Efforts to protect jaguar habitats from Mexico to Argentina, coastal areas in southern Australia, and vital ecosystems along the Colorado River all have one thing in common: academic institutions have become the lynchpin to making these initiatives happen.
The strategic role of these institutions, from colleges and universities to research institutes and field stations, is documented in a new volume published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Conservation Catalysts: The Academy as Nature’s Agent, edited by James N. Levitt. The book is being launched officially today at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia.
Twenty-first-century conservationists are contending with biodiversity loss on an unprecedented scale, compounded by the interrelated threat of climate change. These global challenges call for first-rate talent, highly sophisticated technology, and advanced financial and organizational tools that can be used across jurisdictional boundaries and professional disciplines.
According to Levitt, a fellow at the Lincoln Institute and a pioneer in the implementation of large landscape conservation, academic institutions have quietly become surprisingly powerful and effective catalysts for integrating all these elements into strategically significant and enduring large landscape conservation initiatives.
Conservation Catalysts: The Academy as Nature’s Agent gathers more than a dozen first-hand accounts of the long-term impacts academics are making on the ground, from the University of Nairobi to Harvard. With measurable results, their efforts are protecting wildlife habitat, improving water quality, building sustainable economies, and creating better public amenities around the world now and for centuries to come.
Conservation Catalysts: The Academy as Nature’s Agent will be available for free downloading in its entirety, as part of the Lincoln Institute's continuing innovations in digital publishing. The book is structured to identify key themes of biodiversity, regional collaboration, and legal and financial mechanisms inherent in conservation at the landscape scale.
The cases detailed include conservation efforts in Trinidad & Tobago, the Colorado River Delta, Florida’s scrub ecosystem, Canada’s Boreal systems, Maine’s Penobscot River watershed, the Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem and Greater Maasailand, and Australia’s Victoria coast. Initiatives covered include the Kenyon College Land Conservation Initiative, the Quiet Corner Initiative at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, the Wildlands and Woodlands Initiative of the Harvard Forest, and Colorado College’s Large Landscape Conservation Strategy to Save the Colorado River Basin. The book also includes a poem, “Body of Bark,” by Caroline Harvey.
A special session is set at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney to mark the book’s publication, on Tuesday, November 18th, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm at the Protected Planet Pavilion. Jim Levitt will be joined by Gary Tabor, executive director of the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, fellow at the University of Montana Center for Natural Resource and Environmental Policy, and author of the chapter on the Crown of the Continent initiative; and Geoffrey Wescott, associate professor at the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia, and author of chapter on coastal zone management in the Australian state of Victoria.
A critical component of academic institutions as catalysts – students – will also be recognized at IUCN, in the session “Young Conservation Catalysts: Voices of a New Generation”, scheduled for Monday, November 17th, 10:30 am - 12:00 pm in Hall 3 Nth Pod. These young leaders are involved in initiatives worldwide. The speakers, Alessandra Lehmen, Brendan Boepple, Delaney Boyd, Fabian Huwyler, and Priscila Steier, have written essays in a competition led by the Lincoln Institute, that will appear at GlobalPost in the Voices section of The GroundTruth Project, a foundation-supported initiative dedicated to training the next generation of foreign correspondents in the digital age. The commentary highlights social justice, innovation, and change.
In addition to being a fellow at the Lincoln Institute in the Department of Planning and Urban Form, James N. Levitt is director of the Program on Conservation Innovation at the Harvard Forest, and a senior fellow at Highstead. He has been instrumental in the formation of the Practitioners Network for Large Landscape Conservation and recently brought together more than 30 leaders from around the world to form an international conservation network.