Case study contributed by Megan Creutzburg (Institute for Natural Resources). 

In order to reverse the loss of functioning sagebrush ecosystems throughout the western US, there is a need to equip and empower managers and collaborative groups with science and tools to implement the ‘defend and grow the core’ strategy at locally-relevant scales. Threat-Based Strategic Conservation (TBSC) is a hands-on, interactive workshop model to facilitate landscape-scale, proactive planning to implement the ‘defend and grow the core’ framework in complex local landscapes with multiple stakeholders and values (Fig. 4). Building on the SCD, the threat-based land management framework (Johnson et al. 2019), and many years of experience in locally-led collaboration, partners at Oregon State University extension, the Institute for Natural Resources, and the Agricultural Research Service developed a facilitated process to help local partners develop their own science-informed but locally-derived spatial strategy to defend and grow the core. The workshop consists of a few basic steps, including: 1) grounding participants in background, context and principles for strategic management; 2) walking through a hands-on, interactive activity for a locally-relevant landscape; 3) facilitating small group and full group discussion. This case study reflects on TBSC workshops within the context of our framework for technical transfer, including lessons learned and ongoing needs.

Before the workshop starts

Careful planning before implementing TBSC was required to set up individual workshops for success. The “why” for developing this technical transfer effort responded to the call to action from the SCD: to empower managers to proactively address threats to the sagebrush ecosystem at meaningful scales within their area of influence. Based on our collective experience, we determined that one of the most important and influential management needs may be to supporthelp our partners in strategically conservinge large, intact sagebrush landscapes, and that a roadmap is needed to help managers and practitioners apply ‘defend and grow the core’ concepts in their day-to-day work. In other words, we attempted to pair the most important and relevant information (a carefully curated list of concepts, principles and geospatial tools) with the most relevant audiences (multi-stakeholder groups who are making decisions about where and how to work on the ground) and create a space for these groups to wrestle with how to apply these concepts in the real world. The audience for this effort is varied, but often consists of multi-stakeholder collaborative groups that are working in large landscapes (generally hundreds of thousands of acres), where strategic prioritization is required because these landscapes are too big to work everywhere. The workshops benefited from the established credibility built over decades by the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center and the shared vision within the Oregon SageCon Partnership, and those foundational relationships were essential. Many hours of planning went into the content, flow and participant engagement for the workshop, and each workshop was adjusted slightly based on the timing, audience, and other considerations. In addition, a set of pre-workshop considerations was used to evaluate the enabling conditions to set the workshop up for success and to set realistic expectations for workshop outcomes such as existing relationships, coordination capacity, a shared vision that aligns with the defend and grow the core strategy, other resource concerns, and an assessment of the scale of the management area.

During Threat-Based Strategic Conservation workshops

At the core of TBSC workshops is the empowerment of participants to develop a spatial strategy that reflects local priorities and knowledge and that has broad partner co-development and buy-in. First, participants are grounded in threat-based land management and principles for strategic conservation to facilitate science-based, proactive thinking that returns to the theme of defending and growing the core (our “why”). Then, participants move through a step by step, hands-on process in small groups designed to spark conversation among participants, connect big-picture concepts to real-world landscapes, and facilitate landscape-scale thinking across jurisdictional boundaries. A carefully curated list of spatial datasets are provided and participants use multiple methods such as use of a web application or drawing on a paper map to interpret these datasets in the context of the spatial strategy. Making space and time for group reflection at the end of the workshop helps align small groups toward the broader vision and reflect back on the purpose and need for a spatial strategy. We make sure that science and technology, including geospatial products developed for the threat-based land management effort, are used as discussion support tools. That is, the geospatial products are not the focus of the exercise, but instead play a supporting role for conversation and collaboration. 

After the workshop ends

Although our initial TBCS workshops were considered successful, the measure of their impact will depend on post-workshop follow-up and ability to translate strategy maps from the workshop into meaningful work planning with broad partner buy-in. This will likely require a local champion or coordinator to continue working with groups to further their spatial strategy and turn it into an actionable strategic plan, along with continuing technical and process support as needed. Effective delivery and pace of content will vary for each audience that engages in a TBCS workshop, as different stakeholder and collaborative groups are in different stages of formation. By using a train-the-trainer model we hope to equip others with fundamental technical content and a workshop facilitation strategy to allow each trainer to adapt this process for different groups. After each workshop, allowing adequate time for group reflection on successes and lessons learned will help refine content and delivery over time, and identifying the characteristics of groups that are able to successfully apply these concepts in their on-the-ground planning will help identify future audiences for TBCS workshops. The degree of success will also rely on wider adoption within and outside of Oregon to apply these concepts across larger landscapes.