Several NCCOS products were in the limelight at the December 8, 2017 Envision the Choptank stakeholder forum, an activity of NOAA’s Choptank Habitat Focus Area (HFA). During a panel address on the status and trends of the Choptank watershed, Suzanne Skelley, Director of the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory, presented a bird’s eye view of the ecological landscape of in-water resources as illustrated in the Choptank Ecological Assessment Digital Atlas Baseline Status Report. Zoe Johnson from NOAA Fisheries relied on NCCOS’s report, A Coastal Community Vulnerability Assessment for the Choptank Habit Focus Area, to describe watershed’s socioeconomics and predicted impacts of climate change. These presentations along with other talks about the on-land ecology, the history and trends of water quality, and results from a survey of Choptank community members’ opinions of their watershed provided the context for further discussions among forum participants. Stakeholders were tasked to prioritize the future role of the Envision the Choptank collaborative in advancing conservation, restoration and community goals. Facilitating dialog and building relationships among stakeholders, as evidenced by the success of the stakeholder forum, were identified as continuing priorities for the group.
Envision the Choptank is a NMFS/NCBO-funded effort to establish a diverse, community-based collective impact approach and relies upon the contributions of conservation organizations, community groups, government agencies, and local citizens. Collective impact identifies collaborative solutions that bridge the priorities of multiple organizations and stakeholders to protect and restore the resources of the Choptank River and watershed, improving and sustaining the quality of life for local citizens. The Choptank HFA is one of ten HFAs in NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint—a framework for NOAA to address the growing challenge of habitat loss. Habitat Focus Areas are targeted places where NOAA is collaborating with communities to improve the environment through NOAA science, service, and stewardship.