Our landscapes are simultaneously diverse and similar. They range from the mountains to the seas (sometimes within the same landscape), east to west and north to south. They have different ecological and human communities. However, they all face similar challenges. Rural landscapes are places where both wildlife and human communities are under threat from a wide range of natural and manmade conditions. The people who live and work in these landscapes have diverse interests but they all share similar goals: taking care of the landscape and conserving critters that swim, walk, or fly while simultaneously ensuring sustainable economies and viable rural communities. The people that live in these landscapes keenly understand how important functional landscapes are to their lives and heritage. Less well understood is the value that these landscapes provide to people that live in cities hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away. Rural working landscapes are the source of the vast majority of our food, fiber, and water – the most basic human needs. Landscapes that rise to meet these challenges are not just taking care of their own, they are taking care of a growing population.
The collaboratives that have emerged in these landscapes also have common threads. Their emergence can typically be traced to an event or a moment in time which initiated action. These collaboratives developed a shared vision that stakeholders could rally around. Finally, at their core these collaboratives have skilled leadership and highly committed and effective people, among both landowners and partners. The bottom line is that the successful landscape collaborations are not brought about by public agency investment or decree but rather rise from the bottom up with leadership from landowners and other stakeholders in local communities.