And it's time we start paying attention to both sides
Conservationists in the Northern Rockies are rightfully proud of their accomplishments. Resource damaging activities on public lands have been significantly reduced thanks to both advocacy and collaborative efforts. Open space and agricultural landscapes have been conserved through the work of land trusts and landowners. And many species have been recovered thanks to the dedication of sportsmen and wildlife agencies.
That’s the land, water, wildlife and open space side of the conservation coin. However, there’s another side that not only complements more traditional conservation measures but is also essential if we are going to preserve these natural values into the future. It’s the flip side -- where and how we build -- of the coin.
Conservationists are now starting to realize that we need to broaden our concerns and devote more attention to the built environment – aka our towns and cities. And they need help. Many are struggling with growth issues ranging from a lack of affordable housing, to a loss of character and gentrification. Communities like Gardiner, Montana are being hollowed out by the conversion of housing units to vacation rentals and Airbnbs. Social services are stressed by declining government support, and rising taxes are challenging even the middle class.
Future West has launched its Successful Communities Initiative to help communities come together to address these challenges in an informed, collaborative, and action-oriented manner.
Growth is inevitable. How we plan for it and address it is up to us. While this won’t be easy, we’re encouraged that communities like Gardiner have expressed interest in engaging in this new initiative. Watch for periodic updates and contact us if you would like more information. Most importantly, remember that conservation isn’t just about preservation, it’s also about making certain that development is planned and built in a manner that sustains our quality of life and the quality of our natural environment.
It’s the new conservation frontier. And it’s now, or never.
Friends of Future West packed the living room of the Story Mansion in Bozeman for a good ole-fashion slide show presented by famed writer, photographer, and 45-year Yellowstone Park Winterkeeper Steven Fuller. Fuller has been featured on many network news programs, in National Geographic and other high profile magazines, and at speaking engagements around the world. He graciously agreed to be the featured presenter at this year’s Future West Salon, our annual fundraising event. Guests were treated to stunning images and a passionate narrative, as well as delicious food and beverages. Check our Future West Facebook page for other upcoming events. There is always something in the works!
Monitoring and Evaluating Our Conservation Success
The High Divide geography -- the chain of counties connecting Greater Yellowstone with the Wilderness areas of Central Idaho -- is widely recognized as a high priority for conservation measures because of its role in linking those two great wildlands. It’s also recognized for its abundance of grassroots organizations like the Centennial Valley Association, Salmon Valley Stewardship, and the Beaverhead Watershed Committee, all of which are deeply engaged in community-based conservation efforts.
To help these groups become even more successful and sustainable, Future West has been leading a multi-year effort to build their capacity through training workshops and technical support. The most recent activity was a series of two workshops and four webinars, as well as one-on-one coaching, on the crucial topic of “Evaluating Your Conservation Success.”
Participants were expertly led by consultants from Dialogues in Action through a process of learning how to assess whether their organization is truly achieving its mission and goals.
For many (including the staff of Future West!), the workshop contents and methodology were an epiphany. Effective evaluation is one of those things that everyone from funders to NGOs is talking about, but few are actually doing. These workshops are changing that dynamic.