2013-15 Project Focus: Large Landscape Conservation in the West

2013-15 Rockies Project Focus: Large Landscape Conservation in the West

2014-15 State of the Rockies Project

Large Area and Landscape Conservation in the Rocky Mountain West: Conserving Communities, Economies, and Environments

The 2014-15 State of the Rockies Project built on the previous year's theme, with a research focus on large landscape conservation topics in the Rocky Mountain West. Special attention was given to environmental governance, or how federal involvement, non-profit, watershed, tribal, and private initiatives shape conservation efforts. We analyzed their role in specific landscape conservation objectives. These objectives range from the protection of biodiversity, to economic sustainability, to cultural preservation efforts. The backdrop of this research included a complex array of diverse communities, economies, and environments in the Rocky Mountain West.

As economic drivers, demographic trends, and political attitudes change in the American West, so too management approaches have changed to meet the varying demands of communities and economies. Specifically, the organization, management, scale, jurisdiction, and invested stakeholders shaped new conservation efforts. Additionally, as internal economic and demographic forces shape landscapes from the inside, climate change continues to stretch landscapes and environmental managers across the West. Global climate change not only threatens natural environments, but also the human communities that are dependent on them for a way of life.

Thus, our 2014-15 focus was premised on a holistic approach to natural and human systems. Embedded in this focus is an understanding that there is an inseparable relationship between nature and society.

Team sitting on sand dunes

The State of the Rockies Project 2013-14

Large Landscape Conservation in the Rockies: Exploring New Conservation Paradigms for the 21st Century

Establishing a New Rockies Project Approach to Large Landscapes

Building upon two years of focus on a very large conservation area in the Rockies: the Colorado River Basin, we returned during 2013-14 to an analysis of the eight state region's land and environment. We applied new techniques of "creative conservation" and "large landscape conservation" to provide comprehensive insight into innovative conservation actions and tools in the region. Using tabular and spatial techniques, a detailed inventory of Rockies' conservation efforts/initiatives was created. To highlight these important transformations in the conservation arena and the efforts already underway to further conservation in the Rockies, we addressed the topic through a three-pronged approach that included investigation on a regional scale, on a case-specific basis, and the incorporation of social and visual media through a field expedition to raise awareness of the issues surrounding conservation in the Rockies.

Rockies Project Spine of the Rockies Expedition

Developing off of two successful field expeditions throughout the Colorado River Basin in 2011 and 2012, we assembled a new expedition team for the summer of 2013 to investigate the Project's focus of Large Landscape Conservation. By travelling to a number of key large landscape conservation areas and leveraging the region's strong ties to outdoor recreation, we furthered awareness of these conservation efforts through traditional and emerging media. Areas of focus for this field expedition work included: Thompson Divide in Colorado, the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area in Colorado, the Greater Yellowstone region in Wyoming and Montana, the Crown of the Continent in Montana and Alberta, and the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. Our expedition team split their efforts between capturing the natural beauty of these areas through extended time in the backcountry and interviewing key stakeholders involved in conservation work to highlight the human element of the region's conservation work. Through blogs, photography, and the production of a video series, we seek to engage a greater audience in the discussion of Large Landscape Conservation even as we contribute to "citizen science" data for regions explored. The expedition utilized the online database iNaturalist to catalog wildlife observations in order to further the breadth and scope of scientific data in these areas of key conservation importance. To view the Rockies Project's iNaturalist observations click here.

To view our full Rockies' Expeditions site, click here.

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