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Photo: Ron Sutherland

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistence.” - Daniel Burnham (Architect in Chicago, a century ago)

Friends of the East,

After our Eastern Conservation Summit this October, an attendee sent me the above quote. It seems fitting for a collaborative with such a big, bold vision, and while our Eastern Wildway vision is one that will take decades—if not a century or more—to realize, those are the kinds of goals we need to push us to dream bigger. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of our jobs, but we need to not lose sight of why we all became conservationists in the first place.

The Eastern Wildway serves as that idea, that goal to galvanize us, giving us a sense of place in our own local communities but also tying us into a continental-scale movement. Let us make big plans. Let us hope and work tirelessly for that big plan. And let us be inspired by the fact that when we are gone, there will be a new generation ready to pick up the torch and carry that vision on—piece by piece, parcel by parcel.

I think this quote encapsulates the spirit of the Eastern Wildway vision. And it reminds me of one of my own favorite quotes by Henry David Thoreau: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” Indeed, we have crafted our vision for a reconnected East, and now is the time to start building the foundations of that ambition.

In the coming year, we have plans to do just that. We will kickstart 2018 by formalizing our membership and then concentrating on how to provide more value to Network members. This includes developing a training series, creating a Story Map, and hosting events up and down the Wildway. Got more ideas? Let us know what we can do to be a more effective collaborative and how we can move us closer to that big vision.

Thank you to all the Summit attendees and presenters, and to all of our Network members who work each day toward this vision. It has been an inspirational past few months as I traveled up and down the East Coast—to the AT Landscape Partnership annual meeting, our own Eastern Conservation Summit, Half-Earth Day celebrations, The Network for Landscape Conservation conference, and New England’s RCP Network Gathering—filled with a tremendous amount of information, expertise, and ideas for the future. I look forward to continuing this work in the months and years ahead!

For the wild,
Maggie and the Wildlands Network team

Have news or updates to share? Email Maggie at Maggie@wildlandsnetwork.org.


Network Updates

The group gathered at the second Eastern Conservation Summit.

Second Eastern Conservation Summit held in North Carolina

This past October, we convened our second Eastern Conservation Summit. As always, I was inspired and humbled by the incredible work going on along the Wildway. My hope was also renewed for seeing such an ambitious vision of a protected and reconnected East come to fruition. During our strategic planning session, attendees helped brainstorm several ideas to see this vision happen and to better advance the effectiveness of the Eastern Wildway Network as a resource for members. Check out the action items below for ways to get involved as we ramp up our efforts!

Did you miss the Summit? No worries, here’s a quick blog post to catch you up on what you missed. If you have any questions or want to get in touch with any of the speakers, please reach out!

Participants in the Congressional briefing on wildlife corridors. Left to right: Jon Beckmann, Greg Costello, Robert Staunton, Ron Sutherland, Gary Tabor, Healy Hamilton, EO Wilson, Stuart Pimm, and Susan Holmes.

Dr. EO Wilson, Rep. Don Beyer, and Sen. Udall discuss wildlife corridors

Later in October, after the Eastern Wildway Summit, Wildlands Network hosted a Congressional briefing at the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, D.C. The briefing began with a discussion between Dr. EO Wilson, Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), and Sen. Udall (D-NM) about how to implement Dr. Wilson’s Half-Earth vision through policy efforts, such as the National Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act. Following this discussion, six leading scientists reviewed some of the work that’s furthered the Half-Earth vision. Attended by nearly 500 people, this event led to greater interest in wildlife corridors. Want to get involved in the policy discussion? Ask Susan Holmes to sign you up for the Connectivity Policy Coalition at susan@wildlandsnetwork.org!

Did you miss the briefing? You can watch the event here or read a quick summary of the event here.

Take Action

In 2018, we will be working on the foundations to our Network. During the Summit, we took some time to come up with a few action items to help us work toward our vision of Half-East and what the Network can do to better provide value and resources to members. Below are a few working groups we will be either re-engaging or starting in the New Year. Please let me know if you would like to get involved in any of them!

Steering Committee: Help guide the vision and implementation of the EWN.

Mapping/Science: Help complete the final version of the Eastern Wildway map and plan next steps.

Story Map: Are you interested in creatively communicating the many stories, groups, and species of the Eastern Wildway? Help us build an interactive story map platform to help the public understand our vision, learn more about their local landscape, and promote ways to get involved with nearby groups.

Event/conference planning: There are a lot of opportunities next year to engage with groups, host events, or put on small workshops or conferences. If you’ve got an idea, we’re interested in collaborating and leveraging our Network to help you.

Communications: We have a lot of audiences to communicate our vision with—the public, land trusts, policymakers, transportation engineers, etc. Help develop the materials and messages to most effectively engage with each group.

Fundraising: Ok, this might not be the sexiest working group on the list, but it’s important! If you are a funder, skilled fundraiser, or are interested in submitting a joint proposal with the Network, this is the group for you!

Do you have other suggestions for working groups? Let us know here!

