2015 Southern Company Partnership Meeting

Hosted by Southern Company, Gulf Power and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the 12th annual Stewardship Partners Meeting hosted more than 170 participants from April 7-9 in Pensacola/Pensacola Beach, Florida. Handouts and other information from the event are posted below.

General Information

Meeting Agenda
Meeting Objectives/Speaker Biographies


Session 1 - Flyway Conservation: Supporting the Southeast's Shorebirds from a Global Perspective
Atlantic Flyway Initiative

Larry Niles - Wildlife Biologist, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, American Littoral Society

Each spring and fall, the phenomenon of bird migration plays out across the U.S. landscape. As many as 20 billion birds move to and from their breeding grounds in the U.S. and wintering grounds into more hospitable climates. Shorebirds represent the extreme in migratory species – some nesting close to the North Pole and wintering tens of thousands of miles to the south in the Caribbean and as far away as southern South America. As shorebirds move between hemispheres, they are reliant on a suite of sites – like hopping stones – between their summer and wintering habitat. Removal of one site can have a profound impact on one or more species. The southeastern U.S. supports many such sites that, if degraded or destroyed, could have profound impacts on one or more shorebird species. Recognizing this, scientists and conservationists have proposed a full-life cycle or “flyway” approach, which focuses on conserving a discrete number of critical sites along a species’ entire migratory route. This approach – the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird initiative – is an ambitious effort to bring together the foremost experts and conservation practitioners to address key threats to shorebirds along the Atlantic coast. Through safeguarding critical sites, the Initiative will ultimately sustain healthy populations of shorebirds and contribute to the health, resilience, and prosperity of coastal towns and cities.

Case Study 1: Building a Stewardship Ethic to Conserve Beach-Nesting Birds Along the Gulf

Julie Wraithmell, Director, Wildlife Conservation, Audubon Florida 

Case Study 2: Piecing Together the Conservation of Migratory Shorebirds

Bryan Watts, Director, Center for Conservation Biology, College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University

Session 2 - Landscape and At-Risk Species Conservation: Challenges and Collaborations
Mike Harris, At-Risk Species Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 

The Southeast is home to an incredible amount of biodiversity, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently working with partners to conserve more than 400 at-risk species that could become listed as threatened or endangered unless appropriate actions are taken to help put them on a positive path. This presentation will provide an overview of the status of at-risk species in the Southeast, the importance of the Florida Panhandle and the longleaf ecosystem to at-risk species conservation, and how voluntary efforts, such as partnerships working at a landscape-level, are helping turn the tide for these species. 

Large Landscape Partnership Discussion

Large landscape-scale conservation has proven to benefit the interests of multiple diverse partners while protecting ecosystem integrity and safeguarding species populations. This session will highlight regional partnerships, including the Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership (GCPEP) and the Apalachicola Regional Stewardship Alliance (ARSA), which are 2 of the 17 Local Implementation Teams working on a landscape scale to restore the longleaf ecosystem across its historic range. Panelists will discuss how these conservation partnerships address the opportunities and challenges that emerge when balancing the ecological, economic, and social interests of multiple organizations and agencies while working toward a common goal of improving habitat for longleaf, associated at-risks, and other imperiled species.

David Printiss, North Florida Conservation Director, The Nature Conservancy [Moderator]

Ryan Orndorff, Deputy Program Director, Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI), U.S. Department of Defense

Scott Jordan, Senior Land Management Specialist, Gulf Power

Vernon Compton, Project Director, Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership Coordinator, The Longleaf Alliance

Deborah Burr, Gopher Tortoise Program Coordinator, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Special Presentation and Sneak Peek: "Secrets of the Longleaf Pine"

From the producers of “Chattahoochee Unplugged” comes a new documentary about the forgotten longleaf pine forest that once blanketed the coastal plain of the Southeastern U.S. Once comprising 90 million sprawling acres, by the 20th century human pressures had reduced the forest to just 3 million acres. Just a tiny fraction of precious old-growth remains. These remarkable patches of longleaf forest display more biodiversity than any other ecosystem in the Northern Hemisphere, rivaled only by the Amazon. Premiering on Georgia Public Broadcasting in the fall of 2015, “Secrets of the Longleaf Pine” takes you on an unprecedented journey to examine some of the unique plants and animals that can only be found here.

Rhett Turner, President, Red Sky Productions

Concurrent Sessions 

With more than 85 percent of forest acreage across the Southeast in private ownership, increasing prescribed fire on private lands is an important strategy for achieving the longleaf restoration and management goals established in the Range-wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine. A Prescribed Fire Summit is being planned for late summer 2015. The Summit will bring together communications specialists and prescribed fire experts to discuss barriers to prescribed fire delivery and best practices for communicating with private landowners, with the ultimate goal to increase the application of prescribed fire on private lands. The panel discussion will serve as a precursor to the summit, highlighting several innovative prescribed fire communication and implementation efforts targeted to private landowners and laying the groundwork for identifying and synthesizing best practices.

Jennifer Evans, Extension Associate, Extension Forestry, North Carolina State University [Moderator]

Amity Bass, Manager, Louisiana Natural Heritage Program, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Alan Long, Administrative Director, Southern Fire Exchange, Tall Timbers Research Station
John Weir, Research Associate, Department of Natural Resources Ecology and Management, Oklahoma State University

Session B - Building a Culture of Conservation to Safeguard Beach-Nesting Birds

Beach-nesting bird populations are plummeting along our major coastlines. Proven tools exist to mitigate and reverse the impact of human-caused decline. This discussion aims to create a foundation for developing a proof-of-concept public awareness campaign for Gulf shorebirds: What are the key stressors? Are there initiatives that have addressed these stressors successfully? How might this be applicable to the Gulf? What are the challenges and opportunities? How would success be measured? What are some next steps?
Suzanne Sessine, Assistant Director, Eastern Partnership Office, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation [Moderator]

Kacy Ray, Manager, Gulf Conservation Program, American Bird Conservancy
Laura Chamberlin, Coordinator, Delaware Bay Program, Manomet

Margo Zdravkovic, Director, Conservian/Coastal Bird Conservation 

Southern Company Power of Flight Project Updates

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Relocation
Ralph Costa, Wildlife Biologist, RCWO LLC and Milliken Forestry Co, Inc
Will McDearman, RCW Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Whooping Crane Migration
Joe Duff, Co-founder and Pilot, Operation Migration
Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area
Brent Howze, Acting Region Supervisor, Game Management, Wildlife Resources Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources