Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environment and Society

Committee Chair(s)

Richard E. Toth


Peggy Petrzelka


Joseph A. Tainter


Wildlife habitat and biodiversity in the Upper Colorado River Ecosystem are threatened by growth of urban areas, subdivision of rural lands, and exploitation of natural resources. The White-Yampa, Colorado Headwaters, and Gunnison River Watersheds within the region were investigated to discover areas supporting high biodiversity that would be possible candidates for conservation efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Using an alternative futures planning process and principles of landscape ecology, development of energy of the resources in the region was found to be the primary driver for land use and impacts to wildlife habitat. Through application of geospatial modeling techniques, three alternative futures were developed by means of varying scenarios for wildlife habitat conservation and energy resource development. Results were analyzed to find areas of conflict, and futures were evaluated for habitat conservation potential, impacts on agriculture and ranching, and effects on future growth and development. Final recommendations for targeting conservation areas are based on likelihood of land use conflict, habitat value, and connectivity through the landscape. Smaller scale examination of habitat value and targeted species’ specific needs will need to be conducted prior to implementation.


This work made publicly available electronically on May 13, 2011.