CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL COALITION
CONNECTING ACROSS THE CONTINENT How the Continental Divide Trail Helps Us Reach 30x30
www.continentaldividetrail.org | 1
2 | www.continentaldividetrail.org
INTRODUCTION TO THE REPORT As a connector of landscapes, communities, and cultures, the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) provides a setting for community members, decision makers, conservationists, outdoor enthusiasts, and everyone connected to the lands and waters of the Divide, to come together to discuss how to steward the vital natural, cultural, and historic resources found across its entirety. With this report, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition hopes to highlight the ecological importance of the landscape, the threat that environmental degradation poses for communities, and the opportunities for locally-led initiatives to create climate solutions. The mission of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) is to complete, promote, and protect the CDT. With a growing trail community which includes 19 CDTC Gateway Communities and over 2500 active members, we hope to re-imagine the future of cooperative landscape stewardship and co-create solutions that center restorative justice and accessibility in the enjoyment of the lands and waters along the Divide.
www.continentaldividetrail.org | 3
WHAT IS LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION? Landscape conservation is the holistic approach to the conservation of lands and waters that brings together people across geographies, borders, and cultures to cooperatively steward landscapes on which communities depend to provide ecological, cultural, health, and economic benefits. With this approach, leaders, stewards, and community advocates from across the world have come together to address the climate crisis.
The climate crisis has brought together a coalition of international allies that have recognized the importance of large-scale landscape protection to preserve biodiversity and conserve natural resources like clean air, water, and land. This has resulted in a call from many scientists for ambitious land protection goals, including an effort to protect 30% of the planet’s land and waters by 2030 (known as 30x30).
In their first 100 days, the Biden administration introduced the “America the Beautiful” Report. This report outlined landscape-level conservation efforts that are rooted in local initiatives already being undertaken by communities that feel the most impact from climate change. This report identified eight principles that will help guide a locally-led effort to conserve and restore America the Beautiful.
States have issued executive orders to align statewide efforts with federal landscape conservation initiatives.
4 | www.continentaldividetrail.org
“AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL” PRINCIPLES
1. Pursue a Collaborative and Inclusive Approach to Conservation 2. Conserve America’s Lands and Waters for the Benefit of All People 3. Support Locally Led and Locally Designed Conservation Efforts 4. Honors Tribal Sovereignty and Support the Priorities of Tribal Nations 5. Pursue Conservation and Restoration Approaches that Create Jobs and Support Healthy Communities 6. Honor Private Property Rights and Support Voluntary Stewardship Efforts of Private Landowners and Fishers 7. Use Science as a Guide 8. Build on Existing Tools and Strategies with an Emphasis on Flexibility and Adaptive Approaches
Local resolutions help to ensure that the goals of community-centric initiatives like downtown revitalization or public health projects align with, aid, and benefit from landscape conservation through landscape, natural resource, and recreation planning.
The Continental Divide is the backbone of the North American continent. It is home to thousands of species of wildlife, the backyard for many growing communities in the West, and the watershed for over 180 million people. In addition to being a place for all to explore, learn, and connect, the Divide contains some of the most vibrant pockets of biodiversity in the U.S. “AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL” REPORT
The “America the Beautiful” Report highlights three specific problems that threaten the land, water, and wildlife on which we depend: The Disappearance of Nature: In the U.S, approximately 12,000 species are in need of conservation assistance to avoid extinction. The disappearance of bees and other pollinators directly threatens the agriculture industry and the nation’s food supply. 17,000 square miles of ranch land has been lost to development or fragmentation in the past two decades, and we have also lost over half of our wetlands and riparian systems in the Lower 48.1 Climate Change: The growth in threats contributing to the disappearance of nature is catalyzed by climate change. Extreme weather events like flooding, wildfire, and drought have placed devastating burdens on communities on the front lines of the climate crisis, particularly communities of color. Wildlife is forced to adapt or face the threat of extinction due to habitat loss. Inequitable Access to the Outdoors: Systemic inequities in housing, transportation, conservation, and natural resource policy, have led to increased barriers for underserved communities, particularly communities of color and low-income communities, in accessing nature and the benefits of clean air, water, and land. Coupled with the disproportionate cost of nature’s decline that communities must navigate, including nearby pollution, loss of traditional fishing and hunting, and the threat of industrial development, this has created a nature gap for many oppressed communities, resulting in fewer opportunities to enjoy nature close to home.
