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The Fuller Private Lands Conservation Initiative

monarch butterfly in field

Eighty years ago Aldo Leopold noted that trying to conserve wildlife entirely on public land was like trying to keep dry with half an umbrella. Today, most of the land in the conterminous U.S. is privately held. This pattern is most pronounced in the northeastern U.S. where over three quarters of land is in private ownership, and more than half of private holdings are larger than 100 acres. Many of these large private tracts are also positioned to serve as crucial steppingstones in networks of conserved public lands. But who is providing proper guidance to the many landowners who seek to integrate wildlife conservation with other uses of the lands they hold so dearly?

The Roosevelt Wild Life Station's (RWLS) Private Lands Wildlife Stewardship Initiative is working to create a platform in which landowners can learn best practices from original, student-based inquiry about ways to improve land management. This effort has been made possible by a $500,000 contribution from a private donor, the largest gift the Station has received in its near 100 year legacy. We seek to bring together a community of landowners, scientists, educators, students, and everyday citizens to find creative ways to foster to conservation on private lands.

In the first year of this initiative we launched an intensive new spring break field course based at a private property where students had opportunity to investigate conservation issues relevant to private lands, such small-scale agriculture that was historically so important in the region. We plan to offer this course—and potentially others—every year to give students hands-on experience with wildlife inventorying and monitoring techniques, and to study the most important issues facing conservation on private lands today. The RWLS is also in the process of publishing a guide to wildlife management on private lands, an endeavor that will extend the advice and expertise of Station personal beyond the classroom. Through our work with students and private landowners, we hope to create a more vibrant world for both wildlife and people, thereby explicitly recognize the social and economic dimension of wildlife conservation.