News from the Eastern Wildway

Decline of New England forests. Source: Harvard Forest

New England loses 65 acres of forest per day to development
A new study assessing the habitat loss of New England forests to development reveals that 65 acres are lost each day. At the turn of the 20th century, forest loss peaked in New England but began to reclaim itself over the following decades. Beginning in the 1980s, researchers believe that the farming economy stabilized and development—and subsequent forest loss—increased. If this trend is not stopped, New England risks losing more than one million acres of forest cover over the next 50 years.

Wildlands & Woodlands updates vision report for 2017
The New England based group Wildlands & Woodlands (W&W) has completed their newest update of their vision for 2017. The regional vision was inspired by and evolved from Wildlands and Woodlands: A vision for the Massachusetts landscape completed in 2005. Since then, W&W has broadened their vision to the entire New England landscape, updating this vision in 2010 and then again this year.

Limiting coyote hunting in New Hampshire
The Manchester-based group Voices for Wildlife has petitioned the New Hampshire Fish and Game commissioners to close the coyote hunting season from March 31 to Sept. 1, which is coyote breeding season. The group asserts that allowing hunting during this time is cruel as it poses the risk of pack disruption and the potential for pups to be left to starve to death. In addition, the group notes that the success of coyotes in recent decades only proves that hunting is not helping to limit their populations. Their request has been denied by the state Fish and Game, but Voices for Wildlife say they will continue to raise the issue.

Critter shelf reduces roadkill in New York
The New York Department of Transportation, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, is piloting the state’s first ever “critter shelf” in a culvert on Route 12, south of Booneville. Critter shelves allow medium-sized terrestrial wildlife safe passage underneath roads and are a good mitigation alternative when a full wildlife underpass or overpass is not possible. The critter shelf will cost $28,375 and may serve as a model for similar culvert modifications throughout the Adirondack area. In addition to reducing roadkill, the shelf will help improve wildlife movement and increase landscape permeability. Other efforts are underway throughout the Wildway to protect animals being hit on roads. Check out this article reviewing a possible turtle crossing in York County, Maine.

The Chesapeake Bay highlights conservation as a bipartisan issue
With more than 150 rivers and creeks flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, reaching across six states, the bay is North America’s largest estuary and the third largest in the world. Many of the communities within the estuary depend on the bay for their livelihoods, and see their health and economic well-being inextricably linked to the environmental health of their landscape. In a thoughtful piece, we are reminded that while many within these communities who depend on the bay for jobs and their way of life are lean conservatively, that does not mean they do not care about or have a stake in the conservation efforts going on. As with all conservation, communities should be met with open-mindedness and the understanding that we are all in this together.

A view of Pine Mountain in Kentucky. Source: KNLT

Kentucky Natural Lands Trust protects 2,000 acres of Pine Mountain
This fall, Kentucky Natural Lands Trust (KNLT) purchased 2,000 acres of Pine Mountain, creating three new preserves for this critical corridor. The preserves—Line Fork, Hurricane Gap, and Kingdom Come—will protect important habitat for a variety of species in the area, including Indiana and northern long-eared bats. The tracts connect to existing protected areas, including the Hensley-Pine Mountain Wildlife Management Area and E. Lucy Braun State Park Nature Preserve to Kentenia State Forest, creating 7,000- and 6,000-acre protected complexes, respectively. These tracts will also provide critical protection for the proposed Greater Eastern Trail and enables over 50% completion of the Kentucky portion of the trail.

Camera trap footage connects conservation to a wide audience
This fall, camera trap video footage has been making the rounds on social media, enabling a new and exciting way for the conservation community to connect to a much broader audience. Two such recent examples are footage of a black bear mother and cubs within the Pine Mountain corridor conserved by Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, and red wolf footage taken by Wildlands Network. Videos of wildlife help generate far-reaching interest on social media and can be used effectively for highlighting land conservation priorities, examining the critical role of wildlife corridors, or raising awareness of the complicated and urgent needs of endangered species.

Advancing the Florida panther north
Recently, The Nature Conservancy protected a 460-acre tract that they believe will enable Florida panther dispersal north of the Caloosahatchee River. For decades, the river has served as a barrier to movement for the panther, and only last year was the first female found to have successfully crossed the river in more than 40 years. The acquisition is roughly 20 miles east of the suspected crossing last year, and is much narrower, which conservationists believe will help ensure more crossings into the future. While this is a victory in the recovery of the Florida panther, many challenges still loom over the species, including increasing road mortality and development threats from oil and gas exploration beneath Big Cypress National Preserve.

Global turtle diversity from Roll et al. 2017


South Atlantic is a global hotspot of turtle diversity
In the past few years there has been mounting evidence that the Southeastern Coastal Plain is a biodiversity hotspot. In a new paper out in Nature Ecology and Evolution, researchers looked more closely at global reptile richness. They concluded that the South Atlantic region of the United States is a hotspot for turtle diversity with a large portion of the region in the top 2.5%.


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