In 2008, as a part of a Western Governors’ Association initiative, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) took the lead in conducting a statewide Crucial Areas Assessment. The Assessment evaluated the fish, wildlife and recreational resources of Montana in order to identify crucial areas and fish and wildlife corridors. The Assessment is part of a larger conservation effort that recognizes the importance of landscape scale management of species and habitats by fish and wildlife agencies.
The result, in part, is a Web-based Crucial Areas Planning System (CAPS), a new FWP mapping service aimed at future planning for a variety of development and conservation purposes so fish, wildlife, and recreational resources can be considered earlier.
The assessment has:
- Created digital GIS-layer maps depicting important species and habitat information.
- Assessed risks to fish, wildlife, and their habitats.
- Created management guidelines and examples for residential development, energy development, and transportation projects.
- Developed partnerships with government, industry, county planners and non-government organizations to develop implementation strategies and facilitate integration of CAPS into their planning processes.
Local, regional, and statewide decision makers, developers, and FWP staff understand that it's important to have easy access to practical tools and information early in the planning process.
With this objective in mind, CAPS:
- Provides an easy-to-use and understandable way to help plan for development, conserve land, and protect the character and quality of life of Montana's communities;
- Help developers know up front where to expect greater expense and potential mitigation costs and issues; and
- Help make smarter development choices and pass on to future generations the quality of life Montanans enjoy today.
CAPS is not a substitute for a site-specific evaluation of fish, wildlife, and recreational resources. There is still no substitute for consulting with local FWP biologists to gain a better understanding of conditions and management challenges in a particular area of the state—but CAPS will help you start smart.
Connectivity Mapping Project
The primary goal of the project is the development of wildlife connectivity GIS layer(s) for Montana. Currently the state of Montana does not have comprehensive representation of important wildlife connectivity areas. Connecting habitat patches, large areas of natural vegetation, and other landscape components will facilitate species movement for foraging, dispersing, breeding, migration, escape, and range shifts. Allowing for movement will maintain or increase diversity, ecosystem processes and genetic variation resulting in wildlife populations that are resilient to disturbance and climate change. Understanding the types and location of connectivity habitat in Montana will allow management agencies to better assess potential development impacts, and ensure the persistence of healthy wildlife populations.