What is today the Biennial Conference of Science and Management for 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). Today, CPRS is part of the School of Earth and Sustainability.
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. NAU units that serve as conference sponsors now include the university’s Office of the President, School of Forestry, Colorado Plateau Cooperative Ecosystem Study Unit (CP-CESU), Landscape Conservation Initiative, and Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research (MPCER) among others.
In 2019, as the Biennial Conference celebrates its 28th anniversary, its focus has expanded beyond the Colorado Plateau to include the entire southwestern United States because there is a tremendous regional need to share information and solutions in the face of rapid changes. Many people now consider the conference 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 and thereafter.