Future West Newsletter, Fall 2015 Edition 
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What is the Best Conservation Investment?

Philanthropists and local conservationists all want to know; what is the best conservation investment? 

The answer is easy

No amount of money is going to protect the environment unless there are committed people with the skills, passion, and direction needed to develop and implement successful conservation projects.  Yet that’s easier said than done.

Groups with their boots on the ground are often too busy riding the range, monitoring stream health, restoring degraded habitat, and convening land managers to resolve conservation issues, to focus on the efficiency and longevity of their own organizations. And as the landscapes, communities and economies of the rural West continue to change, these groups play an essential role in the stewardship and protection of our region.

That’s why we are committed to building the capacity of community-based conservation groups.  This has included technical assistance and workshops on topics such as creating effective and financially sustainable organizations, developing compelling communication strategies, metrics for project evaluation, and techniques for facilitating civil dialogue. Alongside this organizational assistance, we are also managing a small grants program to help participants implement ideas gleaned from these trainings.

These are components of the High Divide and Southern Crown Capacity Building Initiative, a program Future West has been helping to guide together with colleagues from other regional non-profits. This collaboration is aiding individuals, watershed groups, many local organizations, and even public agencies engaged in rural conservation.  Some are working on land protection, others wildlife and fisheries, still others are supporting sustainable ranching and forestry.  With the building boom back on full throttle, managing rural growth is also an issue of growing concern.

While most concentrate on their own communities or watersheds, in aggregate they are creating a landscape scale conservation vision that respects and reflects our mosaic of public and private lands.  Science, and just common sense, tells us that we can no longer view the world of conservation from our own personal silo.  That is especially true in the wide open spaces of the rural west.

The good news is that there are many dedicated, hard working people doing just that. Giving them the tools, training, and networks necessary to achieve their conservation goals, will leverage these efforts.

Capacity building may not be as flashy as putting a collar on a grizzly, buying a chunk of elk winter range, or designating a new public park.  But in the long run, it will help sustain these and a thousand other conservation initiatives.

Thank you for investing in this work!


With best regards,

Dennis Glick, Executive Director

During a recent High Divide gathering, community-based conservation organizations from throughout the chain of counties connecting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem with the wildlands of Central Idaho, rendezvoused in Ennis, Montana to celebrate their accomplishments and voice support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF is a federal program which has helped conserved millions of acres, including many important projects in this region. Many in attendance are participating in the High Divide Capacity Building Initiative. They are living proof of the critical importance of skilled, community-based conservation practitioners.
The Centennial Valley Association is a collaboration among local ranchers, conservation organizations, and public land managers living and working in Montana’s Centennial Valley. They have launched a series of impressive projects to preserve their traditional ranching way of life, and maintain open space, wildlife habitat, and water quality.  Support from the High Divide Capacity Building Initiative has enabled them to complete a strategic plan and a communications strategy. Now they are crafting a fundraising plan.  Their goal is to create a more sustainable funding base that will ensure that their innovative stewardship programs continue uninterrupted. 
A Capacity Building 101 Workshop in February brought together conservation groups and watershed committees from throughout southwest Montana and eastern Idaho for three days of presentations and hands on exercises aimed at increasing their effectiveness and sustainability. Over 20 NGOs participated. An impressive network of High Divide conservationists is resulting in greater synergy between community-based organizations, and ultimately a more strategic conservation movement. To learn more about a follow-up Capacity Building Workshop in October and to register, click here.
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