Wild and Working: An Inside Look At Sharing Landscapes With Wildlife

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Linda Owens of the Madison Valley Ranchlands Group and her dog Jake discuss ways to reduce wildlife conflicts on private lands with Hannah Jaicks of Future West. Photograph by Kayla Coleman.

What does it mean to share healthy working landscapes with wildlife?

As Future West celebrates its 10th anniversary, we continue to identify ways in which we are able to conserve what makes the West so special - the people, places, and wildlife - in a region undergoing rapid change. 

If you've read the news lately, you are aware of a number of recent conflicts between people and wildlife, some on working lands where carnivores and elk are increasingly in conflict with landowners. In an effort to reduce or eliminate these divisive and sometimes fatal interactions, Future West has initiated a long-term project that incorporates psychology and social science into conservation action.

Future West's Project Director and an Environmental Psychologist, Dr. Hannah Jaicks, spent the past six months sitting down with large landowners, landowner groups, and public agency staff for dozens of in-depth interviews on how they're working together across social, political, and geographic lines to use all the tools in the wildlife conflict-reduction toolkit. With the help of her intern, Kayla Coleman of the University of Montana Western, Hannah has been researching and developing materials for a series of case studies that will inform students, researchers, and the broader conservation community on the opportunities and challenges for effective conflict prevention.

These case studies will be built into the coursework of several classes at the University of Montana Western. Additionally, these stories are being compiled into a book that will be published and widely distributed. The goal of this work is to build upon the wealth of personal experience, combined with technical research, on various conflict-reduction strategies. This will be accomplished by sharing the key social and psychological factors necessary for people to incorporate new approaches in how they maintain their working landscapes.

While the materials for the case studies and coursework are still in development, conversations with our rural partners have reaffirmed what Future West has advocated since its beginning: collaboration is a key to conservation success. Through our work, we're helping people better understand the conservation challenges facing this region and creating resources for tackling them.

In every interview, the importance of partnerships, respect, and a willingness to come to the table to discuss uncomfortable issues emerged. We look forward to sharing the ways we can expand the use and effectiveness of conflict-prevention efforts and ensure a continued place on the landscape, for people and animals alike.

Thank you for supporting Future West's efforts to sustain our communities, our rural working landscapes, and our wild places. For more information about this project, please contact Hannah (hannah@future-west.org).

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