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Finding common ground to enhance community resilience

By: Tracie Sempier / Published: Sep 27,  2018

I recently had the opportunity to interact with the Mississippi chapter of The Wildlife Society and discuss their work in the natural environment and wildlife issues as they relate to community resilience.

This was my first meeting with this group, and I was reminded about the explicit link humans have with our environment and the wildlife that surrounds us. I was also reminded of our great responsibility to conserve and protect species of concern and open spaces.

Although not a likely candidate for presenting to wildlife biologists, I was honored to spend time with this great group of people at the Maritime and Seafood Museum in Biloxi earlier this month. We opened a conversation about the importance of considering both built environment and natural environment when making planning decisions at the local government level.

While we tend to use different terminology, have different time scales and even have different incentives for built versus natural environments, there are clearly many things we have in common. For example, earlier that morning, they conducted a workshop on the use of drones in collecting data and managing wildlife species. In my work with communities, we utilize drones to run cross sections of neighborhoods and post photos to the Internet following storms. This allows residents to access damages to their homes without re-entering the community while emergency management officials ensure it is safe. We found we are using similar technology but for two different purposes.

We also found there are recurring themes in our coastal work including preserving open space, maintaining habitat corridors, managing stormwater, preparing for future flooding and providing green infrastructure to mitigate flooding risks/preserve natural features.  

We identified opportunities for collaboration which include:

  1. Make joint recommendations to increase resilience in natural and human systems.
  2. Determine where growth can occur in a community with less impact to wildlife species.
  3. Address the decreased delivery of ecosystem services from natural habitats.
  4. Identify win-win solutions for flood reduction and future storm protection.
  5. Balance economic development and maintain open spaces.

Overall, we agreed that it is important to have a place at the table when long-term planning decisions are being made at the local level.

It is also essential to be able to convey the value of scientific findings and how they may assist with the planning process to a local city or town planner.

Together, we can gain a better understanding of priority habitats and how to target areas for protection. We can also see where growth is expected to occur in urban areas and how land use and land change will impact both natural and built environments.

For me, it reinforced how important it is to consider all domains of resilience (natural, built, social and economic) if we really want to achieve whole community resilience.

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