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2017 pushed all of us to our professional and personal limits – I think it’s safe to say that we are all ready for a new year, even if we know the challenges remain. But before we bid adieu to 2017, let’s celebrate the victories that inspired us to stay the course, the partnerships that allowed us to fight back against terrible policies, and the momentum that will spur us forward into 2018.

Here are just a few of the amazing things Western Wildway partners accomplished in 2017:


Defenders of Wildlife Restored Habitat for Endangered Species along the Rio Grande

Defenders staff and volunteers worked with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff to plant willows and cottonwoods along the Rio Grande at sites in Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge and north of Radium Springs in southern New Mexico to provide habitat for imperiled willow flycatchers and yellow-billed cuckoos. With more opportunities to build nest sites, these species can better migrate up and down an important corridor, essential to their recovery.


John treks into Canada as part of his 5,000-mile journey along the Western Wildway. Photo: Karsten Heuer.

New Mexico Wildways Inspired Activists with Born to Rewild Showing

New Mexico Wildways sponsored two showings of Born to Rewild  in late October. Members hosted information booths and participated in a Q & A after the movie. Both events successfully raised money for both NM Wildways and Wildlands Network and educated the public about wildlife corridors.  Jan-Willem Jansens, the main coordinator for the event, expressed his gratitude to all involved: “Thank you again for your support with organizing, coordinating, and doing the outreach for the recent Born to Rewild screenings. I got a lot of positive feedback; and most movie goers were quite generous!” NM Wildways wishes to extend a special thanks to Dave Foreman and Dave Parsons for participating in the panel discussion, and of course for John Davis, whose skill and endurance in traversing the “Spine of the Continent” have inspired all who hear this story to work for wildlife connectivity across this vast and most beautiful continent. 

New Footage from Wildlife Cameras in New Mexico

New Mexico Wildways member PATHWAYS: Wildlife Corridors of New Mexico was also able to purchase, install and monitor a number of new wildlife cameras … because of a generous donation. The group has already captured breathtaking footage of mountain lions, bobcats and deer, providing supporting documentation and evidence for the importance of wildlife corridors in New Mexico. Photos and videos from the project can be seen on the Wildlife Observer Network website


Rocky Mountain Wild Declared Victory at Wolf Creek Pass

This year Rocky Mountain Wild chalked up a solid win for the protection of the wildlife movement corridor at Wolf Creek Pass. In May, they won their lawsuit and forced a reversal of the land exchange that would have provided access to build a "village" for 10,000 people on top of the pass. The judge ruled that the Forest Service had failed to adequately analyze the impacts of this action, and that the land exchange was based on an “analysis that is contrary to law.” 


Photo: Cindy Grant

Save Our Canyons Permanently Protected Wasatch Habitat and Ensured Sustainable Community Planning for the Future of Utah’s Wasatch Front Landscapes

In a huge win for Utah conservationists, Bonanza Flat was protected. The area--1,350 acres of pristine high elevation land in the Wasatch that was destined to become a gated community of McMansions with an 18-hole golf course--is now preserved for recreation and wildlife. Save our Canyons also won major environmental protections for wildlife and water quality as part of the Salt Lake County’s revised Foothills and Canyons Overlay Zone and successfully implemented a Salt Lake County Mountain Resort Zone with meaningful environmental protections and development limits, to which local ski resorts must now adhere. In addition to these victories, the group helped passed legislation continuing the Mountainous Planning Commission, which makes important rules impacting wildlife, the environment, water quality, and development within the Wasatch and established the Central Wasatch Commission to fund improvements to the trails, toilets, and transportation, all while growing their membership and expanding their programs to get kids outdoors.


Sky Island Alliance Field Coordinator Bryon Lichtenhan placing a remote wildlife camera in Davidson Canyon, an important riparian corridor that crosses I-10. Photo: Sky Island Alliance

Sky Island Alliance Began Expansive New Widllife Camera Project and Trained Citizen Scientists and Students in Wildlife Tracking and Data Collection

Sky Island Alliance staff and interns placed 12 new cameras in wildlife corridors in southern Arizona this summer. Many of the cameras are in the U.S.-Mexico border region, but SIA is also placing cameras along the San Pedro River, an important valley corridor between the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Galiuro Mountains. The San Pedro site is a 5-6 mile stretch of the river that enjoys year-round flow, making it a hotspot for wildlife activity, and the cameras have already captured animals like coati, a target species for this research. SIA staffer Mirna Manteca also conducted three pollinator blitzes, in Coronado National Memorial in the U.S. and Sierra Los Ajos and Los Fresnos in Mexico. Mirna also trained two Sonoran students who are members of our Sonoran tracking group, Escuadrón de Rastreo de Fauna Silvestre! Finally, Mirna finished up her fall by going to Aconchi, Sonora to lead a workshop for our new springs monitoring student volunteer group, Manantiales de Sonora.


