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Greg Costello: Note from the Executive Director

As a resident of the Seattle area, I live near some of the wildest mountains and forests in the Lower 48—home to cougars and lynx, wolves and wolverines, and hopefully soon, reintroduced grizzly bears. Yet even here, highways and development fracture habitats for wandering carnivores and other wildlife. So I'm especially excited to announce the launch of our most ambitious program to date: reconnecting, restoring, and rewilding the Pacific region of the continent, from British Columbia to Baja, California in Mexico. 

Yes, our goals are lofty, as we seek no less than to change how humans who inhabit this dramatic edge of the North American continent relate to Nature, so that wild creatures of all shapes and sizes can continue to thrive. However, while our goals are ambitious, our primary objectives are both tangible and achievable: 

  1. produce a science-based blueprint to guide conservation efforts and prioritize projects; 
  2. advance new policy tools, applicable at the local, state and federal levels, to provide more enduring protection for wildlife; 
  3. establish healthy, functional collaborations between a diversity of stakeholders who want to work together to create a Pacific Wildway; and 
  4. add to the growing conversation about rethinking our relationship with wildness.

The progressive social and political climates of the Pacific coast nurture strong conservation leadership at the state level—an asset notably absent at the federal level. We also enjoy a physical landscape encompassing large swaths of public land, and although we cannot escape the long-term effects of climate change currently threatening our entire planet, this region is likely to serve as a climate refuge for myriad species who will need to shift northward or to higher elevations in response to changing conditions.

Ultimately, we hope the Pacific Wildway will become a successful pilot project for rewilding worldwide. Stay tuned.

Photo: Nicky Elliot


Rewilding Feature: An Interview with Marc Bekoff

Dr. Marc Bekoff is an accomplished ethologist and animal behaviorist who has published more than 1,000 articles and 31 books on myriad topics involving nonhuman animals, human-animal relations, and compassionate conservation. He believes that animals should be valued and protected as individuals, and that conservationists should incorporate this paradigm in their work on behalf of wildness. In an exclusive interview, writer Paula MacKay invites Marc to explore the complicated ethics surrounding wildlife reintroductions, and to share his views on how rewilding can (and must) incorporate compassionate conservation in order to be successful.

Marc Bekoff with his friend, Minnie. Photo: Tom Gordon


Apex Campaigns: Red Wolves

In February, a Washington Post reporter accompanied Wildlands Network's Dr. Ron Sutherland to scout wild red wolves at Alligator National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. Trying to catch a rare glimpse of a red wolf in the wild is a challenge, since only 25–40 of these wolves exist outside of captive facilities. The resulting article discusses several barriers to red wolf recovery, including loss of genetic diversity due to interbreeding with coyotes, federal recovery plans caving to political interests, and the weakening of the Endangered Species Act to the point that it fails to protect endangered species.

Did Ron and Darryl spot a wild red wolf? Did they hear a wild howl? Read on to find out!

Red wolf. Photo: Becky Bartell, USFWS


Wildlands Network Policy Update

In February, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released a secretarial order focused on migration corridors in the West. The order represents the Trump Administration’s first major step toward more comprehensively protecting wildlife corridors at the landscape level. Wildlands Network responded with a press release acknowledging the order but also calling for increased support for federal and state wildlife connectivity legislation, including the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act, to sustain our nation's wildlife in perpetuity.

Western Program Director Katie Davis commented further on the secretarial order in an article published on Medium.

Pronghorn. Photo: Tom Koerner, USFWS


Eastern Wildway Focus

Earlier this year, we initiated an elk-collaring project to monitor locations where elk cross busy highways near Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. With GPS collars, we hope to identify where elk approach the area's highways—crucial information that will help inform where wildlife-crossing structures could be installed in the future to prevent deadly wildlife-vehicle collisions. We’ve already placed collars on 3 elk, and we will collar an additional 8 animals over the next few months. Visit our blog for updates on this and other Wildlands Network efforts to promote safer roads for wildlife and people.

