About VWL

What is scenario planning?

The Changing Landscapes Initiative aims to preserve and protect ecologically and culturally valuable resources and enable informed regional and local decision making. To do this, the CLI uses scenario planning, a collaborative process in which scientific knowledge and regional preferences are used to describe the landscape, develop scenarios representing plausible futures, and inform models illustrating these future scenarios.

The CLI hosts workshops with regional stakeholders with expertise in potential land use trends and policies, to learn the unique regional needs, preferences, and challenges in land use, conservation, development, and environmental policy. This combination of landscape modeling and stakeholder input results in scientifically rigorous and stakeholder-vetted data that will inform regional planners and policy makers. By involving regional stakeholders, we can also improve public understanding of the importance of biodiversity in preserving healthy, resilient ecosystems that provide resources which contribute to vibrant and economically self-sustaining societies. In addition to producing information to regional policy makers and planners, major outcomes of this process include identifying shared conservation and planning goals, recognizing gaps in knowledge, and gaining a better overall understanding of our region.


The work of the Changing Landscape Initiative will involve a series of collaborative workshops to identify regional planning needs, garner scientific expertise, and collect data. This process began in October 2015 with a science advisory workshop, where scientists discussed important land use features, data needs, and availability. In August 2016, two scenario-building workshops were held, where regional stakeholders envisioned plausible futures for Northwestern Virginia, sharing their knowledge, exploring recent trends, and developing descriptive narratives of the region in 2065.

These workshops not only serve as a platform for scientists and stakeholders to collaboratively envision the future of their landscape, they also provide information that will be incorporated into models, linking expert contributions with the best available data. Success for the CLI depends on the contribution of an engaged and diverse community of scientists, regional stakeholders, and residents. We plan to continue to reach out and involve these parties through additional workshops, surveys, interviews, and digital communication tools like webinars.

Grasslands were selected first at the program’s inception in 2009 because they were the least well known among the agricultural landscape types (e.g. forests, wetlands, streams and riparian zones) in need of conservation research. These studies were designed to inform the development of adaptive best practices for sustainable land management.

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Virginia Working Landscapes
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
1500 Remount Road
Front Royal, Virginia 22630
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