Within the Colorado Plateau are some of the most visited and iconic natural sites in the United States — including Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Arches, and Canyonlands national parks. Located in the Four Corners section of the Southwest, the Plateau encompasses sections of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. One of the most stunning portions of the American landscape, it is also Native land — among the most culturally-rich on the continent. More Native American languages survive here than in all other regions of the United States combined. It is land that has been continuously settled for 12,500 years. Today, one-third of the Colorado Plateau lies within the sovereign lands of 12 different Indian nations.
Successful conservation efforts often require bringing together a coalition of organizations, communities, and individuals to create lasting change. In many cases, this involves engaging voices that have sometimes been missing from conservation debates. Over the past 50 years, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation actively sought out opportunities to work with partners and within communities to engage new voices and ultimately strengthen the conservation field. Such an approach is demonstrated in the Foundation’s support for land conservation in the Colorado Plateau.
Much of the Colorado Plateau is under stress. Industrial, urban and energy development endangers biologically and culturally significant lands. A 15-year drought puts wild rivers and the region’s agricultural heritage at risk, while population growth fuels demand for more water.
"To be an effective force on the Colorado Plateau, it’s important to engage with tribal communities and to do so in a way that respects political sovereignty and cultural sovereignty. It's saying that native people can decide on their own what is important."Jim Enote, director of the Colorado Plateau Foundation
Recognizing the crucial role of Colorado Plateau tribes in protecting the lands and waters of the region, the Packard Foundation partnered with the Christensen Fund to support for formation of the Colorado Plateau Foundation. The Colorado Plateau Foundation strengthens Native-led organizations to sustain Colorado Plateau lands, waters, and cultures for generations to come. This Native-led foundation funds activities that strengthen and stabilize the Plateau’s tribal organizations — specifically those working to protect water and sacred sites, preserve languages, and improve the physical and spiritual health of its communities.
Since the Foundation’s launch in 2012, it has distributed nearly $500,000 in grants to Native-led organizations — organizations that can now more effectively engage in pressing natural resource issues. Engaging Native voices has helped to broaden the community of conservationists which has ultimately helped to better protect special places like the Colorado Plateau. That not only benefits those who live on the land — it benefits us all.