• Listen, Learn, Liaise: Taking the Species Out of Species-At-Risk Through Engagement

      Jones, P.F.; Downey, B.A.; Downey, B.L.; Taylor, K.; Miller, A.J.; Demaere, C. (Society for Range Management, 2019-08)
      Over the past 150 years, cultivation, urbanization, and industrial activity have replaced much of North America's native prairie. As such, native prairie ecosystems are of vital importance to many species at risk. If society wants to conserve the North American prairie ecosystem, including the many species at risk, then partnerships between public agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private landholders need to be established and strengthened. To benefit the most species at risk, this partnership should metamorphose from the typical single-species management into one that addresses the needs of multiple species. To that end, we present a framework that is achieved through voluntary partnerships with the ranching community that alleviates their fear of species at risk and enhances their ability to manage multiple species at risk on their properties. We use the MULTISAR program, delivered since 2002 in the grasslands of southern Alberta, Canada, as the example of an effective and functioning multiple-species conservation program that has applied the framework. Conservation is achieved through the development of a Habitat Conservation Strategy that is based on the 4 pillars of 1) engagement, 2) respect, 3) empowerment, and 4) monitoring and evaluation. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the framework and program based on 15 years’ experience. As the program built trust and acceptance in the ranching community, the number of participants has continuously grown from 1 cooperator to 39 by 2018, conserving 1,600 km2 of prairie habitat in southern Alberta. The process outlined here can be applied across the grasslands of North America and the world as an effective approach for engaging landholders in the conservation of a suite of species at risk.