Katherine Medlock, Alliance for the Cumberlands
In Partnership with: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency University of Tennessee, Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries
List of Tables
Table 1. Tier One Species 14
Table 2. Common Stresses and Sources of Stress 15
Table 3 Conservation Actions Common to Both State Plans 16
List of Figures
Figure 1. Project Boundary Map 10
Figure 2. Terrestrial Priority Areas in TN 11
Figure 3. Aquatic Priority Areas in TN 12
Figure 4. All Priority Areas in KY 13
The purpose of this document is to inform and encourage cross-state lines collaboration in the Cumberland region for conservation of species of concern identified during the State Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategies process.
This document provides coordinated priorities for conservation, a wide array of strategies, and a collaborative approach to implementation. This report details the process that was used to develop a cross-walk between the two State Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy plans (SCWCS), and presents the results of that process. This Conservation Action Plan outlines a process by which cross-state lines conservation projects can be determined based on common species of greatest conservation need, priority areas and sources of stress for those species. This Conservation Action Plan also provides a menu of common high priority conservation actions that can be undertaken at the project, state, regional, or national level to achieve conservation benefits for the species in the Cumberland region.
The results of this project show that the Cumberland region holds a large number of habitats and species, many of which are species of concern. Conservation efforts focused in this region are likely to yield significant results to numerous species of concern. We found 54 species of concern that were of a high priority in both state plans. A list of those species, as well as the commons sources of stress, can be found in the Results section of this document. We determined that there were several conservation actions that were common to both plans; however, those that were of the highest priority were fee title ownership and permanent protective easements, and research needs. We found that there are numerous priority areas within this region and that conservation work in any of them would prove beneficial (please see the results section for a map of the priority areas in the region). However, we determined through this collaborative process that a good place to begin cross-state lines conservation work would be within the Big South Fork watershed.
In order to make the best use of the State Wildlife Grants program, Congress charged each State Wildlife Agency with developing a State Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (SCWCS, also referred to as the State Wildlife Action Plans or SWAPs). These strategies were designed to provide the foundation for the future of wildlife conservation by coordinating the roles of the State Wildlife Agencies, and other conservation partners. There was not a universal format for the formation of these plans. Each state endeavored to address the planning process in a way that made the most sense to their operations. They were required, only to include the following items:
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, in partnership with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation recognized that the funds available under the State Wildlife Grants program are limited, and state and fish and wildlife agencies are compelled to utilize said funds in the support and implementation of individual State Comprehensive Wildlife Conservations Strategies. Therefore, they provided additional funding via the State Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Support Program to allow states and regional associations to develop compatible conservation approaches that transcend boundaries.
The Conservation Action Plan for the Cumberlands of TN and KY is a result of the State Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Support Program. The creation of the CAP was an effort coordinated by the Alliance for the Cumberlands. The Alliance for the Cumberlands is a coalition of over 50 public and private organizations unified in their commitment to protect the Cumberland Mountains and Plateau Region.
The purpose of this project was to provide coordinated priorities for conservation, a wide array of strategies, and a collaborative approach to implementation. This report details the process that was used to develop a cross-walk between the two SCWCS plans, and presents the results of that process. This Conservation Action Plan outlines a process by which cross-state lines conservation projects can be determined based on common species of greatest conservation need, priority areas and sources of stress for those species. This Conservation Action Plan also provides a menu of common high priority conservation actions that can be undertaken at the project, state, regional, or national level to achieve conservation benefits for the species in the Cumberland region.
The Cumberland region (Northern Tennessee and Southeastern Kentucky) is among the most biologically diverse areas in the country. The biological richness of this region is due largely to its unique geology. The region is made up of a low mountain chain surrounded by a high plateau. The plateau is heavily eroded creating steep river gorges, high waterfalls, unique rock formations and an abundance of caves. The region is home to numerous species of concern; accordingly, both the Tennessee and the Kentucky SCWCS plans identified this area as a priority for conservation efforts.
