Continuity of Conservation: A medical model for conservation delivery

Consider using a patient treatment model when we talk about supporting the environment. Continuity of conservation, from science to practice, was the theme of one of the breakout sessions today. Just the same way we might hope to be handled by our doctor, with great communications and a flexible plan; we should also be handling conservation.

Using a Medical Model to Structure Conservation

Dr. Patrick Doran from The Nature Conservancy offered a structured model of decision making to the group. He exhorted the crowd to make sure that they share all phases of analysis and development. That way everything is decided in tandem, reducing replication and making sure that everyone has the same outcome in mind. Specifically, he said to develop multi partner project goals that highlight agreed upon conservation features, assemble biodiversity information, define the project, develop a definition and then, only then, develop strategies. TOGETHER!

Lake Erie suffers from algae blooms created in part by offloaded nutrients. Photo: Ducks Unlimited

When looking at the issue at hand, identify the status, and then the threats. Then rank the threats. Develop a strategy, measure intermediate results, evaluate threat reduction results and then assess conservation targets. Truly, all the work that conservationists do might be amplified many times over via this scenario.

Putting the Model into Action

The conversation took an applied turn, and Carrie Volmer-Sanders with TNC talked a little bit about the path one might realize through this shared information scenario. Her project reducing nutrient runoff in the Western Lake Erie Basin evaluated all of the stakeholders, and as a result she chose to reach out to fertilizer retailers. As the actual application of fertilizer comes via them, what could we do to reward compliance rather than penalize perceived infractions? Volmer-Sanders has been working on a “4R” system. For fertilizer to be best applied it needs to be from the right source, right rate at the right time in the right place. Her program seeks to engage retailers who pledge to become 4R certified, and then manage a program where they are utilizing best nutrient management practices. Then they go through some sort of certification or validation, and there is continuing education.

Practical and Comprehensive Science Application

Going to the source of nutrient loading makes sense, and utilizing a reward for compliance system is a sustainable long term path. Including everyone at the table, a structured decision pathway, clearly identified and agreed upon goals and shared strategies can take us further than stand alone groups doing just that. Standing alone. If the patient is the Great Lakes, I can get behind continuity of care.

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