New Ideas, More Actions! The Community Conservation Cohort

Over the years, the Taking Action for Wildlife (TAFW) Team has noticed in workshops and conferences that community participants learned as much from each other as they did from the instructors. We were also looking for ways to provide communities with the skills and knowledge needed to boost their confidence in working on projects leading to protection of natural resources. What if, we said, we got a group of six communities together? And then provided them with an intensive period of group learning and discussion around natural resources and protections, building a cohort of conservation colleagues? The cohort could grow together, share knowledge and experiences, and capitalize on that learning to facilitate on-the-ground projects to protect key natural resources in their communities. (Oh and have some fun along the way!). Would communities be interested?

It turns out they were! Ten communities applied for the inaugural program in Fall 2020. To keep the group size relatively small to maximize learning and interaction, we were only able to accept six towns (with up to four participants from each community) but we hope the others will participate next year. All communities were required to have a completed natural resources inventory, since the NRI is the foundation for conservation, outreach, management and many more conservation activities. We were pleased to see so much interest and plan to hold the training again in the future - be sure you're subscribed to the Taking Action for Wildlife newsletter to learn about future trainings.

Originally envisioned as an in-person training with three one-day sessions held monthly from September through November, we transitioned to an online format, still held monthly, but half-days on Zoom. To maximize group interaction, we are using the flipped classroom approach, providing participants with topic-focused readings, videos, and other resources to review ahead of time to maximize time for discussion in the training sessions.

We kicked off the 2020 training on Friday September 11th, with participants (conservation commissions, but also some other community board members) getting to know each other virtually and getting a refresher on NH’s landscape history and using NRI’s as the foundation for land conservation, public outreach and land use planning. The group completed Session 2 of the training on October 9th, with lively discussion around land conservation, land management, and land use regulation topics, and a panel discussion with four invited communities showcasing conservation projects. We've also hosted an engaging drop-in discussion focused on climate change and natural resources.

The cohort participants are starting to plan their on-the-ground projects and will spend the winter working towards their goals with their fellow community participants. They'll receive ongoing support from two TAFW staff members assigned to each community. We can’t wait to see the results of their efforts and will share that with you in the spring!

by Amanda Stone, Natural Resources Conservation State Specialist, UNH Cooperative Extension
2020 Fall Taking Action for Wildlife Newsletter