Preserving the Cradle of Southern Appalachia; a Collaborative Landscape Conservation Plan for the Greater Chattanooga, TN Region

Authors: Charlie Mix*, , Joel Houser, Open Space Institute
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems, Cartography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: conservation GIS
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 13
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The Chattanooga, TN region is nestled in the Tennessee and Hiwassee River basins and spans from the Southern Blue Ridge to the Ridge and Valley/Cumberland Plateau escarpments of the Appalachian Mountains. It is considered a biodiversity hotspot varied in both species’ richness and landform diversity. To address conservation concerns due to rapid urban development, a partnership of 20+ plus land trusts that operate in the region was formed to find ways to collaborate in land conservation and restoration. The partnership has established four conservation goals to meet for the region by 2050: protect at least 50% of intact habitat, delist at least 50% of the region’s 303d streams, maintain at least 90% of species of greatest conservation need, and connect people to nature. Approximately 15% of the region is protected while 70% is forested habitat. To spatially identify lands in the region that reflect these goals, a GIS conservation prioritization model was created using weighted suitability analysis using definitive datasets. From this model, 6 unique focus areas in the region were identified for the partnership to focus conservation efforts on. This information is communicated through cartographic products and GIS webtools within a conservation plan outlining conservation threats, strategies, and opportunities that will help guide the work of the partnership. In this evolving project, the partnership aims to leverage the results of these data and GIS tools for fundraising and outreach for landscape conservation of one of the most unique regions in North America.

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