The Patagonia/ Montana Connection: Cristian Saucedo, Conservation Director, Travels to Montana

Just last week, Conservacion Patagonica’s Conservation Director, Cristian Saucedo, made his way back to wintertime at the future park after several weeks of high summer in Montana.  Although perpetually opposite in seasons, the region of the future Patagonia National Park and the area of northern Rockies share similar landscapes, climates, and conservation challenges.  Many U.S. visitors have commented that the future park epitomizes their imagination of the North American West a century ago. Wide open spaces, herds of wild animals, weathered pioneers with extensive knowledge of the land but little need to talk much, unclimbed mountains, and few modes of communication…

But the parallels between these regions run deeper than first appearances.  Despite containing few of the same species, these ecosystems share histories of ranching and restoration, of predators persecuted, and of parks in creation.  Many of the lessons learned in one place can guide the conservation work in another.  Moreover, one key species DOES exist in both places: the majestic puma, one of the species we’re working to recover at the future Patagonia National Park.  So when Dr. Jim Williams from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, a leading expert on puma conservation, invited Cristian to visit, all of us were eager for the opportunity to learn from this “exchange.”  The financial support of Patagonia, Inc enabled him to take advance of the offer and fly north.

Cristian (left) during a day in the field with Dr. Jim Williams

Cristian spent over a week in Montana, with a full schedule coordinated by his hosts.  Meetings with biologists and wildlife managers from Glacier National Park provided an opportunity to share ideas and strategies for monitoring populations of key species, managing predator-livestock conflicts, preventing human-predator issues within parks (taking bears as an example), and establishing management plans.  For Cristian and his hosts alike, the chance to discuss these far-apart projects illuminated parallels and patterns not as readily noted when only working in one place.

Studying park management in Glacier National Park proved particularly compelling.  When established in 1910, Glacier received only 4,000 visitors a year.  In the century since, that number has steadily climbed to over two million as the park became known as one of the most spectacular and wild places in the U.S.  Accommodating this many visitors, however, requires careful management to minimize the impact on the ecosystem.  Through hiking many trails, visiting and documenting campgrounds and visitor facilities, and meeting with park officials, Cristian gained an in-depth understanding of potential management issues and innovative strategies to address them.

The chance to learn from both the successes and challenges of great parks throughout the world is a benefit of creating a new national park in the 21st century, when precedents for doing so abound.  We embrace opportunities to share our knowledge and learn from others whenever possible.

Cristian says of his time in Montana:

“Ha sido una experiencia muy valiosa el poder compartir y conocer el trabajo de a Jim y sus colegas relacionados a áreas protegidas y la vida silvestre en Montana. Espero que en un futuro cercano ellos nos puedan venir a visitar y compartir con nuestro equipo que se encuentra trabajando en el Parque Patagonia.”

(English: “It was a valuable experience to share and learn about Jim and his colleagues’ work on protected areas and wildlife in Montana. I hope in the near future they can come to visit us and share with our team  working in the future Patagonia National Park”.)

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Filed under Adventure, Ecosystem Restoration, Outreach, Uncategorized, Wildlife

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