The objectives of this project were to:
For this project, a working group was formed that consisted of key conservation planners and GIS personnel from both state agencies that were extremely familiar with the SCWCS plans and the process used to prepare them, an independent GIS contractor, and the director of the Alliance for the Cumberlands. The working group proceeded in a stepwise fashion. Starting in December of 2005, the working group held a series of conference calls and meetings at each step of the process. All of the decisions regarding the process and the results were made by consensus and reviewed by expert biologists within each state agency. Once consensus among the working group was reached, the results were reviewed by a larger audience, including other state agencies, federal agencies, and non-profit organizations. This was achieved via meetings and several phone conversations. Any changes or suggestions were considered and incorporated as appropriate.
Kentucky and Tennessee determined the priority species and priority conservation areas within their SCWCS plans in very different fashions. For example, Kentucky organized their results by taxonomic class. Their overall conservation priority areas were determined based on the overlay of priority areas for each class. Tennessee created a GIS model that identifies priority areas based on data queries. Queries can be conducted for individual species, all terrestrial or all aquatic species. In addition, there were differences in the scale of the analysis for each state’s plans. Kentucky used 8 and 14 digit HUCS, while Tennessee used 12 digit HUCS for aquatic species and roadless blocks for terrestrial species. Therefore, you will note that the maps throughout this document provide information at somewhat different scales. A description of the process of combining the data from each state’s plans to determine priority areas for the CAP is described in detail later in this section.
The purpose of this project was not to recreate the SCWCS plan for each state, nor did we want to change the State’s expressed priorities. Therefore, it was not necessary, or additive to pick one methodology and convert the other plan. Instead, our efforts centered on describing a process by which cross-state lines projects could be determined based on the shared priorities of both states and developing a broad consensus for that process. The benefit of this approach is its adaptability. Rather than determining a static priority area or conservation action, this provides a consensus based process by which high priority projects can be determined into the future as conditions change.
Our first priority for completing the CAP was to determine the project area. We created several criteria for determining the best possible location of the project boundary. First, the boundary needed to dovetail the existing SCWCS plans and both of the State Agencies’ patterns of project implementation. Second, the boundary needed to rely on morphological boundaries in the landscape (ie. watershed or ecoregional boundaries). Third, the boundary needed to include as many SCWCS priority areas and species of greatest conservation need as the previous criteria would allow.
Determining the project boundary allowed us to create a list of the SCWCS species of greatest conservation need for the project area. Species were put into Tiers based on their presence in both plans. Tier One species were present in the plans for both states, while Tier Two species were only found in one of the two SCWCS plans.
Maps were then created that showed priority areas based on Kentucky’s “Conservation Areas” which were determined based on the overlapping of priority areas for each class and Tennessee’s “Habitat Prioritization”, which was determined via a GIS model that included species occurrence records, estimated viability, and other factors. The TN SCWCS plan GIS model is fully explained in the TN SCWCS plan. In addition, maps were created that showed priority areas based on Kentucky’s species richness and Tennessee’s “Habitation Prioritization” scores for the Tier One Species. These maps can be found in Appendix A.
Once this was complete, it was determined that in order to decide upon priority conservation projects the large list of species and priority areas for each plan needed to be focused down to those that were the highest priority for the CAP. Therefore, maps of the areas that were determined to be of high or very high priority by the SCWCS plans and members of the working group were generated. These areas became the CAP Priority Areas. In addition, a list of species occurring within those designated CAP high or very high priority areas were generated. This approach will maximize the potential impact to species of concern of each project implemented within these CAP Priority Areas. Please see the results section for maps of the Conservation Action Plan Priority Areas (also referred to as High/Very High Priority Areas) and the resulting species list.
Next, a list of Common Stresses or Sources of Stress to these species was determined by compiling the stresses or sources of stress found in each plan. Again, those stresses or sources of stress that were found in both plans were given priority. By compiling this list, we were able to create a short list of regional conservation concerns which can help guide conservation efforts. However, the presence of these stresses or sources of stress at any particular project location is unknown, so, this list, along with the information within both plans that ties stresses to individual species, can be used to help guide the process, but, project managers must rely on accurate information and knowledge of the area to maximize efficiency.
