Upland Pine, Blackwater River State Forest. Photo by Gary Knight

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Value of a Natural Heritage Network: Florida and Colorado Heritage Programs Exchange Staff to Share Ideas

Although FNAI operates as an independent science organization housed at Florida State University, we benefit from membership in an extensive natural heritage network:  programs like FNAI are found across all 50 U.S. states, throughout Canada, and several Latin American countries, under the coordination of NatureServe, a “Network Connecting Science with Conservation.”

NatureServe Network members span most of North and South America.

Recently, staff from the Florida and Colorado heritage programs got a chance to walk in each others’ shoes.  FNAI hosted Gabrielle Smith, a GIS Specialist with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP), for a few days in January 2015, and CNHP returned the favor by welcoming Jon Oetting, Conservation Planner at FNAI, in February.  Both visits involved meetings with a variety of staff from the host program to learn how each group tackles similar projects and tasks differently.

Jon Oetting presents an overview of FNAI conservation planning projects to CNHP staff in Fort Collins, CO.

 “I learned a lot and have several ideas already for ways FNAI could benefit from CNHP’s example,” Jon noted after the exchange, “I was really impressed with the skills, experience, and energy their staff all bring to their work, and I had a lot of fun getting to know everyone.” 

Some ideas FNAI plans to follow up on after the exchange include:  new ways to promote county inventory work, ideas for funding program infrastructure not typically covered in contract work, and approaches to networking & outreach to partners that have proven successful in Colorado.

We're Not in Florida Anymore!  Jon visited a natural area near Fort Collins that is home to Bell’s twinpod (Physaria bellii), a rare plant tracked by CNHP.

“It really just reinforced what I’ve felt since probably the first NatureServe conference I attended,” Jon continued, “that the greatest strength of this network is how many great people are out there doing similar work and dealing with similar issues.”

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