While vestiges of “Old West” environmental issues such as poorly managed natural resource extraction remain a cause for concern, an array of “New West” conservation challenges including sprawl, climate change, recreational development, and others are significantly affecting the region. Conservationists are retooling to address these challenges, but the rapid pace of change is daunting. Do we have to accept the impacts of these changes? Or is there another choice?
The mission of Future West is to help communities identify and create the future that they want. For the past decade Future West has accomplished this ambitious goal by providing key decision makers with the information, training, technical assistance and facilitation needed to more effectively address a variety of conservation and development issues. This has included site specific projects like helping to create a “Payment for Ecosystem Services Program” to protect the Big Hole River in southwest Montana. It has also featured community wide planning processes such as the “Successful Gardiner” initiative that is identify ways to address the loss of affordable housing in the gateway to the world’s first national park. And it has hosted capacity building trainings for regional community-based groups to turbo-charge their conservation efforts.
Future West also organized two highly regarded “Sustaining the New West” conferences. These events highlighted challenges and opportunities related to the tsunami of change crashing over the region.
- “Sustaining the New West I: Conservation Challenges, Conservation Opportunities” was a groundbreaking exploration of priority conservation issues of the 21st Century West- rural sprawl, intensive outdoor recreation, expanding transportation infrastructure, and climate change. More importantly, it also helped people learn about the actions that people and communities are taking to solve them. The Agenda and Presentations are available here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
- “Sustaining the New West II: Bold Visions, Inspiring Actions” built off of that event by bringing together conservationists, elected officials, rural landowners, business leaders, land managers, developers and many others to explore the potential future of our towns, working landscapes, and wildlands. The conference put a spotlight on growth trends in the Northern Rockies and offered alternative visions for how we can conserve this region. Conference Agenda and Presentations are available here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
While conferences are great, addressing the conservation and development issues of the New West requires more than talk, it requires concerted action. That is why we are launching our new “Sustaining the New West Campaign.”
Through this Future West initiative;
- Western communities will grow in a manner that meets development needs without sacrificing community character or quality of life.
- Open spaces will remain open thanks to land conservation efforts, good planning, and sustainable land use practices on working landscapes.
- The ecological integrity of wild lands will be conserved even as they provide outdoor recreation and a host of ecological services.
- And all of these efforts will rest solidly on a renewed appreciation of and reverence for the unique natural and cultural values of this region.
Other organizations are engaged in various elements of these four goals. This initiative is unique in its integration of urban, rural, and wildland environments into one seamless western tapestry. And it fosters a sense of place that manifests itself in environmentally sensitive decisions related to growth, development and even recreation and lifestyle. This holistic approach to development and conservation has been lacking in the Northern Rockies – but not for long.
Future West is currently in the process of gearing up for this Campaign. This will require increased staffing, increased partnerships, and of course, increased financial resources. Stayed tuned for further details as we develop this long overdue initiative, and one that will require your involvement if it is to be a success.