Study conservation issues on a spectacular backpacking course with WRFI this summer. We begin our explorations in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem of south-central Montana, and trend steadily north in a series of backcountry trips and frontcountry meetings with regional community and conservation leaders. We will finish the course in the wildly beautiful Canadian Rockies. This course examines conservation at a broad regional perspective, a Native American perspective, and at the local landscape level, with the goal of finding a comprehensive understanding of these issues.
This course area is the heart of a bioregion known as Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y). This mountain ecosystem stretches 2000 miles from Wyoming to just below the Arctic Circle in the Yukon. This region includes some of the most intact wildlands in North America, and is also home to many rapidly growing human communities. Conserving these critical wildlife habitats while making room for expanding human development is a tremendous and complex challenge. That is the long-term task that many regional communities and conservationists have set for themselves through an organization called the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. Subjects we will address include conservation biology, community-based conservation, regional environmental policy, restoration ecology, and traditional ecological knowledge.
Our backpacking trips will take us through core habitat areas where we will learn about local natural history, population biology, and disturbance ecology. Our frontcountry travels will take us to “fracture zones” – places where transportation routes and extractive industry limit wildlife movements. During frontcountry sections we will meet with an array of people concerned with conservation in the region: land managers, tribal representatives, environmental activists, restoration ecologists, and industry representatives.
To complement and deepen these travels, we will introduce students to Salish and Kootenai traditional knowledge and practices. Students will attend a variety of talks by tribal members, which range from sittings with tribal elders on ecological and spiritual perspectives to presentations by tribal officials on the significance of traditional values and practices as they relate to current tribal conservation efforts. Students will also experience traditional knowledge in-practice through various interactive lessons, such as hide-tanning and ethnobotany.
The future of this region will evolve from a conversation between people and the land. Our goal is to give students the knowledge and experience needed to productively participate in regional conservation issues. Students leaving this course will understand the biogeography and politics of the Yellowstone to Yukon region, appreciate the natural processes, communities and economies that have shaped it, and have some ideas about the future prospects for wildness and humanity here. We hope to involve you in that conversation, please join us!