image of several blood root plants - used in spring update strategiv vision blogpost

Spring updates

Spring is a season of eager anticipation. When will the first buds burst? When will the last frost pass? When will our favorite birds return and fill the trees with song?  

I’m excited to share some much-anticipated updates on progress toward achieving the Columbia Land Conservancy’s Strategic Vision. One of the three pillars of the vision is Strategic Conservation. Specifically, conserving land strategically and purposefully with conservation easements and attention to access, equity, and inclusion.

What does that look like in practice? CLC and a group of committed stakeholders are about to find out! This spring, we embark on a new venture – a Columbia County Strategic Conservation Planning process.

The plan includes four phases, which an external consultant will facilitate:

  • Collecting data
  • Analyzing data
  • Creating a report
  • Outreach and engagement

Collecting data

CLC and partners from the County Environmental Management Council, Hudsonia, and Hawthorne Valley’s Farmscape Ecology Program created a Natural Resources Inventory (NRI) in 2018. The NRI includes information about the county’s landscape, geology, hydrology, current and former land uses, and other natural resources. It also highlights threats to these resources, like climate change, groundwater contamination, habitat loss, and habitat fragmentation.

This inventory provides an excellent framework to build upon with more recent data and to reflect some of the most pressing issues of the day. In addition to updating the current information in the NRI, CLC will add another type of data: public feedback. CLC will hold at least three public workshops to gather input and host an online survey for community members to review the plan. While these workshops and surveys are still being developed, CLC hopes to use these tools to learn more about community values, important places, and environmental concerns.

If you would like to add your voice to this plan, please join a mailing list to stay current on the project and receive invitations to these outreach events. Please email [email protected].

Analysis

Having all the data in the world doesn’t ensure an organization will act on information to make the best decisions. CLC will engage a consultant well-versed in conservation planning to analyze and prioritize resources and values through the use of mapping tools.

In addition to ecological and open space values, the analysis will consider opportunities for the development of renewable energy and affordable housing, both of which require the use of land. It is important that our conservation priorities do not directly conflict with these land uses, but instead guide where land development for these activities is most suitable. Marrying this analysis with community input will create a plan that is informed by data about our natural resources, as well as the value our community members place on them.

Creating a report

When completed, the Columbia County Strategic Conservation Plan will include summaries of the analysis, detailed maps, and strategies for implementation. The Plan will include priorities at the County level as well as individual Town-level priorities where actionable tasks may be more appropriate. Recommendations and strategies will be guided by community input and the steering committee and ensure future conservation efforts respond to community values and needs.

Outreach and engagement

All too often, a lot of people put a lot of time and effort into creating plans that then sit on a shelf, gathering dust. CLC is committed to ensuring this plan makes an impact on our communities. The Columbia County Strategic Conservation Plan will have an invaluable impact on CLC’s land conservation and education programs. It will also benefit other local organizations and municipalities, catalyzing open space planning efforts in Columbia County.

The Plan will be distributed to partner organizations, municipalities, and the public. CLC will lead workshops to introduce the plan to community members, provide assistance to municipalities undertaking conservation projects, and engage landowners to protect conservation priorities identified in the report.

The Plan will have a significant impact on CLC’s land conservation work, and also benefit other organizations and municipalities, catalyzing open space planning efforts in Columbia County. Sharing these priorities and strategies for conserving natural resources will build community support for conservation. CLC will be focused on action-oriented outreach and education to encourage landowners to take steps to improve the ecological health of their land. Topics may include how to manage invasive species, create and maintain riparian buffers, and plant native species for pollinators in addition to pursuing permanent land protection.

Though the Plan has not been created yet, one thing is clear – conserving this land we love will take all of us doing our part. Thank you for being part of the community that makes so much good work happen in Columbia County.

Thank you.

Troy Weldy

President 

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