By Sharlyn Izurieta, Explorebigsky.com Contributor

The landscape of the Northern Rockies, with its high, rugged mountains and expansive valleys, shapes a way of life. Agriculture, recreation and natural resources are important to our history and future. There is a need to preserve this way of life for future generations.

But those who live here know that managing, conserving and maintaining the quality of life that we enjoy is a challenge.

Future West is a nonprofit consulting group that has taken up that challenge. Based in Bozeman, Future West works to foster constructive dialogue around natural resources and rural development issues. What makes it unique is its community-based, collaborative model that helps address the needs of each community and project.

Dennis Glick and Jennifer Boyer founded Future West, encouraged by communities, colleagues, friends and donors, in 2009. Their goal was to “make sure the hearts and minds of citizens in this region are engaged to achieve a future including vibrant communities and a healthy natural environment.”

Future West is working on multiple projects in the Northern Rocky Mountain region, including the Henry’s Fork Legacy Partnership, a consortium of twelve non-governmental organizations and government agencies all working together. The Henry’s Fork area is located west of Yellowstone National Park in a landscape encompassing stunning scenery, fish and wildlife, amazing outdoor recreation opportunities along with working ranches and farms. According to Dennis Glick, the partnership’s aim is “to conserve the critical open spaces and working places,” there. Future West was invited by the project partners to develop educational materials for the partnership in order to help the partners conserve this unique landscape.

Boyer and Glick have over 30 years of combined experience working with communities, which helps them develop capacity and determine solutions to their specific needs. Their expertise is bolstered by other professionals in GIS mapping, land planning, economic analysis, landscape architecture, communications, rural development, ranch management and conflict management.

Because Future West’s approach is collaborative, they work where they’re invited and do not influence project outcomes. Their aims are to foster a constructive dialogue around natural resource and rural development issues, provide professional expertise, as well as facilitating the public engagement necessary for informed decision making.

Future West also assists organizations, state and local agencies and provides community workshops and seminars, and hosts capacity building workshops for other conservation organizations and community leaders.

future-west.org

Sharlyn Izurieta is the owner of SGI Consulting in Bozeman. She has worked as a coordinator for several nonprofit organizations in Bozeman, including the Greater Gallatin Watershed Council, and the Montana Center for International Visitors.
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Some of Future West’s projects

Big Hole River Corridor Protection

Montana’s Big Hole River is one of the nation’s best-known trout streams. It also harbors rare fluvial Arctic grayling. Efforts to protect the river and its riparian habitat have resulted in improved management of fish and water, and better protection of the river corridor. FW is leading a landowner driven process to further strengthen both incentive and regulatory-based mechanisms aimed at improving floodplain protection. If approved, this innovative and unprecedented four county process will result in the most progressive floodplain management in Montana.

Rocky Mountain Front GIS Collaborative

Leading a team of Geographic Information System specialists, and in cooperation with Teton County government, FW has managed the creation of a comprehensive GIS database that will be used for land use planning, land and water conservation, and economic development initiatives along the Rocky Mountain Front. Local decision makers and citizens have been involved in identifying which natural, community and economic resource databases are most important for conserving local values. The result is a comprehensive set of over 60 GIS data layers. This project also offered hands-on GIS trainings, building local capacity for decision making on land use issues.