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Tuesday, February 7 • 8:00am - 5:00pm
Workshop: Great Plains Native Fish Conservation Areas Network

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ORGANIZER: Tim Birdsong, Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative and Great Plains Fish Habitat Partnership, timothy.birdsong@tpwd.texas.gov

PRESENTERS: Timothy Birdsong, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department / Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative; James Broska, Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative; Gary Garrett, University of Texas at Austin; Jessica Graham, Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership; Steven Krentz, Great Plains Fish Habitat Partnership; Ben Labay, Siglo Group

OVERVIEW: Rivers of the Great Plains have been dramatically altered with agricultural irrigation significantly depleting groundwater supplies and resulting in concomitant reductions in spring flows.  The erection of dams has fragmented rivers and altered natural flow patterns, at times leading to 90% reductions in flow magnitude in downstream river segments.  These and a myriad of other interrelated issues – land use changes, degradation of water quality, instream habitat degradation, and the negative effects of non-indigenous species – threaten freshwater biodiversity in the region.  If unchecked, these issues will likely continue to contribute to the imperilment and loss of regional freshwater biodiversity.  Innovative conservation approaches are needed to restore aquatic habitats and conserve freshwater biodiversity, while simultaneously supporting human needs (e.g., flood control, municipal and agricultural water supply, water quality protection, water-based recreation).  These holistic, integrated approaches will become increasingly necessary as conflicts and competition for available freshwater resources become unavoidable.  Native Fish Conservation Areas represent a voluntary, collaborative conservation approach that promotes watershed-scale strategies for addressing competing demands on aquatic resources.  The approach is particularly relevant in rivers of the Great Plains where aquatic species have experienced population declines, primarily associated with anthropogenic changes in watersheds where large-scale preservation opportunities are limited.  To guide delivery of a network of Native Fish Conservation Areas in the Great Plains, a conservation prioritization was recently conducted that identifies priority rivers considered native fish “strongholds,” and that are recommended as focal areas for watershed-scale conservation investments.  This workshop will provide a detailed overview of this conservation prioritization and obtain input from participants on the priority watersheds recommended for inclusion in the Great Plains Native Fish Conservation Areas Network.  Additionally, the workshop will outline critical elements of the Native Fish Conservations approach, and spotlight case studies in delivery of Native Fish Conservation Areas from the southern and western US.  The workshop will include a series a facilitated thematic breakout sessions used to obtain expert input on conservation actions that could be taken to conserve native fishes within the proposed Great Plains Native Fish Conservation Areas Network (e.g., improved land management practices within associated watersheds, barrier removal, water rights acquisition, flow agreements, changes to water management plans, etc.).  Finally, the workshop will be used to gather input on priority data and science needs that must be addressed in order to effectively guide and evaluate conservation actions within the Great Plains Native Fish Conservation Areas Network. Input from workshop participants will be used to inform development of a regional conservation agenda and to guide investments in research, habitat restoration, and other actions by the workshop organizers and other conservation funding organizations. Workshop invitations are being distributed to active conservation partners of the workshop organizers.  However, the workshop is open to all students and professionals interested in the cooperative conservation of native fishes, their habitats, and other aquatic resources in the Great Plains.

INTENDED AUDIENCE: Professionals and students at all levels

FEES: No Charge. Sign-up on registration form. 

Tuesday February 7, 2017 8:00am - 5:00pm CST
Grand Ballroom F