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Eastern Wildway Newsletter

February 2017​

Friends of the Eastern Wildway – it is hard to believe our nascent effort is just over a year old! We are excited to see what the coming year will bring as we continue to grow, map out our continental priorities, and gear up for our next Summit. Since it’s been a while since our last update, we wanted to get you up to speed on what has been happening along the Wildway.

Even small insects like the Monarch Butterfly need protected corridors to migrate up to 3,000 miles in search of warmer climates in Mexico because they can’t withstand freezing temperatures. It can take 3-4 generations to complete a full migration and without places along the flyway for them to rest and reproduce, we would lose this iconic species.

This past December, Congressman Beyer introduced the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act. This legislation would safeguard wildlife species in the United States by protecting the integral wildlife corridors necessary for survival, such as for accessing resources, establishing new territories, shifting ranges, promoting gene flow, and adapting to the impacts of a changing climate. The bill was introduced with wide-ranging support from over 60 conservation groups – many of them from our Eastern Wildway Network – as well as from esteemed scientists including Dr. E.O. Wilson. Congressman Beyer plans to reintroduce the bill this fall and is hopeful to include bipartisan co-sponsors. Read more here.

"The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act would provide the most important step of any single piece of legislation at the present time in enlarging the nations protected areas and thereby saving large swaths of America’s wildlife and other fauna and flora, especially in this critical time of climate change and shifting locations of the original environments in which a large part of biodiversity has existed” – E.O. Wilson

With the FWS decision, the Red Wolf Recovery Area would be reduced from five counties shown here to just Dare County which includes Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. (Map prepared by Southern Environmental Law Center)

This past September, the US Fish & Wildlife Service issued a proposed decision on red wolves to shift the focus from the reintroduced population in eastern North Carolina to the captive population housed in zoos and other breeding facilities across the country. The FWS intends to draw down the wild population from a five county recovery area to federal land in just one county. While this decision was justified by agency leaders by referring to the findings from a recent Population Viability Assessment, both conservation groups and the authors of the PVA have been outraged by the clear misinterpretation of the report’s findings. In fact, the PVA report shows that, while the captive population could certainly be expanded beyond the current size of ~200 individuals, the zoo-based animals are in no danger of extinction. On the other hand, if the wild population is reduced to a one county area, this smaller area could support only 10-15 wolves and would likely lead to extirpation of the wild population in as little as 15 years. Fortunately, there will be another year of public review periods before the agency decision is finalized. Unfortunately, as the wild population continues to dwindle – current estimates suggest fewer than 45 wolves remaining – a wild red wolf was found illegally shot just before Christmas. Conservation groups have raised a $16,500 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who killed the wolf.

Camera trap evidence of a female Florida panther that crossed north of the Caloosahatchee River. (Credit Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

In happier news, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has collected evidence of a female panther crossing the Caloosahatchee River. Biologists have multiple camera trap photos and recently came across tracks that they believe came from a female Florida panther. While males have successfully crossed this river over the years, there has been no evidence of a female north of the Caloosahatchee since 1973. This news is celebrated for the possibility that a new breeding population could be established north of the river, increasing the chances for recolonization of this top carnivore throughout the Eastern Wildway. Read more here.

Wildlife underpass on US 15-501 in Durham, NC. This underpass facilitates habitat connectivity along the New Hope Creek corridor. (Credit Wildlands Network)

This January, Wildlands Network finished an assessment of North Carolina roads – with the goal to identify priority road segments in need of wildlife crossings. By integrating numerous characteristics, including road width, speed, and traffic volume, wildlife-vehicle collision hotspots, species-specific connectivity models, hotspots of rare, endangered, or endemic species, nearby wetlands, and proximity to protected areas, every state-maintained road segment across NC was assigned a cumulative score indicating its relative priority with respect to wildlife-vehicle collision mitigation. These models can provide NCDOT, wildlife agencies, and conservation groups with more targeted information on where and what kinds of wildlife mitigation strategies would provide the greatest benefit to local wildlife, ensure habitat connectivity, and increase safety for motorists. Wildlands Network and Wild Virginia are currently in discussions on completing a similar assessment for Virginia. If you are interested in getting involved with this new effort contact Maggie at maggie@wildlandsnetwork.org.​

The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline threatens to destroy habitat, risk environmental and human health, and negatively impact local economies. (Credit Mountain Valley Pipeline Project)

The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline threatens a crucial piece of the Eastern Wildway running through Virginia and West Virginia. If implemented, the pipeline would transit fracked natural gas for over 300 miles. Conservation groups, such as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, suggest that the draft EIS is inadequate and threatens the health of local wildlife, communities, and water quality, puts public lands at risk, including the Jefferson National Forest and parts of the Appalachian Trail, and could severely impact local economies that rely on tourism. Learn more about this proposal and how you and your members can raise your voice in opposition to the pipeline here.

A new app called Hipcamp is working to provide the most comprehensive tool for finding and sharing land for camping across the United States. It has the potential opportunity for conservation-minded land-owners to share their lands with campers, and perhaps even make a little income in the process. According to their website, Hipcamp empowers people to share their land with campers, creates sustainable revenue and fosters community, and helps to unlock access for more camping opportunities. Check Hipcamp out here.

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument was designated by President Obama on August 24th and will provide protection to 87,563 acres of the Maine Woods. This designation was hard fought for decades by local communities, conservation groups, and environmental philanthropist Roxanne Quimby. We especially want to thank RESTORE: The North Woods for their crucial work in seeing this land protected. While the fate of the Antiquities Act remains unclear as the Trump Administration takes office, we applaud this critical designation and continue to support and thank those who have worked so hard to see this important piece of the Eastern Wildway protected!

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If you have news or updates to share please email maggie@wildlandsnetwork.org.

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