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ELI Releases Newest Publication In State Biodiversity Series

August 2001

The Environmental Law Institute® has just published the latest report from its State Biodiversity Program, Status of the States: Innovative State Strategies for Biodiversity Conservation. This report is the sixth in a series of publications supporting efforts to develop statewide and regional biodiversity conservation initiatives.

The report is based on discussions that took place at the first National Biodiversity Symposium in January 2001. ELI convened key leaders from all of the known state biodiversity conservation efforts and other interested parties to participate in a symposium exploring the lessons and experiences of these initiatives. The publication draws on both the presentations and the discussions to summarize common themes, highlight important issues, and suggest actions to help improve the effectiveness of state biodiversity efforts.

“The goal of the symposium was to identify successful strategies and approaches that can improve the effectiveness of statewide biodiversity conservation efforts,” says Jessica Wilkinson, Director of ELI’s State Biodiversity Program. “Our hope is that this report will provide individuals involved in new or on-going state and regional biodiversity conservation efforts with the tools necessary to initiate a successful program with on-the-ground success.”

Three questions were posed throughout the symposium:

How can natural resource professionals better develop biodiversity information for those whose decisions affect how land is used and managed?

How can natural resource professionals ensure that this information is provided to key decision-makers in a format that is useful to them?

How can policymakers create requirements or incentives for decision-makers to ensure that biodiversity concerns are incorporated into decisions about how public and private lands are used and managed?

Answers to these questions are critical if substantial progress is to be made in protecting and conserving the nation’s biological diversity. Economic growth and population increases have placed at risk much of this nation’s biological wealth. Various plant and animal species critical to health, recreation, education and economic development are being lost at an alarming rate

The report addresses ways to improve the effectiveness of state efforts to protect and restore native biodiversity. Increasingly, the power to reverse these trends lies in the hands of state authorities and state-based public-private partnerships rather than federal laws and programs.

Biodiversity conservation has at last risen to the top of many state agendas. More than a dozen states from California to Delaware have taken the lead on implementing strategies to protect the natural heritage so vital to the quality of life in their communities.

“In approximately half of the states, broad coalitions of individuals from state, federal and local government, conservation organizations, and the private sector have initiated efforts to develop and implement comprehensive statewide or regional strategies for biodiversity conservation,” according to Wilkinson. “These innovative coalitions are attempting to pro-actively protect and restore biodiversity before imperiled plants and animals become threatened and endangered. This report is the first step toward identifying actions that Congress, state legislatures, state agencies, and philanthropic institutions can take to improve the effectiveness of these cutting-edge partnerships.”

Funding for the symposium and this report were generously provided by the George Gund Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Other reports in this series include New York State Biodiversity Project Needs Assessment, Protecting Delaware’s Natural Heritage: Tools for Biodiversity Conservation, Ohio’s Natural Heritage: Strategies and Tools for Conservation,