Future West recently hosted a stirring talk by noted Yellowstone volcanologist Dr. Robert Smith. Bob assured a rapt audience that they didn’t have to worry about the Yellowstone caldera exploding – at least not any time soon. But there is another explosion of sorts occurring in our region that merits concern. Twenty years ago I co-authored a report on the future of the Yellowstone area. In that publication we predicted that these 20 counties would add around 70,000 people over the next 15 years. And we encouraged communities to prepare for that growth. We missed our mark by 100,000! In reality, we added over 170,000 people. Towns like Bozeman are now among the fastest growing in the country.
Make no mistake, the boom is back. But what is less certain is whether we are planning for and managing that growth in a manner that benefits our economies and quality of life, while conserving the natural and cultural assets attracting so many people?
Future West helps communities identify, choose, and achieve their desired future. We work in partnership with key decision makers and many others who care deeply about how this region grows and changes. To meet this daunting challenge, we’ve called in the reinforcements. For nearly 15 years Randy Carpenter has been helping community leaders in the Northern Rockies craft local approaches for managing growth. He will lend a hand with our current projects, and engage in new activities related to planning and development. Alice Buckley is a Yale graduate who has worked on wildlife issues in the Northern Rockies as well as communication and marketing initiatives. Alice is deeply committed to fostering a community-based approach to resolving conservation and development issues.
In addition to our new staff, Future West also received exciting news on the funding front. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation approved grants that will help launch both our Big Hole River Ecosystem Services Payment Program and our Missouri Headwaters Abandoned Mine Reclamation Project. Both represent innovative approaches to conserving and restoring habitats through an incentive based approach. Project partners range from ranchers to miners, county commissioners to conservation groups.
How we grow, what we conserve and restore, and who carries out this work, remain a key focus of our community-based conservation projects. Your continued investment in these efforts is essential, and greatly appreciated.