Next, a list of Common Conservation Actions was generated in a similar fashion. The language of the two plans and scale of the actions was very different. However, where similarities were found, they were given priority. The Conservation Actions of each SCWCS plan were analyzed for similar language. When items were very similar or the same in concept, the language that was more detailed of the two versions was used. The Tennessee SCWCS plan’s categories of actions (found in bold in Table 3) were used in this process for clarity and to simplify the use of this document. The list of Common Conservation Actions provides a regional perspective and will help guide conservation efforts, particularly at a regional scale. The potential to engage all of these actions for each project is virtually impossible; however, priority should be given to those projects that engage multiple actions.
Figure 1 shows the project boundary. This area encompasses the greatest number of the SCWCS’s priority areas while adhering to morphological boundaries and dovetailing the state agencies’ existing methods for project determination.
Figure 2 shows the map detailing the Conservation Action Plan Priority Areas for all of the terrestrial species in TN.
Figure 2. Tennessee Terrestrial Occurrences in High/Very High Priority Areas
Figure 3 shows the map detailing the Conservation Action Plan Priority Areas for all of the aquatic species in TN.
Figure 3. TN Aquatic Occurrences in High/Very High Priority Watersheds
Figure 4 shows the map detailing the Conservation Action Plan Priority Areas for all of the terrestrial and aquatic species in KY.
Figure 4. Kentucky Terrestrial and Aquatic Occurrences in High/Very High Priority Watersheds.
The process to create this Conservation Action Plan has resulted in numerous potential benefits to the region and we anticipate that the document and the process created will be used into the future by both state agencies. This document presents the results of the Conservation Action Planning process, however, a short list of the achievements are as follows:
-Defined mutual areas of interest by determining the project boundary -Determined a list of species of mutual concern -Developed a list of regional stresses to guide conservation efforts -Determined two key regional Conservation Actions as well as a list of
common priority Conservation Actions. -Developed a process for determining priority projects across state lines -Created a greater understanding by state personnel of neighboring SCWCS
plans -Consensus among a larger audience regarding the priorities and approach to
conservation in the region.
The results of this process were data driven. For example, through our conversations with other interested parties, we know for certain that the Big South Fork watershed is a high priority area and contains several species of concern. However, that information was not available to the TWRA planners at the time the SCWCS plan was created, and is not reflected in the State’s plan. We were able to address this particular situation, and ensure that the area was shown as a priority in this document. However, there may be other areas that contain species of concern that we do not know about or simply do not have any data for. This reinforces the need for research, which was determined to be one of the key Common Conservation Actions for the region.
Even after our efforts to pick only the highest priority areas, there are still many priority areas present within the project area, and determining which one would be the best place to start is daunting. However, during the course of this process, we determined that the Big South Fork watershed was a priority concern to all involved in this process. More specifically, the New River Watershed—its species diversity, stresses and potential future stresses—presents itself as a potential starting ground for cross state lines collaborative work.
The Cumberland Plateau region is significant primarily due to the vast number of habitats and species present, and many of those are species of concern. We started with a list of 236 species of concern that occurred within at least one of the SCWCS plans. Our best efforts to cull the list down to the species that were of common concern to both states and species that were in the highest priority areas resulted in a list of 54 species. The large number of species of concern contained within these priority areas shows that conservation efforts focused in this region are likely to yield significant results to numerous species of concern.
Appendix A. Maps of Taxonomic Group Priority Conservation Areas.
The first map in the series is based on Kentucky’s designated “Conservation Areas” and Tennessee’s “Habitat Prioritization”. The second mapin the series is based on Kentucky’s species richness and Tennessee’s “Habitat Prioritization” for the Tier One species only.
Amphibian Conservation Area Maps
Bird Conservation Area Maps
Bivalve Conservation Area Maps
Fish Conservation Area Maps
Mammal Conservation Area Maps
Reptile Conservation Area Maps
Class ACTINOPTERYGII and CEPHALASPIDOMORPHI
Mussels Class BIVALVIA
(i.e. pesticides, herbicides, mercury from power plants, etc.), diseases (i.e. iridovirus), and incidence of various deformities and establish long-term monitoring protocols.
Birds Class AVES
Mammals Class MAMMALIA
Reptiles Class REPTILIA