Left: Kate Bobal; Previous Page: Mike Fuhrmann
ALONG THE DIVIDE
• Over the past two decades, the lower 48 of the U.S. has lost a football field-sized parcel of land every 30-seconds. Just in the West, there has been a loss of 6.7M acres since 2001.2 • Increases in average temperatures have created conditions where plants and wildlife are unable to adapt, giving rise to rapid environmental degradation, such as the depletion of snowpacks earlier in the year, low-flow, high-temperature waters that deter the proliferation of fish species, and the spread of insect infestation like bark-beetle stressing healthy forests. • Loss of biodiversity and threats to plants and wildlife is increasing at an unprecedented rate, impacting vital food sources and cultural practices like hunting and fishing for many communities.
www.continentaldividetrail.org | 5
THE OPPORTUNITY Compared to a traditional “square park” like Yellowstone National Park or Gunnison National Forest, the Continental Divide Trail can be thought of as a “long park,” acting as a greenspace-connector between landscapes, communities, and cultures along 3,100 miles of the Divide landscape. Through the National Trails System, the America the Beautiful initiative provides the opportunity to create more accessible open spaces, strengthen partnerships with community members and landowners, and create greater opportunities for representation in and stewardship of our lands and waters.
• Clean Air, Land, Water • Aid Community Health of Preventable Disease • Strengthen Natural & Public Infrastructure
SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC GROWTH
• Strengthen Job Creation • Boost the Outdoor Recreation Industry Support Landowner Stewardship of Working and Private Lands
COMMUNITY & CONNECTIONS
• Cultural & Historic Sites Preservation • Increased Access for Historically-barred Communities • Create Accessible Pathways for the Next Generation of Stewards
• Bolster Biodiversity • Safeguard Migration Corridors • Protect Riparian Areas and Wetlands • Increase Ecosystem Ability to Respond to Extreme Weather Events
From previous page: 1 Lipton, D., M. A. Rubenstein, S.R. Weiskopf, S. Carter, J. Peterson, L. Crozier, M. Fogarty, S. Gaichas, K.J.W. Hyde, T.L. Morelli, J. Morisette, H. Moustahfid, R. Muñoz, R. Poudel, M.D. Staudinger, C. Stock, L. Thompson, R. Waples, and J.F. Weltzin, 2018: Ecosystems, Ecosystem Services, and Biodiversity. In Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II. 2 Theobald, D., Leinwand, I., Anderson, J.J., Landau, V., Dickson, B.G. (2019). Loss and fragmentation of natural lands in the conterminous US from 2001 to 2017. Conservation Science Partners, Inc.
6 | www.continentaldividetrail.org
Matt Berger; Icons from the Noun Project (barurezeki, Gregor Cesnar, Adrian Coquet, Gemma Evans, iconixar, SHAHAREA)
Landscape conservation of the Divide helps achieve these holistic benefits:
HOW DOES THE CDT GET US THERE?
