The American West is one of the fastest growing regions in the country. How will this growth affect our rural landscapes, wildlife and water, and how we can avoid negative impacts? This will be the subject of a unique regional conference to be held in Bozeman on Nov. 29, at the Emerson Center for the Arts & Culture.
“Everyone’s talking about how quickly the West is changing, but do we really understand these trends and what they mean for the future of our natural environment?” asked Dennis Glick of Bozeman nonprofit Future West, the host of the conference.
This event will put a spotlight on growth and its impacts. It will also highlight stories of how communities, agencies and individuals are working to ensure that as we grow and change, our abundant wildlife, clean water and wide-open spaces are conserved and restored.
“Sustaining the New West: Conservation Challenges—Conservation Opportunities” will be one of the first conferences to examine what many people consider priority conservation issues of the 21st century West: rural sprawl, intensive outdoor recreation, expanding transportation infrastructure and climate change.
“More importantly, we’ll learn about the actions people and communities are taking to overcome these problems,” Glick said.
Speakers include a lineup of individuals with extensive knowledge on these topics. Ralph Becker, former two-term Mayor of Salt Lake City, will share his experience overseeing one of the fastest growing cities in the West. Ray Rasker from Headwaters Economics will share research on growth trends such as development at the wildland–urban interface.
Additionally, several scientists will delve into the impacts of expanding highway systems, sprawl and intensive recreation, and Steve Running, a co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Science, will shed light on how climate change could affect the lands and waters of the Northern Rockies.
The afternoon will feature stories from people who have recognized these conservation challenges and are working to overcome them. For example, Wyoming Department of Transportation is building underpasses and overpasses to facilitate the safe passage of wildlife across busy highways, and the State of Montana is collaborating with local watershed groups to implement a landscape-scale drought management plan to deal with ever diminishing surface and ground water supplies.
Conference organizers hope that this event will shed light on a new conservation agenda for the 21st century and spur further dialogue on ways we can ensure a bright future for the people, lands, wildlife and water of the Northern Rockies.