Southwest Environmental Center Built Bridges to the Social Justice Community to Oppose Border Wall Expansion

Conservation groups, including wildway partner Southwest Environmental Center (SWEC), previously tried to fight the border wall in 2008 and were unsuccessful. In the past decade, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has built almost 700 miles of fencing along the border – spanning from California to Texas. A new administration, new threats, and a newly mobilized activist force demanded a new approach in 2017: SWEC successfully worked with ACLU NM and NM Comunidades en Acción y de Fé to organize events, including a “No Wall Town Hall” rally in Sunland Park, a panel discussion entitled “The Physical and Metaphorical Border Wall: How Militarization of the US-Mexico Border Harms our Communities, Wildlife, and Environment,” and an action/press conference in Albuquerque. The Southern New Mexican Coalition that was formed through these groups, primarily based in Las Cruces, NM, came together to protect New Mexico families, civil and human rights, lands, and wildlife.


Photo: Larry Masters, masterimages.org

Western Environmental Law Center Took to the Courts to Prevent Destructive Coal Mining and Fight for the Recovery of the Canada Lynx

Through its effective litigation strategies, WELC achieved significant victories in the Western Wildway. In Montana, WELC attorneys halted the expansion of the largest proposed underground coal mine in the country by proving the federal Office of Surface Mining did not take a hard look at the public health and environmental impacts of Signal Peak Energy’s Bull Mountain coal mine expansion as required by law, resulting in immediate cessation of mining activity in the area. In Colorado, after threatening to sue the Forest Service over a controversial salvage logging and road construction project in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison national forests in western Colorado, WELC reached an agreement with the Forest Service to protect and enhance high-quality lynx habitat across more than 200,000 acres of public lands.


Wild Utah Project Finalized Creation of Ecosystem Assessment Tool that Will Guide Adaptive Managements Decisions in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains

The Mountain Accord is a landscape-level transportation, recreation, and environmental planning process for the Wasatch Mountains. Over 20 organizations and nearly 200 stakeholders, including citizens, municipalities, academic institutions, non-profits, and state and federal agency representatives, participated in the multiphase and cooperative planning process. One of the issues recognized in the Accord was the lack of baseline data describing existing habitat and ecosystem functions in the area. To make informed planning decisions for the future of our Wasatch Mountains, these data gaps need to be filled. In 2014, Wild Utah Project, along with our partnering team members at the University of Utah DIGIT Lab, Colorado Natural Heritage Program, and the Brendle Group, were chosen by the Salt Lake and Summit County selection committee to develop an Environmental Dashboard Framework for the Central Wasatch Mountains. Developed over the course of 2016-2017, the spatial and non-spatial database, along with the framework document, provide a necessary understanding of the current level of function and condition of critical ecological systems in the Central Wasatch Mountain Accord planning area. Wild Utah Project will remain involved in the follow-up of the Environmental Dashboard and strive to assist in the filling of critical data gaps in the Central Wasatch – ensuring the database will be more robust and able to support land managers and decision-makers in making informed choices so that future developments and proposals will take wildlife needs, including habitat connectivity, into account.


Yellowstone to Uintas Connection Partnered with BLM and Forest Service to Close Illegal Roads and Protect Sensitive Watersheds from Trespass Grazing

Yellowstone to Uintas Connection (Y2U) significantly expanded their work this year to protect the 350-mile corridor connecting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem with the Uinta Mountains in Utah. Some of their biggest successes have arisen from forming partnerships with BLM and Forest Service staff, landowners and local communities. For instance, Y2U used their labor and equipment to help the Montpelier Ranger District of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest close 6.2 miles of illegal ATV roads and permanently protect 175 acres of Paris Creek headwaters from grazing. Through monitoring and outreach with the Evanston-Mountain View District of the Ashley National Forest, Y2U significantly reduced trespass and unauthorized cattle grazing in closed and open grazing allotments respectively. They will be building on this success in 2018 through the launch of a Landowner Conservation Campaign, which will expand their work with private landowners to install wildlife-friendly fencing and restore wetland habitat.



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Katie Davis
Western Director

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