Matt Cooper, research scientist at the Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation, presented his research on the Great Lakes coastal wetlands on November 17 at the White House. His research and presentation are part of the Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative. The roundtable coincided with the release of a national report by Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality.

The roundtable, report, and a website launch were the culmination of two years of work. A Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative report and companion website highlight the efforts of seven partnerships to build resilience of national natural resources.

“These partnerships demonstrate the benefits of using existing collaborative, landscape-scale conservation approaches to address climate change and other resource management challenges,” Cooper said.

The initiative was a key part of Obama’s Interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience’s Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources, a first of its kind, and a comprehensive commitment across the federal government to support resilience of America’s vital natural resources.

“It was important for the Great Lakes, and specifically coastal wetlands of the Great Lakes, to be part of this effort. The Great Lakes sustain the livelihoods and way of life for so many people that we need to take action now to manage the system for a changing climate,” Cooper said.

The priority agenda directed federal agencies to work with states, tribes, and other partners, to select flagship large-scale geographic regions, and identify priority areas for conservation, restoration, or other investments to build resilience in vulnerable regions, enhance carbon storage capacity, and support management needs. It also directed the agencies and their partners to identify and map an initial list of priority areas within each of the selected geographic landscapes or regions.

“Speaking at a White House event was pretty amazing. After all of the hours we spend gathering and analyzing data, having the opportunity to explain our findings at that level was very gratifying. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.”

It remains unclear how efforts like the Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative will move forward under the new administration.

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