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Large Landscape Conservation

A View from the Field

Jamie Williams

May 2011, English

The biggest challenge facing the land conservation community is how to get its work to scale. Just as communities are looking to sustain entire landscapes, conservation biologists have concluded that the protection of large, connected natural systems is imperative to stem the decline of species and maintain resilient ecosystems in the face of a changing climate. The need to move beyond piecemeal conservation to systemic success has never been greater, as an estimated three million acres of land a year is lost to development—dividing watersheds, fragmenting wildlife corridors, and disrupting sustainable economic uses of the land.

In this paper, Jamie Williams shares some stories from community-based conservation efforts in Colorado, Montana, and the Northern Rockies that are conserving some of the country’s largest, intact landscapes. The magic behind these collaborative efforts lies in local landowner leadership backed by strong private-public partnerships. There is an emerging consensus among scientists, conservation groups, donors, and local communities for conservation of whole landscapes and systems. This kind of work on a national scale, however, requires expanded and more creative deployment of funding, capital, and tax incentives, as well as a new level of collaboration around large, connected landscapes.