The Institute for Regional Conservation (IRC) is dedicated to the protection, restoration and long-term management of biodiversity on a regional basis, and to the prevention of regional extinctions of rare plants, animals and ecosystems. Our mission means that, in a given region, we want to save EVERYTHING! This includes the large charismatic species of national and international concern (think Florida Panther) right down to the smallest and most inconspicuous of native plants (such as the soon-to-be federally listed Florida Bristle Fern). There is no species too small, too ugly, or too rare for us to pay attention.
The roots of IRC go back to the early 1980’s when the founders took a trip through the Amazon Forest. Face to face with the legendary biodiversity of the region and the incredible threats facing it, IRC (originally called Kuja Sni Research Group – KSRG) became one of the early organizations focused on rainforest conservation, intent on gathering experts and stakeholders together to discuss solutions. When it became clear that the large international conservation organizations had rainforest conservation securely on their agendas and under control, KSRG developed a model of regional conservation in which everything must be protected, and rebranded themselves as the Institute for Regional Conservation and established an office in the Redlands of Miami Dade County.
How does IRC achieve their mission to save everything? One of the first acts of IRC was to begin work on the Floristic Inventory of South Florida. The Floristic Inventory was powered by three enthusiastic botanists and took seven years. Plant lists were created for conservation areas large and small throughout South Florida. The information gathered allowed the botanists to assess the conservation status of every species of plant in South Florida as well as to assess how well the plants were protected within natural areas. The results are available in the book “Rare Plants of South Florida” and the online Floristic Inventory Database of South Florida (FISF). Two major pieces of information became clear from these data: (1) that native species were threatened by habitat degradation especially from invasive exotic species and (2) that not all species are adequately protected within conservation areas. As a result, two major aspects of IRC were born; our Ecological Restoration and Management program and Natives for Your Neighborhood.
Today, IRC continues to do studies on the habitat requirements, natural history, and status of rare species. We are currently working on projects related to the response of species to sea level rise as well as investigating habitat requirements for species being considered for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act. IRC often works with the USFWS to provide information for these listings and to help determine critical habitat for listed species. Additionally, we are conducting habitat restoration throughout the state by removing exotic species and planting native. Because we know that not all species can be protected by existing conservation areas, we work closely with private land owners, for example through our Pine Rockland Initiative, to help those individuals properly manage habitat on private property. Additionally, we encourage every South Floridian to help create habitat connectivity, provide habitat for plants and animals, and encourage the greatest native biodiversity possible through the use of native landscaping by offering our powerful tool: Natives for Your Neighborhood. Though our model is regional, it can be applied to any region, not only South Florida and we currently have a project running in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.