Supporting Regional Conservation: The South Cumberland Conservation Action Plan

In the southern Cumberland Plateau region, an area recognized for its exceptional ecological diversity and unique cultural heritage, numerous government agencies and nonprofit organizations work to conserve the natural and cultural values of the region. The Sewanee Environmental Institute and the Land Trust for Tennessee are leading am effort to improve collaboration among these groups and develop a comprehensive and unifying planning document that describes the resources of the Cumberland Plateau that need protection. This effort is being supported by the Lyndhurst Foundation. The Landscape Analysis Lab is supporting this project by developing the geospatial data resources required to quantify and understand the conservation opportunities in the 3.5 million acre region.

The LAL is contributing to the project by developing a geographic information system (GIS) that will integrate a collection of geospatial datasets describing the ecological, recreational, cultural, and other values of the southern Cumberland Plateau landscape. Datasets are being gathered from participating organizations, including the Alabama Natural Heritage, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and the University of Tennessee - Chattanooga. The LAL is also developing novel geospatial data resources such as the locations of hunting clubs and the lands they use, the extent of watersheds that supply our drinking water reservoirs, and the distribution of vernal pools, a type of wetland that supports a unique assemblage of plant and animal communities.

Defining conservation focal areas

Using this GIS, the LAL is mapping conservation focal areas within the South Cumberland Plateau region. These focal areas are defined by a core of lands preserved by the State of Tennessee, and represent the goals and values of the conservation organizations that operate in the region. The analysis of these focal areas, in terms of the values present in each, will provide the scientific foundation for the planning document.
In addition to providing new information useful for conservation organizations in the region, the LAL aims to increase data sharing and collaboration by freely providing any datasets developed. Datasets with restricted use and distribution, such as rare and endangered species location data, will not be released.

For more information about the South Cumberland Conservation Action Plan, read the published report titled Cumberland Voices: A Conservation Vision for the South Cumberland Region page.