The Wild Utah Project provides biological research and other scientific and technical support for the conservation community in Utah and adjacent states. Such an assistance program helps our partners shape regional land use in a way that restores native wildlife (including large carnivores), maintains ecological integrity, expands wilderness, protects biodiversity, and provides for ecosystem resilience. The types of partner support that Wild Utah Project offers fall into three categories:
Mapping and GIS analysis is a critical element in the dialog between parties involved in the land management process, serving as a communication vehicle between the conservation community, the public, and land managers. It is also a highly effective tool for visually describing the spatial extent and impact of policies and decisions to people at all levels of involvement, for both on-the-ground conditions and alternatives for change. For example, as part of the Forest Service process to identify which trails and roads should be open to recreational vehicle use on the Wasatch Cache National Forest, Wild Utah Project provided key wildlife habitat GIS analysis to the Utah Quiet Forests Coalition to use in their comments to the agency. Our route density analysis showed which routes should be closed in order to meet agency wildlife habitat density standards. Consequently, the Forest Service is now reconsidering their initial route density proposal.
Ecosystem health assessment tools, while critical for "taking the pulse" of ecosystems, are, in the hands of government land managers, often inadequate. Recognizing this situation, over the past five years Wild Utah Project has been working with many regional scientists to develop some key ecological assessment tools to help our partners in their work.
Ecological analysis, an integral part of the study of the land and its health, relies on indicators that are not always obvious. The expertise of biologists outside land management agencies is often needed to objectively interpret these signs. Wild Utah Project provides biological and science-based analysis of land use plans and projects, literature reviews about a conservation issue, and expert witnesses the local conservation community needs for their campaigns and legal efforts. Wild Utah Project brings to our scientific work decades of experience in agency decision making, giving our partners the ability to understand heretofore cryptic government agency information. For example, our work to create a status review for rare and imperiled fish in the West Desert of Utah is now providing a critical piece of information that is helping our partners (such as the Center for Biological Diversity, Trout Unlimited and the Sierra Club) have influence over a water development decision now pending in the Great Basin. Another example is our recently completed report, "an Ecological Analysis of the Greater Canyonlands Ecosystem" that we completed for the Southern Utah WIlderness Alliance. And of course, we are often providing analyses and helping our partners utilize the science incorporated in our Heart of the West Conservation Plan.
Designing Best Management Practices. Sometimes the Conservation Community needs specific Best Management Practices to guide their work such as comments on land management agency management plans. The Conservation Community needs these specific BMPs so they can stress to the agency in their comments what is the best, scientifically supported management practices that the agency should be using on their lands. Recent examples of science-based BMP documents that Wild Utah Project has assembled for our partners include our Best Management Practices for Off Road Vehicle Monitoring and Management for Forestlands, and BMPs for renewable energy development in the intermountain West.