In 2008, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) took the lead in conducting a 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.
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.
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.
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.
Connectivity layers will be developed for selected focal species, with significant input from experts both within and outside of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The resulting layer(s) will be integrated into the Crucial Areas and Connectivity Assessment. In doing so, this project will support Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks mission and provide an update to the agency's Comprehensive Fish and Wildlife Conservation Strategy (Montana's State Wildlife Action Plan).