Know Your NWF: The Corridor Connection

When 19th-century American conservationists first set out to protect wild places, they created parks, national forests and various types of wildlife sanctuaries in relatively small patches. Despite their best intentions, few wildlife advocates had the foresight to see that these protected oases would end up surrounded by cities and towns, mines and oilfields, farms and ranches, and all the other vagaries with which human interest can afflict wilderness.

The result has been that even in our largest wild places, like Yellowstone National Park’s 2.2 million acres, wildlife populations are becoming isolated from one another, shutting off their ability to move from place to place, as ecology may demand, while turning them into genetically isolated groups.

Studies show that even our largest parks may not be able to sustain populations of large mammals much beyond the next century.

pronghorn, corridor, migration

The solution to this isolation, as discussed in a current National Wildlife magazine story, is wildlife corridors, also known as greenways, linkages and passageways. These tracts of habitat link two or more larger core wildlife areas.

Some are naturally occurring, such as the Milk River and its tributaries, along which pronghorn migrate between Canada and Montana, while others are made by humans, like 42 culverts recently installed under stretches of U.S. Highway 93 on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana, making the roadway permeable to wildlife.

Now in its 75th year of wildlife advocacy, National Wildlife Federation has a long history of seeking protection for wildlife habitat. Here are four corridor projects you should know about that are supported by NWF and/or its affiliates.

4 Wildlife Corridor Projects We’re Working On

1. The Staying Connected Initiative

National Wildlife Federation’s Northeastern Regional Center in Montpelier, Vermont, is working with The Nature Conservancy and some 20 other private and public entities to create a vast habitat  corridor that will connect six wildlife-rich landscapes in the Northern Appalachians and span a total of 80 million acres across New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and two Canadian provinces.

Wildlife in the area—which harbors alpine vegetation, old-growth forest and large blocks of unfragmented forest—includes such locally at-risk creatures as lynx, moose, black bear, pine marten and fisher.

Funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Staying Connected Initiative seeks to protect habitat from fragmentation and climate change and to restore landscape connections.

“We approach this goal in five ways,” says George Gay, NWF senior Safeguards Program manager:

  1. Working to make roads safer and more permeable to wildlife, an objective that also  improves human safety on roads;
  2. Applying conservation science, such as mapping, to determine a baseline for regional wildlife habitat and restoration;
  3. Assisting towns with “development in the right areas and protection of sensitive natural resources”;
  4. Helping private landowners manage backyard habitats–an important factor in Vermont, where 80 percent of all land is in private hands, Gay says; and
  5. Partnering with land trusts for permanent wildlife habitat protection.

The initiative seeks to increase awareness of wildlife and its needs so that towns and private landowners will incorporate wildlife into planning and management.

“We want to empower local groups and citizens through education and outreach,’” Gay says. “It works out really nicely from the National Wildlife Federation’s point of view, because it’s grassroots advocacy.”

2. Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y)

The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) involves a project area of 8,000 square miles and more than 200 cooperating agencies, organizations and businesses, making Y2Y the largest landscape-scale conservation effort in North America. The initiative identifies critical core habitats and threats to wildlife connectivity and partners with citizens’ groups, municipalities and industry in order to manage the use of motorized vehicles in backcountry areas, to make dumpsters bear-proof so grizzlies don’t get into trouble and have to be killed, and to convince mining, logging and energy companies to fragment less habitat.

3. Florida Wildlife Corridor

The Florida Wildlife Federation is working to protect a greenway called the Florida Wildlife Corridor, which would allow animals to move freely from the Everglades, at the southern end of the state, into Georgia at the northern end.

4. South Coast Wildlands Project

The South Coast Wildlands Project is working to protect 15 critical linkages and wildlife-compatible surrounding lands in coastal southern California, one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas.

Developing new corridors and protecting existing linkages are two keys to ensuring the survival of viable populations of large animals and of animals that need a lot of elbow room, such as pronghorn, Florida panthers, lynx, wolves and grizzlies.


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