The Vital Role of Working Lands in Western Conservation—Annie Miller

Working lands — the farms, ranchlands, and working forests that support livelihoods —  are a vital component of the western landscape, and their ecological, economic, and social  importance is difficult to overstate. In addition to supplying much of the food we eat, they hold critical wildlife habitat, provide vital ecosystem services, and represent a way Read more about The Vital Role of Working Lands in Western Conservation—Annie Miller[…]

Rural Gentrification: The Housing Crisis — Mara MacDonell

There are two things that are common knowledge if you live in a ski town (and you don’t have a trust fund to support you): 1) Getting a job is easy, which is good because you’ll probably need at least two; and 2) there is no housing. Previous to matriculating at Yale, I lived in Read more about Rural Gentrification: The Housing Crisis — Mara MacDonell[…]

Is Oregon’s Land Use System Protecting Farmers? — Shannon Bell

Between 2001 and 2016, 11 million acres of farmland in the United States were developed, with 4.1 million acres converted to urban and highly developed land uses and almost 7 million acres converted to low-density residential use. The 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Census revealed that from 2012 to 2017, the amount of Read more about Is Oregon’s Land Use System Protecting Farmers? — Shannon Bell[…]

Flagstaff, Arizona’s journey through rural gentrification — Molly Ryan

I’ve been living on the East Coast for over eight years now. When I meet someone new and tell them that I grew up in Arizona, they usually respond with a comment about the weather. “You must be used to this kind of heat!” they say. I know what they’re imagining: a dry, sandy landscape Read more about Flagstaff, Arizona’s journey through rural gentrification — Molly Ryan[…]

Global change and root production: how does land use and climate change affect life belowground? — Uthara Vengrai

Roots do everything. They are the connector between plants and soil–the interface at which many of the transactions of life are made. Roots (with the help of their mycorrhizal associates) conduct a plant’s search for nutrients, water, and shelter. They scour the soil for the ingredients of life and support whole ecosystems of microorganisms, plants, Read more about Global change and root production: how does land use and climate change affect life belowground? — Uthara Vengrai[…]

Why Water Utilities Should Invest in Natural (Green) Infrastructure — Lily Colburn

Water utilities provide drinking, wastewater, and stormwater services to millions of people across the United States, including for residential, commercial, and industrial uses. These essential service providers are responsible for offering safe and affordable resources to their customers, which include identifying, protecting, and enhancing a drinking water source, pumping water from the source to a Read more about Why Water Utilities Should Invest in Natural (Green) Infrastructure — Lily Colburn[…]

A Sustainable Redesign of the Secure Rural Schools Act: Reimagining county payments to prioritize the ecological and cultural value of forest ecosystems over the economic value of timber resources — Shannon Bell

In May of 2021, Janez Potočnik and Isabella Teixeira, the co-chairs of the International Resource Panel (IRP) that was launched by the United Nations Environment Programme, published a think-piece on how we should best value biodiversity. The piece, titled Building Biodiversity, asserts that our current approach to preserving biodiversity has failed to account for the Read more about A Sustainable Redesign of the Secure Rural Schools Act: Reimagining county payments to prioritize the ecological and cultural value of forest ecosystems over the economic value of timber resources — Shannon Bell[…]

An introduction to the wildlife crossing structures that help animals move over and under Highway 93 in the Flathead Reservation, Montana. —Luca Guadagno

Driving north of Missoula through the Flathead Reservation, vehicles on US Highway 93 pass under a semi-circle arch of a vegetated overpass. Built to facilitate wildlife movement across the busy road, the overpass is a visible reminder that motorists are not the only individuals moving across the landscape. What motorists may not see as they Read more about An introduction to the wildlife crossing structures that help animals move over and under Highway 93 in the Flathead Reservation, Montana. —Luca Guadagno[…]

Behind the scenes of LA’s most ambitious water resiliency effort: The Safe, Clean, Water Program—Ryanna Fossum

Over three years have passed since voters approved Measure W in 2018 to increase water supply, improve water quality, and provide overall community benefits to Los Angeles County.  Now approaching its third funding cycle, the Safe Clean Water Program (SCWP) is confronting more questions than ever about how to invest in the region’s water future.  Read more about Behind the scenes of LA’s most ambitious water resiliency effort: The Safe, Clean, Water Program—Ryanna Fossum[…]

Drought in the West: The Consequences of Variable Forage Production for Open-Range Livestock Operations—Scott Carpenter

During an especially hot and dry summer in Pinedale, Wyoming it’s hard not to reflect on the looming predictions of increasing temperatures and precipitation variability. The two combining to create high-temperature drought conditions, which are becoming more common across the planet. Growing up on the east coast in suburban Virginia, a drought did not mean Read more about Drought in the West: The Consequences of Variable Forage Production for Open-Range Livestock Operations—Scott Carpenter[…]

The importance of a few places and a few organisms: soil methane fluxes in the West—Uthara Vengrai

Drylands cover about 40% of the world and the vast majority of the American West. They are expansive, diverse places all united by one thing: water limitation. These ecosystems are slow to build up carbon and slow to decompose it, which leaves rich pools of old carbon, the majority of which is stored in the Read more about The importance of a few places and a few organisms: soil methane fluxes in the West—Uthara Vengrai[…]

Long-term suitability of wildlife crossing structures for species movements across US highway 93 in Western Montana

Structures that allow wildlife to safely cross highways, including overpasses, landbridges, and wildlife underpasses, are increasingly attracting the attention of organizations that want to minimize wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve road permeability to wildlife movements. Research demonstrates that crossing structures with wildlife exclusion fencing decrease wildlife-vehicle collisions, however questions persist about how to best design structures Read more about Long-term suitability of wildlife crossing structures for species movements across US highway 93 in Western Montana[…]

Impact of Variable Grazing Pressure and Climate Change on Big Sagebrush Plant Communities

Associated with rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns are predicted to create novel climates contributing to changes in the distribution of potential vegetation. This is especially true in drylands across the American West, where the annual distribution of precipitation influences water availability, which is directly related to the competitive advantage of grasses or shrubs. Alongside shifting Read more about Impact of Variable Grazing Pressure and Climate Change on Big Sagebrush Plant Communities[…]

Enhancing working lands in Colorado

Darya’s main project is facilitating the Colorado Coalition to Enhance Working Lands (CO-CEWL). CO-CEWL works to improve the resilience and productivity of Colorado farming and ranching lands through the creation of viable agricultural businesses and rural communities, protecting open space, and increasing the ecosystem service benefits of working lands. Darya is writing a two-year strategic Read more about Enhancing working lands in Colorado[…]

Proposing County Payment Reforms that Incentivize Conservation of Public Forestland

Shannon is working with Oregon Wild, a non-governmental organization in Oregon dedicated to the conservation of forests and wildlife across the state. She is researching and developing an alternate model for the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) legislation, which has provided payments to historically timber-dependent counties in order to support them as timber harvests decline. The Read more about Proposing County Payment Reforms that Incentivize Conservation of Public Forestland[…]