WCS North America

Human Livelihoods

To ensure the long-term impacts of our conservation efforts, the WCS North America Program addresses the challenge of human livelihoods.  We believe that healthy communities will ultimately be better able to sustain a healthy environment, and that a strong conservation program requires close attention to the human context. Human livelihoods and conservation interact in a variety of ways.  People influence local wild places and wildlife while meeting their basic needs and fulfilling their aspirations, and are sometimes dependent upon these natural resources for their livelihoods.  For conservation actions to be successful and sustainable, the local communities, government agencies and other partners who have a stake in natural resource use must be engaged in decision making processes about the management and conservation of these resources, and must be empowered to participate fully. 

The goal of the Livelihoods Conservation Program is to increase the WCS North America Program’s effectiveness in conserving wildlife and wild places by integrating livelihoods research to improve conservation effectiveness by:

  • Working with local, regional, state and national partners, we are developing and implementing ecological principles to guide land use planning in areas facing rural residential development.  Through this work, we are empowering local municipalities to maintain natural communities of wildlife on the private lands of our core landscapes.  
  • Working with Native Americans, Canadian Aboriginal communities, and other constituencies at priority sites, we are building a political constituency for conservation on tribal and aboriginal lands by building the capacity of these communities to engage in wildlife and wild land conservation.  Our work in this area is guided by priority species and/or conservation challenges, and our approach is to provide research to inform policy development and ensure species are sustained.
  • In order to improve conservation outcomes and more broadly address conservation challenges, we are developing systems within our North American projects to include work on human dimensions; specifically, we are building our capacity to understand stakeholders’ attitudes,  conducting outreach with and empowering local communities, and devising conservation solutions that benefit humans and wildlife.


Wildlife Connectivity in the Adirondacks

In order to protect unbroken forests and the species that depend on them, WCS is addressing the threat of habitat fragmentation from low density residential development through research, tools for planners, and community outreach. Read More >>

Community-Based Conservation in the Adirondacks

In a park with more than 100 towns and villages, the needs of people and the priorities for conservation exist side by side. WCS believes that prosperous communities and wildlife conservation are mutually reinforcing, and develops projects to advance these goals in tandem.

Maintaining Wildlife on Private Lands

In Southwest Montana and Central Idaho the wide open spaces, and wildlife habitat are undergoing dramatic changes. The private lands in the valleys of the High Divide provide critical connectivity for wide-ranging species such as grizzly bear and wolf. Yet as carnivores move through the rich landscape, they can come into conflict with livestock holders. WCS is integrating, socio-economic data with wildlife and land-use planning concerns to help communities make informed decisions to protect their livelihoods and quality of life while also protecting wildlife habitat. Read More >>

Wildlife Trade in the U.S. Military

Military personnel and affiliates posted overseas have significant buying power that influences local markets in the communities and regions where they are based, including the ability to drive the demand for wildlife products.  These can include products derived from endangered species.  Trade in wildlife products poses a major threat to wildlife populations.  WCS is working with the U.S. military to develop and implement an outreach program for military personnel ready to be deployed or already stationed overseas. Read More >>

Fisher on Hoopa Tribal Lands

WCS began working in the Klamath-Siskiyou in 2004, building a collaboration between the Hoopa Valley Tribe, the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and other federal, state, and private partners to develop region-wide forest management recommendations to benefit the imperiled and culturally-significant fisher. Our conservation approach involved developing collaborative, field-science based solutions to reduce the impacts of the diverse group of extractive and agricultural industries that supports livelihoods in the region. WCS's work with the Hoopa Tribe exemplifies how our organization assists Native American communities to inform their natural resource management and wildlife conservation decision-making.


Latest Publications

All Human livelihoods Publications >>

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WCS North America Program
212 South Wallace Avenue, Suite 101 Bozeman, MT, 59715 USA
(406) 522-9333

Key Staff

Heidi Kretser
Conservation Social Scientist
All Human Livelihoods Staff >>