Working with Unlikely Allies

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Unorthodox Conservation

Brian Stranko, our California Water Program Director, explains how we develop creative solutions to complex problems and work with unlikely allies to get the job done – for people and nature.

Q. What makes the Conservancy’s approach effective?

A. People want a thriving economy and a healthy environment, not one or the other. They want to be able to eat red meat, have fresh produce, and sit on their redwood deck – all while protecting nature. Our approach works because it’s about solutions that protect the economy, the environment and the good life in California. And decision-makers, local communities, farmers, ranchers, fishermen, timber companies, and the public can get behind that.

Q. The Conservancy partners with “unlikely allies.” What makes them “unlikely” and who are they?

A. Working with these unlikely allies, we can achieve astonishing results. Here are a few examples.

Loggers – We are working with loggers to develop salmon-recovery strategies that can be readily adopted by industry and agriculture, like felling trees in streams so salmon can spawn.

Fishermen - Partnering with fishermen to develop better ways to catch groundfish—ways that support the local economy and the ocean—leading to higher-quality fish, good jobs and sustainably harvested seafood.

Ranchers – Working with ranchers on sustainable grazing approaches that help conserve the land and keep invasive plants down while preserving a 150 year tradition of ranching in California.

Q. What are the barriers to this approach?

A. It’s a bit of a paradigm shift to work at the intersection of protecting AND working the land, one that requires us to think like ranchers, loggers or fishermen as well as a conservation practitioner. We have to understand the values, the needs and the perspective of folks in these industries so that we can shape conservation solutions that allow them to stay in business, support the local economy -- while protecting and restoring natural conditions.

Q. What’s the next big issue for the Conservancy to tackle?

A. It’s where rural meets urban. Our cities are growing, transportation and infrastructure are expanding, and food production is increasing as our population spikes. We are working now to develop tools that help decision-makers understand and plan, well in advance, for how they can balance nature and development in regions, such as the San Francisco Bay Area. For example, we are making the case for wetlands as natural flood barriers and other natural assets to guard against climate change.

Read the Associated Press Story on our work with unlikely allies

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