Connectivity conservation is gaining prominence around the world. Originating in response to habitat fragmentation and land use intensification, connectivity is increasingly framed within the discourse of climate change adaptation. Motivated by the science of conservation biology, these initiatives use innovative models of collaborative governance to connect landscape-scale science with local-scale action. Connectivity conservation seeks minimise conflict between economic development and conservation while maximising potential for species survival. This is achieved through strategic designation of core protected areas, buffer zones and compatible land use and human settlement within a biologically defined region. This broad overarching planning framework has enabled connectivity conservation to gain traction with advocates of community-based conservation and those in favour of ‘fortress’ protected areas. Connectivity is purported to be good for both biodiversity and local communities and while these initiatives show promise for integrated conservation management across multiple tenures, they face challenges of collaboration and communication across vast, diverse landscapes, communities and agendas.
This presentation will summarise key findings from an interdisciplinary doctoral dissertation. Qualitative social science was used to examine the mechanisms for fostering participation in cross-scale governance. Two empirical cases, Yellowstone to Yukon in North America and Habitat 141° in Australia, are used to assess the barriers and opportunities to engaging civil society in collaborative, cross scale conservation. Despite different social, ecological and institutional contexts, these cases highlight the importance of both science and social values to inspiring behaviour change for sustainability. However, both cases faced early challenges to their legitimacy through a loss of connection with the local scale. Despite the overt claims that connectivity is good for local communities, action in Australia has been largely restricted to making the scientific case while constructing and promoting grand visions. Moreover, Yellowstone 2 Yukon does not function without opposition. Without serious consideration of their social and institutional context, these grand visions may remain an aspiration. Research findings demonstrate that while collaboration can serve as an important mechanism to bring together diverse players from local to regional scales, it cannot be engineered from the ‘top down’. However, grand visions that legitimately engage with local aspirations to foster genuine ownership offer much greater prospects of favourable adoption and are more likely to endure.