In 2002, the Heart of the West Coalition completed the Heart of the West Wildlands Network Design, which is the core of the Heart of the West Conservation Plan. After the plan was completed and distributed, the implementation team ramped up into high gear.
Science, Design, and the Plan. The core scientific analysis in the design of the Heart of the West wildlands network included special elements mapping, representation analysis, and focal species analysis (click HERE to learn more). The special elements mapping cataloged ecologically important habitat information such as roadless and protected areas and rare, threatened, sensitive and endangered species in the Heart of the West study area. The representation analysis of vegetation communities ensured that a balanced amount of land cover types was was represented in the wildlands network. The focal species analysis identified necessary habitat for key wildlife, such as wolves and sage grouse. Each of these analysis components were brought together to identify core areas and linkages in our wildlands network.
The greater Heart of the West region contains both the lowlands of the Wyoming Basins and the mountainous area of the adjacent Utah-Wyoming Mountain ecorgion. Our conservation partners at Conservation Science, Inc. completed a reserve design for the mountainous region in 2002. The Wild Utah Project took the lead on the remaining portion of the heart of the West region: the lowlands area. Map 1 shows the boundaries between the mountainous and lowland portions of the greater study area, and the areas considered to be cores and linkages in both (cores in green, linkages in yellow).
Once we had a rough proposal for cores and linkages in the lowlands wildlands network, we held a series of meetings and workshops with the Utah and Colorado offices of The Nature Conservancy, the Colorado Natural heritage Program, the Utah State Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Office, and convened a special workshop with all the conservation groups who have ongoing conservation campaigns in Wyoming's part of the Heart of the West. Based on the feedback from these scientists and experts, we made adjustments to the draft wildlands network, and named and described key core areas in the lowland wildlands network (Map 2) with their help.
In addition to seeking expert help on the wildlands network design we asked our experts for recommendations on how to implement the network on the ground. These recommendations are part of the Heart of the West Conservation Plan that will guide, for example, upcoming land management agency plans, grazing permit renewals, endangered species recovery, and habitat management plans.
Heart of the West Conservation Plan Implementation. Since the release of the Heart of the West Wildland Network and Conservation Plan, We have used the conservation plan in a number of land use decisions, for example, advocating for greater protection of areas our analysis identified as core or linkage. Here is a brief list of some of the opportunities we have engaged in:
Our specific actions on each of these conservation opportunities benefited from the biological analysis and GIS data we had assembled for the Heart of the West Conservation Plan. While a few of these actions are yet to be decided, increased environmental protection was the end result in most cases.