Mitigating Landscape Impact
To keep pace with increased outdoor recreational visitation, the Gunnison community is exploring avenues to mitigate landscape impacts and improve outdoor experiences. New funding provided to Western Colorado University will aid in this effort, exploring ways to bring new revenue to forest management efforts.
Western received a $150,000 grant to develop financing models that will bring vital recreation infrastructure and services to the Gunnison National Forest (GNF), achieve sustainable socio-ecological and financial outcomes, and train a new generation of land managers. The grant was provided by the National Forest Foundation’s (NFF) Innovative Finance for National Forests Grant Program which supports the development and implementation of innovative finance models that leverage private and public money other than US Forest Service (USFS) funding.
New Methods for Infrastructure
How can private funding sustain diverse recreational opportunities for the American public, while conserving public lands? This question is central to global dialogues about the future of recreation, and part of a growing field called Conservation Financing. This field aims to increase and unlock new sources of paying for stewardship work around the world.
Locally, GNF is investigating how a university and non-profit partnership can finance and support infrastructure maintenance, visitor services, and ecological restoration in critical freshwater drainages near Crested Butte, Colo. This area is transitioning dispersed camping areas to designated camping. Few such camping structures exist in the USFS system, creating an opportunity to develop new methods for providing infrastructure and services.
Getting Students Involved
To increase conservation funding, Western students in the Master in Environmental Management and Outdoor Industry MBA programs, who successfully secured a competitive fellowship provided by this grant, will study and propose financing instruments to provide services. Their goal is to develop an innovative revenue source that is attractive to users, meets agency priorities, trains future land managers, and is scalable across USFS lands. The plan will address the projected revenue growth possible by scaling the model throughout GNF, including how increased funds can be leveraged to unlock future projects.
Supporting New Research
Western is also home to the Center for Public Lands and the RECREATE Institute. Combined with the support from the Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee and NFF, these organizations will provide training, data, and other resources to support students as they research and create new models.
Author Credit: Chris Rourke
Photo Credit: Jess Cusick