COOPERATIVE STEWARDSHIP & TRAIL COMPLETION INCREASE TRAIL & CORRIDOR CONNECTIVITY
Fill in CDT gaps, emphasize protections for the Trail Corridor, and work with private and public land managers to preserve the Divide landscape and the CDT experience
SUPPORT ISLANDS OF BIODIVERSITY AND NATURAL RESOURCES Collaborate with public and private stewards to increase connectivity between critical greenspaces for healthier habitats, wildlife routes, and ecological diversity
JUSTICE, EQUITY, AND ACCESSIBILITY ELEVATE INDIGENOUS STEWARDSHIP
Follow the leadership of Indigenous stewards who have successfully preserved the environment for time immemorial in order to re-imagine the cooperative stewardship model
ADDRESS THE NATURE GAP & INCREASE REPRESENTATION
Recognize and elevate the stories, experiences, and connections of underserved, underrepresented communities to lands and waters, and continue to create space and pathways for communities disproportionately burdened by climate change to lead conservation stewardship into the future
GATEWAY COMMUNITY & PARTNER ENGAGEMENT LOCALS LEAD
Support gateway members and local partners to advocate for locally-led strategies in support of community climate resilience www.continentaldividetrail.org | 7
Cooperative Stewardship & Trail Completion
Rivers, streams, and major waterways are the lifeblood of biodiversity and thriving communities all along the Divide. Climate change and industrial development pose an existential threat for waters which are essential to the health of communities, wildlife, and ecosystems throughout the West. MAJOR RIVERS OF THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE • Arkansas River • Colorado River • Gila River • North Platte River • South Platte River • Missouri River • Rio Grande
Fluctuating temperatures, pollution, unpredictable snowpack, and extreme precipitation events all contribute to variability of the health and dependability of safe water access for drinking, recreating, and enjoying.
The protection of these waterways and wetlands can help support plant and wildlife that are under threat of eradication, including bull trout, pallid sturgeon, the Wyoming toad.
Some of the most vibrant pockets of biodiversity in existence in the U.S. are found along the Divide, particularly in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, the Front Range of Colorado, and the Greater Yellowstone area in Wyoming. As climate change escalates and human development encroaches, these islands of biodiversity face new threats. The preservation of these important plant and animal species is essential to retaining the character and vitality of the Divide.
Maintaining ecological connectivity—the capacity of species to move across landscapes and ecological processes to function freely—is key to conserving biodiversity. The remote, wild nature of the Divide provides the opportunity for wildlife to travel uninhibited to find food, to mate, and to seek out ideal conditions for raising young. Black and brown bears, sandhill cranes, pronghorn, elk, mule deer, and sage grouse are just a few of the iconic wildlife that move about seasonally, often between high and low elevations to avoid adverse weather. Industrial development, the construction of roadways, and the border wall all have negative impacts on migratory animals. Working with land managers and land owners to protect and increase the connectivity of existing corridors will benefit wildlife as well as communities that depend on them. Robust wildlife populations are important for cultural practices like hunting and fishing, as well as a food source. Well-connected landscapes also attract outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy experiencing greenspaces in the most natural state possible. KEY BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOTS AND WILDLIFE CORRIDORS OF THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE • Blackfoot and Clearwater Valleys (Montana) • Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem • Vail Pass (Colorado) • Muddy Pass (Colorado) • Taos Plateau (New Mexico)
THREATENED AND ENDANGERED SPECIES
The lands along the Continental Divide are home to numerous state and federally threatened and endangered animal and plant species, including: • Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) • Gray wolf (Canis lupus) • Yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) • Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) • Ute ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes diluvialis)
8 | www.continentaldividetrail.org
Left: Steven Shattuck; Right: MacNeil Lyons, US Fish & Wildlife Service
CONNECTIVITY & ADAPTIVE STEWARDSHIP
il vide Tra t Di ea Gr
Map Data Sources: Great Divide Trail Association, IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 6.2, Natural Earth, US Geological Survey Watershed Boundary Dataset 2021, World Wildlife Fund HydroBASINS Version 1.0
ntian Divide ure La
uri River Misso
Blackfoot and Clearwater Valleys
iR ur so is
Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
a k e River
So ut h
Nor th P latt e Ri
Muddy Pass r o Rive ad or ol
iv eR att Pl
Vail Pass s Arkansa River
t en tin n o
de ivi lD
o River ad or l Co
Number of Species Fewer
www.continentaldividetrail.org | 9
Justice, Equity, and Accessibility
The benefits of protected greenspaces should be available to all, but historically communities of color, Indigenous groups, and low-income communities have been intentionally excluded from the outdoors and the benefits of nature. The “Nature Gap” refers to the unequal distribution of nature and its benefits that burdens marginalized communities.1 Along the Divide, many individuals and communities—some who can even see the trail from their backyard—face significant barriers to enjoying special places like the CDT.
