committees was hampered by low-priority recognition of LCC importance, inconsistent sources of funding, limited availability of qualified personnel, and ethical or legal concerns about the process of engagement.   

Depending on USACE Headquarters decisions,  the issues impeding greater participation in multi-organization cooperatives like the LCCs may be managed by first resolving legal and ethical issues affecting committee memberships and then appointing a Headquarters advocate to elevate the importance of landscape conservation partnerships, setting aside program funds for sustained support of participation on governing committees, resolving issues pertaining to authorized representation of the numerous Districts and Major Subordinate Commands (MSCs) in cooperatives with different regional boundaries, establishing criteria for qualified representatives, and possibly participating in national coordination and advisory bodies. IWR and ERDC could be funded to provide information and network support to USACE participants, temporarily participate on steering committees, and recruit qualified staff from MSCs.  

Learn More

For more information, visit IWR’s website.

Download the report from the IWR Library.  

Landscape Conservation Cooperative Network website.