Citizen scientists trained by WCS identified public and private lands to create a connected open space network for wildlife that the community of Fort Collins financed by raising the city sales tax.
WCS helped citizen scientists to learn about “Nature in the City,” building a strong constituency to protect threatened wildlife species in the Rocky Mountain West. As a result, the community voted to support a $3 million tax initiative to protect and restore important wildlife habitats on public and private lands that cover over half the current area of the city.
Fort Collins is located in north central Colorado, in a scenic and ecologically important transition zone between the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains. In the past century, the city’s population has grown by more the 20 times, and is expected to double again in the next 50 years. Like many places in this region nature is an important part of the community’s character and quality of life, and its residents asked WCS to help maintain “Nature in the City.”
In 2014, we collaborated with Fort Collins to complete the first citywide assessment of biodiversity across public and private open space. The results were used to design a connected open space network accessible to the entire community with functional habitat for plants and wildlife. The following year WCS helped to create a volunteer citizen science program for monitoring wildlife on public and private open space throughout the community. In addition to helping inform land-use and management decisions, the program is increasing participants’ scientific literacy and connection to nature and building an engaged constituency in support of habitat protection and restoration. We believe this approach of building a knowledgeable and engaged constituency of citizens could be replicated in other communities seeking to protect nature in the face of rapid population growth and development in the Rocky Mountain West.