Percent of Census Tracts that are Nature Deprived
CLOSING THE NATURE GAP
High Income Middle Income Low Income
Rowland-Shea, J., Doshi, S., Edberg, S., Fanger, R. (2020). The Nature Gap. Center for American Progress and Hispanic Access Foundation.
10 | www.continentaldividetrail.org
In 2021, the Center for American Progress and the Hispanic Access Foundation commissioned Conservation Science Partners to examine how access to natural areas in the United States varies with different demographic measures. Their analysis shows that census tracts where the majority of residents are persons of color are significantly more likely to be nature-deprived than census White tracts where People of Color 65 the majority of residents 59 57 57 are white. Similarly, census tracts 46 with lower 41 median household 34 34 32 incomes are 30 more likely than census tracts with moderate or high incomes to be in a naturedeprived area.
Percent of Census Tracts that are Nature Deprived
• Stewardship is inclusive, adaptive, and cooperative, encompassing traditional knowledge and innovative ideas rooted in the underserved communities that will benefit directly from co-creating solutions for healthier land, water, and air; • Voices of disenfranchised communities are elevated so that access to trails, parks, forests, waterways, and other open spaces meet the needs of all community members; • Representation in the outdoors recognizes sites that tell the story of peoples’ histories and preserves cultural connections to lands and waters that are integral to people’s histories and ways of life; and • Pathways exist for marginalized groups to lead in the stewardship of natural resources and support the next generation of conservationists, recreationists, and community leaders.
Systemic exclusion has led to further deterioration of environmental health, and negative impacts to cultural connections, educational opportunities, personal and community health, and career opportunities for these groups. As ambitious landscape conservation goals are identified, restorative justice and equitable access must be central tenets to ensure that:
Data from: Landau, V.A., McClure, M.L., Dickson, B.G. (2020). Analysis of the Disparities in Nature Loss and Access to Nature. Technical Report. Conservation Science Partners.
Low Income and/or Minority High Low Low High Human Modification Parks and Natural Areas
tone Yellows Park l a n Natio
(Golden, CO )
Map Data Sources: Conservation Science Partners, Inc. (Human modification in the western US, 2011), US Census Bureau, US Environmental Protection Agency EJSCREEN, Trust for Public Lands ParkServe. Photo, left: Mike Henrick; Photo, right: Lauren Hendricks
www.continentaldividetrail.org | 11
In 2021, management of the National Bison Range in Montana, formerly comanaged by U.S. Fish & Wildlife and the Flathead Reservation, transferred to full management by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
In Colorado, the City of Broomfield, Boulder County Commission, the Gilpin County Commission, the La Plata County Commission, the Telluride Town Council, and the San Miguel County Commission have passed resolutions to achieve large landscape conservation goals that align with the America the Beautiful Initiative.
Rawlins Encampment/ Riverside Cheyenne
Salt Lake City
Denver Leadville/Twin Lakes
Lake City South Fork Pagosa Springs
US Forest Service Bureau of Land Management National Park Service Bureau of Indian Affairs Other Federal Agencies State Government Local Government Private 12 | www.continentaldividetrail.org
1 Silver City
Governor Grisham of New Mexico passed a resolution in 2021 titled, “Protecting New Mexico’s Lands, Watersheds, Wildlife, and Natural Heritage,” aimed at conserving the state’s biodiversity, boosting local economies, and expanding access to the outdoors.