Elk at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo: Emily Blanchard


Western Wildway Focus

In March, Borderlands Coordinator Myles Traphagen helped organize the first annual Border BioBlitz on the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. In partnership with N-Gen—a collective of Sonoran desert researchers—we brought together impassioned citizen scientists, biologists, and journalists to document the stunning biodiversity of the borderlands at 11 different sites from San Diego to the lower Rio Grande Valley, including 6 sites in Mexico. Collectively, volunteers logged more than 2,200 observations of 800 different species. Regional news outlets, including The Monitor from McAllen, Texas and High Country News, interviewed Myles about the Border BioBlitz and its goal to humanize the borderlands region, which faces an uncertain future divided by a border wall. 

Surveying flora and fauna in Arizona. Photo: Myles Traphagen


Pacific Wildway Focus

As Greg Costello described in his Note from the Executive Director above, Wildlands Network is launching the Pacific Wildway to bring our continental vision to the ground from British Columbia to Baja California. Our new Wildway will complement our successful Eastern and Western Wildways, ultimately providing a lifeline for wildlife endangered by degraded habitat and shrinking resources. Learn more about our efforts in this blog post and consider donating to support the Pacific Wildway—North America's most ambitious effort to save biodiversity along the Pacific coast.

The Olympic Mountains in the Pacific Northwest, part of our Pacific Wildway. Photo: Katy Schaffer


Wildlands Network in the News

  • Maggie Ernest, our landscape conservationist, wrote an inspiring article about Wildlands Network for the UK-based conservation magazine Inside Ecology. Maggie introduces our movement to an international audience by detailing our history, visionary mission, and practical strategies to achieve continental-scale conservation.

  • New Mexico’s Ruidoso News published Wildlands Network's press release detailing our plans to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for their disastrous Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, which ignores suitable habitat for Mexican wolves and hinders their population growth and recovery. Earlier this year, a judge determined that the management rule upon which the recovery plan is based unlawfully imposes roadblocks to the wolf’s recovery and ordered the FWS to revise the rule.

  • In this February article from Mongabay, Mexico Program Director Juan Carlos Bravo discusses the catastrophic ecological effects of fencing off the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

Mexican wolf. Photo: Juan Carlos Bravo


Take Action to Protect the Borderlands

We are hard at work in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands to protect wide-ranging species who depend on a permeable border to find food, mates, and suitable habitat. Learn more about our efforts in the borderlands by listening to this audio recording, "Borderlands Program: Past, Present, & Future" (scroll down to the middle of page). Take action against the border wall by signing our petition urging Congress to build bridges, not walls, along the border.

Borderlands region near Tucson, Arizona. Photo: Brian Powell

Take Action to Support Wildlife Crossings in Mexico

Support this exciting legislation in Mexico! Earlier this year, Congressman Germán Ralis (Movimiento Ciudadano–Jalisco) introduced a bill to amend Mexico’s Roads, Bridges and Federal Auto-Transport Law such that wildlife crossings will become mandatory for new roads. Now, the legislation must pass through Mexico's Senate to become a law. To support this crucial initiative, send a letter of support to the Mexican transportation commission, which oversees the bill's review process. Write today! (Lea está publicación en español.)

Surveying sites for potential wildlife crossings along Mexico's Highway 2. Photo: Ricardo Felix


Upcoming Events

Join Kim Crumbo, Western Conservation Director, at Amazing Earthfest, Southern Utah’s premiere festival of experiential learning, discovery, arts and adventure. Kim will give a presentation on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument’s crucial role as a wildlife corridor on May 16, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. For more information, contact Kim at 928-606-5850 or crumbo@wildlandsnetwork.org. Registration to attend the event is free of charge.


Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Photo: Bob Wick, BLM


Wild Image

A curious deer peers at one of our trail cams, operated by Borderlands Coordinator Myles Traphagen, in the Sonoran Desert borderlands of Arizona. 


Coming Next Issue: Writer Leath Tonino interviews Wildlands Network co-founder and preeminent conservation biologist Dr. Michael Soulé about the vanishing wilderness.


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