Conference History

Coyote Bridge
Coyote Bridge, Escalante National Monument, Utah

Origins of the Biennial Conference

What is today the Biennial Conference of science and Management on the Colorado Plateau and Southwest Region, began in 1991 as a means of sharing information among National Park Service researchers and resource managers. Organized and hosted by the Colorado Plateau Research Station (CPRS), then a National Park Service Cooperative Research Studies Unit at Northern Arizona University (NAU), the conference sought to highlight research and resource management efforts related to the physical, cultural, and biological resources within the biogeographic province of the Colorado Plateau.

Over time, the focus of the CPRS broadened as the result of its changing institutional home. The CPRS first became a unit of the National Biological Survey and later part of the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The CPRS is now one of four research stations that compose the USGS Southwest Biological Science Center (SBSC); the CPRS and USGS remain prominent conference sponsors and partners. 

Conference participants have expanded to federal land management agencies beyond the National Park Service, including Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and USDA Forest Service. As the conference grew in size and scope, so did the involvement of Northern Arizona University; conference sponsors now include the university's School of Forestry, Colorado Plateau Cooperative Ecosystem Study Unit (CP-CESU), School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, and Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research (MPCER) among others. 

In 2017, as the Biennial Conference celebrates its 26th anniversary, its focus has expanded beyond the Colorado Plateau to include the entire southwestern United States because not only are there similar challenges, but also a tremendous regional need to share information and solutions in the face of rapid changes. As it has matured, the conference is now considered by many an international exemplar for bringing scientists and managers together to address regional conservation issues. The Biennial Conference has also been uniquely open to student scientists who wish to gain professional experience through presenting their research.

Through most of its existence, a conference proceedings has been published following the meeting. The Colorado Plateau Proceedings Series collected research presented during each of the first 11 conferences to increase the pool of fresh data and provide a baseline of scientific information pertinent to the Colorado Plateau's physical, cultural, and biological resources. The USGS published a compilation of conference proceedings for the conferences held between 1991 and 2011, A Quarter Century of Research on the Colorado Plateau—A Compilation of the Colorado Plateau Biennial Conference Proceedings for 1993–2015. In 2016, the USGS generously published the Proceedings of the 12th Biennial Conference of Research on the Colorado Plateau. Owing to the cost of editing and publishing a conference proceedings, the publication of a proceedings was discontinued for the 13th Biennial Conference. Many of the protocols and management techniques presently being used in land management units in the region are a result of scientific work published in the proceedings.