Map Data Sources: Bureau of Land Management Surface Management Agency, Natural Earth, US Census Bureau
Gateway Communities & Partner Engagement
STRATEGIES FOR LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument 2 Chaco Culture National Historic Park 3 Chimney Rock National Monument 4 Browns Canyon National Monument 5 Big Hole National Battlefield
Icons from the Noun Project (Loren Klein, Lluis Pareras, mbok sumima, VINZENCE STUDIO, Alfan Zulkamain)
The Antiquities Act grants the President the power to endow National Monument status to landscapes with cultural, scientific, or natural importance. These protections help preserve the landscape from development that could further degrade these important sites.
WORK WITH AGENCIES
Initiatives like the US Forest Service’s 10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge demonstrate the utility of a shared stewardship model in reaching landscape conservation goals. As the only National Scenic Trail to be identified as a Priority Area under this initiative, agencies and partners along the CDT have secured resources to make the trail more sustainable, focused on making accessibility to the trail more just and equitable for future generations.
WORK WITH LANDOWNERS
Voluntary conservation stewardship from private landowners has been incredibly successful through National Resource Conservation Service programs. For example, Working Lands For Wildlife engages private landowners to voluntarily incorporate conservation practices into working lands. Private parcels participating in this and other initiatives improve the connectivity between healthy ecosystems, linking public and private lands to create greater corridors for wildlife living and migration.
Indigenous communities have stewarded the land for time immemorial, and currently effectively manage lands across the nation that protect biodiversity, support communities, and preserve the environment in a natural state. Recognition and support of Indigenous-led stewardship is essential to building a successful cooperative stewardship model.
Individual states can pass State Resolutions, similar to the Biden administration’s “America the Beautiful” initiative, which help to develop a comprehensive strategy that incorporates economic, public health, and education goals to align with and help achieve conservation goals. Many state agencies have initiated Study Reports that can help to inform conservation strategies in order to align work happening in individual states to larger landscape conservation goals.
City councils, commissions, and local leaders play a crucial role in ensuring large landscape conservation remains locally-led and meets the needs of communities. Many localities have passed local resolutions to ensure that local management plans and other initiatives like downtown restorations align with conservation goals to preserve the public lands around them. In 2020, the Great American Outdoors Act guaranteed full funding for the Land & Water Conservation Fund. The Fund invests earnings from oil and gas leases to strengthen communities, preserve historic and cultural resources, and protect lands and waters. LWCF is often the only source of funds to put toward completion of the CDT, and leads to greater connection between the trail and communities, providing economic, educational, and public health benefits.
US Forest Service 2170 miles
Bureau of National Land Park Management Service 390 miles
Other 270 miles
Continental Divide Trail - 3100 miles
www.continentaldividetrail.org | 13
HOW WE GET THERE: A COMMUNITY-FIRST APPROACH As a connector of communities, cultures, and landscapes, the Continental Divide Trail provides a placebased anchor for conversations about the future of the Divide landscape. In the Continental Divide Trail Coalition’s mission to complete, promote, and protect the CDT, now and for future generations, it is our goal to utilize a cooperative stewardship model in order to ensure that the Divide remains a place for all to come to explore, heal, and connect in community with one another.
COOPERATIVE STEWARDSHIP & TRAIL COMPLETION
PHASE 1: ENGAGE & ELEVATE
• Collaborate with Gateway Communities and others along the Divide to learn about the individual priorities, ongoing efforts, and local solutions occurring on the ground to identify measurable, realistic goals building toward climate resilience. • Continue to work with working groups composed of land management agencies, private landowners, and local stakeholders to recognize and prioritize sections of the trail for completion. • Listen and learn from stakeholders and experts including Gateway Communities, private landowners, Indigenous communities, local leaders, traditional knowledge keepers, conservation advocates, recreationists, members, and others to co-create a conservation strategy that prioritizes justice, equity, and accessibility and is backed by science.
