Heart of the West Project Products and Progress
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.
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. 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.
Once a rough proposal for cores and linkages in the lowlands wildlands network was developed, 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 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 where the spatial analysis identified core or linkage locations. Here is a brief list of some of the opportunities we have engaged in:
- Great Divide BLM Resource Management Plan revision, south-central Wyoming (comments submitted based on our Heart of the West conservation plan)
- Utah Wilderness Coalition Red Rock wilderness proposal (The hopeful passage of this bill in Congress this will result in permanent protection of many Heart of the West core areas)
- Vernal BLM Resource Management Plan revision, northeast Utah ("Citizens' responsible use alternative" developed based on the Heart of the West wildlands network.
- Wasatch-Cache National Forest Plan revision (comments submitted concerning management of wildlands network cores)
- Wyoming Wilderness Coalition proposal (statewide wilderness proposal being developed; all of the proposed wilderness units are included in heart of the West cores)
- Uinta National Forest Plan revision (comments submitted concerning protection of wildlands network cores)
- Lake Mountain, Bridger Teton NF Wyoming (road construction in key roadless area halted)
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.