Neighborhood Conservation

There is money out there and available to landowners undertaking wildlife and land management. There are organizations, from federal agencies to non-profits and private foundations that would like to give you money to manage your land’s flora and fauna. The problem is that on their own, an individual landowner doesn’t have the capacity to meet the insurances these organizations need before they can offer their support. So why go it alone? Landowner cooperatives or alliances are exciting possibilities that are helping landowners and providing them with more opportunities.

A landowner alliance can form for more reasons than just to leverage themselves for a grant funding opportunity. The Bandera Canyonlands Alliance (BCA) in Texas is the outcome of a small group of landowners who shared a common problem, feral hogs.   

“We were seeking a more effective and less costly means to address the proliferation of feral hogs, which have become such an ongoing destructive problem in the [our] area,” explained BCA member John Edwards.

The Bandera Canyonlands Alliance grew from a cooperative effort to tackle the feral hog crisis to an opportunity for landowners to come together and empower each other with education and information sharing opportunities on a diverse set of topics related to managing their land and wildlife.  In Michigan, landowners have been working together to create better whitetail deer habitat, and with recent funding, cooperatives centered on improving grasslands for upland game birds have been forming.

Sandhill Crane from Shutterstock

“Improving grasslands benefits a whole suite of grassland dependent species, and we would also like to incorporate more landowners into the cooperative system who are interested in non-game species,” described Anna Mitterling*, who runs the Michigan Wildlife Cooperatives through the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.  The Michigan Cooperative model provides opportunities for individual landowners to consider a larger landscape view when it comes to managing habitats because they are communicating and working with abutting neighbors who can increase the effectiveness of what they are doing. Because we know animals readily cross property borders and many species have larger home ranges than a single land parcel.

“If you have a group of landowners who recognize a common problem or opportunity, and can identify and agree on a cost saving solution to address it, it’s a ‘win-win’ all around,” noted Edwards.

Individuals from across the political spectrum can come together as they have with the BCA because they share something in common—they love their land and want to be good stewards. If you are looking for more opportunities and ways to partner with others to have a larger impact on wildlife conservation you could start exploring your ideas with neighbors. Or look to your local conservation district, land conservancy, cooperative invasive species group, or other community organization (like these) as they are great resources for landowners interested in teaming with others. The staff at these organizations may be able to help you make connections or have opportunities for you to partner with them. It might take a while to grow an alliance, but you’re likely not alone—there are many common problems and many people willing to work together for the good of their land. 

*Contact - amitterling at mucc.org

Photo: Sandhill Crane, Shutterstock 191943581