14 | www.continentaldividetrail.org
JUSTICE, EQUITY, AND ACCESSIBILITY
PHASE 2: ADAPT & IMPLEMENT
• Advocate for locallyled solutions and adapt existing practices that provide holistic benefits including those regarding public health, economic vitality, environmental sustainability, and education. • Facilitate opportunities along the CDT for knowledge sharing among Gateway communities, land managers, partners, and outdoor enthusiasts to promote community connections, learn from shared-experiences, and strengthen the cooperative stewardship of the Divide. • Center the experiences of communities and individuals from historically, intentionallydisenfranchised groups in order to re-imagine a cooperative stewardship model that adapts current practices to meet the needs of those burdened the most from declining environmental health.
GATEWAY COMMUNITY & PARTNER ENGAGEMENT
PHASE 3: ANALYZE & EVALUATE
• Assess the successes of the cooperative stewardship model, utilizing measurable goals and feedback from stakeholders, to recognize challenges and identify opportunities to make stewardship more adaptive and management more effective.
A locally-led strategy, informed by Indigenous knowledge and the best available science, will ensure that landscape connectivity and climate solutions benefit those on the frontlines of the climate crisis, who all have a vested interest in land, air, and water protections that preserve the health and well-being of their communities. —Teresa Martinez, Executive Director, CDTC
Make Your Voice Heard!
YOU’RE INVITED! CONTACT YOUR LOCAL LEADERS
Leadership from city councils to state representatives to members of Congress are involved in making decisions that will impact the Divide landscape and the CDT. Make your voice heard by contacting their office or participating in a town hall to share your perspective!
RESPOND TO AGENCY PLANS
Stay up-to-date on agency planning projects from the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and others to learn the latest about projects impacting public lands in your area and to provide public comment!
TELL YOUR COMMUNITY
Many towns, counties, or cities have local news outlets that provide community members with the opportunity to write in to share their opinion through Letters to the Editor or Guest Columns. Take advantage of this opportunity and let your community know why the CDT, conservation, and preserving environmental health is important to you!
LEARN MORE • Visit CDTC’s website to learn more about CDT Gateway Communities, CDTC’s work to complete the trail, and how you can get more involved as a member or volunteer with all the work happening along the Divide! • Sign-up for Advocacy Alerts to get the latest information about issues impacting your area and opportunities with CDTC to make your voice heard! • Follow CDTC on social media to stay engaged on upcoming projects and events, and to hear about the latest information from CDTC.
Jasmine Star; Icon from the Noun Project (salsabila salma)
Reach out to us via email at email@example.com to share your feedback, ideas, and get more information!
www.continentaldividetrail.org | 15
If you are interested in learning more about CDTC’s efforts to advocate for the CDT and are interested in opportunities to become more involved, please contact:
Executive Director TMartinez@continentaldividetrail.org 303-996-2759
Communications Coordinator AGhaman@continentaldividetrail.org 734-277-6540
Trail Policy Program Manager LFisher@continentaldividetrail.org 406-272-6179
GIS Program Manager LHendricks@continentaldividetrail.org 218-461-0408
Director of Field Programs MAnderson@continentaldividetrail.org 513-600-8053
Gateway Community Program Manager AKurth@continentaldividetrail.org 720-893-2495
Trail and Lands Conservation Manager DCarter@continentaldividetrail.org 575-323-1323
Director of Development LMurray@continentaldividetrail.org 720-378-0106
CDTC General Information Info@continentaldividetrail.org 303-996-2759
YOU’RE INVITED! Join us on the CDT. continentaldividetrail.org facebook.com/continentaldividetrail @CDNST1 instagram.com/cdtcoalition/ 16 | www.continentaldividetrail.org
Kate Bobal Front Cover: Mike Fuhrmann