Two years of work to map crucial habitats and wildlife corridors—a collaborative, regional effort that has had a wide-ranging impact—headline the accomplishments that brought Natural Heritage New Mexico (NHNM) the 2013 Conservation Impact Award.
A division of the University of New Mexico’s Museum of Southwestern Biology and the UNM Department of Biology, NHNM was one of three members of the NatureServe network to earn annual recognition from their peers at the Baltimore Biodiversity Without Boundaries conference.
The honor highlights the contributions and leadership NHNM has made since 2011 on the Western Wildlife Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT). Developed in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish, the Western Governors’ Association (WGA), and other western-state wildlife agencies, this project will create new maps depicting areas of crucial habitat and corridors for wildlife across the western United States. By enabling users to view and interact with the map data, a companion website will help guide landscape-level planning efforts throughout the region and link individual state CHATs that contain more detailed state-level information.
Working within the CHAT framework, NHNM has facilitated collaboration between state and federal agencies and NGOs to bring about a comprehensive approach to conservation issues and conflict resolution. NHNM has also encouraged developing the CHAT as a broad-based information system that taps multiple databases and provides users with multiple delivery options. In particular, NHNM, as a division of Museum of Southwestern Biology, has been able to bring the wealth of specimen data along with observations into play in conservation planning. By applying leading-edge technologies and analytical approaches to advance conservation science, NHNM is maximizing the benefits of conservation information and research.
“It’s been exciting to work closely our NM Game and Fish department on the development of the state CHAT,” said Esteban Muldavin, on behalf of NHNM. “It has provided us with an opportunity to have an open conversation and to bring the existing science to bear at the nexus of economic development and the protection of sensitive species and ecosystems. We also think the tool has the potential to meet the needs of other agencies and private interests, and to point the way to the gaps in our understanding of the conservation issues we face in the state.”
Beyond the CHAT, Rayo McCollough, NHNM information manager, said “We been working closely with the agencies to make their conservation-related data more accessible by taking their reports collecting dust off the shelf and putting them into an on-line database.”
Other noteworthy efforts, which NHNM has integrated within the CHAT framework, include:
- The implementation of new metrics and approaches for rapid ecological integrity assessments of wetlands in collaboration with the New Mexico Environment Department
- The development of comprehensive datasets and habitat models for dune sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) and lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus)—both key ESA candidate species native to oil-producing areas of southeastern New Mexico
- Active engagement with the Ecological Society of America Panel on Vegetation Classification to ensure the use of vegetation classification to support conservation assessment and planning
“I congratulate Natural Heritage New Mexico on earning the 2013 Conservation Impact Award,” said Mary Klein, president and CEO of NatureServe. “This accolade recognizes their demonstrated leadership as a regional provider of scientific knowledge and expertise, but they have also set an important example by establishing effective cost-sharing agreements with state and federal agencies. This approach enhances the profile of the entire NatureServe network as a go-to source for conservation science information.”
Natural Heritage New Mexico conducts research on the conservation and sustainable management of New Mexico’s biodiversity. NHNM maintains NM Biotics, the only statewide rare species and ecosystems database, which helps shape conservation efforts.