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Happy New Year!

At the end of last year, it was a true inspiration to catalogue all the amazing work from across the Western Wildway Network in 2017. Now that we’re past the first month of 2018, I’m happy to announce the momentum has not slowed! Our colleagues and partners across the Wildway are hard at work pressuring for better conservation policy and outcomes at the U.S. federal level, growing successful programs that emphasize private land conservation, hiring new staff, and pushing for big thinking to tackle conservation challenges. In this newsletter, we'll chronicle some of 2018's early highlights.


Photo: Juan Carlos Bravo

Western Environmental Law Center Represents Wildlands Network, Conservation Partners in Suit Against Flawed Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan

Wildlands Network, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians have come together, represented by WWN partner Western Environmental Law Center, to file suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws based on the flaws of the final Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, released in November 2017. Another collection of conservationists filed a similar lawsuit as well.

The groups allege, among other things, that the USFWS failed to incorporate the recommendations of a panel of scientists and wolf experts that previously developed strategies for Mexican wolf recovery, set inadequate population goals, failed to include suitable wolf habitat further east and further north in the Western Wildway, and failed to address current genetic threats to the species.

As Matthew Bishop, lead attorney for WELC, put it, "This recovery plan was designed by politicians and anti-wolf states, not by independent biologists.”

Read more in USNews.


New Research Sheds Light on Wildlife Movement Behavior in Human-Modified Landscapes

A new study, published last week in the journal Science, showcases that mammals move less in human-modified landscapes. In fact, mammals move distances two to three times shorter on average in these landscapes than they do in more wild landscapes. A team of researchers, led by biologist Dr. Marlee Tucker of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and Goethe University Frankfurt, has shown the extent of these movements is significantly reduced compared to those in wilder, natural areas.

In this study, Tucker and 114 coauthors from various institutions collated movement data from 803 individuals across 57 mammal species from around the globe. To do this, they used Movebank, a data portal that archives animal movement data from researchers across the world. Individual animals equipped with a GPS tracking device recorded movements for a period of two months. The researchers then compared these data to the human footprint index of the areas in which these animals were moving. The index measures how much an area has been changed by human activities such as infrastructure, settlements or agriculture. Among the coauthors is Dr. Mark Hebblewhite, professor for University of Montana’s wildlife biology program.


Y2U installing wildlife friendly fencing with the help of ranchers on Kiesha's Preserve in Northern UT. Photo: Y2U

Yellowstone to Uintas Connection Secures Grant Funding to Build on Successful Landowner Conservation Campaign in Northern Utah

Yellowstone to Uintas Connection (Y2U) is working on a new conservation approach with regard to how they interact with land management agency staff and landowners. The group has found that building partnerships and joining forces with these groups is an effective way to enact positive change simultaneously for wildlife, ecosystems, and rural livelihoods.

In 2017, Y2U initiated a Landowner Conservation Campaign, which includes helping landowners develop conservation plans for their private parcels. Potential facets of these plans include installing wildlife friendly fencing and experimenting with various grazing management protocols, riparian area exclosures, wetland rehabilitation, and re-seeding native grasses. In January, Y2U received a $15,000 grant from Biophilia Foundation to implement the campaign in 2018.

The goal of Y2U's campaign is to learn from landowners’ land management experiences, successes, and difficulties, and to provide them with ecological expertise and administrative/grant writing support for implementing conservation plans that benefit the sustainability and working potential of their land while also helping preserve wildlife habitat.


Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative Hiring Two Positions in Rocky Mountain Region

Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) is searching for qualified candidates, preferably with strong local ties, to fill two important positions in the U.S. Please share these postings with any qualified candidates!

The High Divide Project Coordinator will help develop and implement conservation projects in Idaho and Montana.  Located across the Continental Divide between Idaho and Montana, the High Divide is one of the most important linkages in the entire Y2Y region. This linkage allows wildlife to move between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the rest of the Y2Y region. Working closely with the U.S. Program Director, this person will complete existing conservation projects, identify opportunities for future conservation projects, and raise awareness about Y2Y. The ideal candidate will live in southwest Montana or central Idaho.

Read the full job description here.

The Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor (CPMC) Program Coordinator will help develop and implement conservation projects in the CPMC. The Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor is one of the most important linkages in the entire Y2Y region. This linkage allows wildlife to move between Canada and the U.S. The CPMC Program Coordinator will lead existing restoration projects in northern Idaho, implement a highway mitigation strategy on Highway 95, identify opportunities for future conservation projects, and raise awareness about Y2Y. The CPMC Program Coordinator will work with the U.S. Program Director to implement the existing Cabinet-Purcell conservation plan. The ideal candidate will live in northwest Montana or northern Idaho.

Read the full job description here.


Photo: Larry Masters, masterimages.org

Conservationists Push Back Against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Decision to Delist Canada Lynx

In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) stated the Canada lynx was recovered in the lower 48 states and moved forward with drafting a rule to delist the lynx under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Currently listed as Threatened under the ESA, the lynx faces threats associated with habitat loss and climate change, including declines in populations of its primary food source, snowshoe hare. Lynx habitat is found throughout the Western Wildway Network, including as far south as northern New Mexico.

While the USFWS contends that existing land management frameworks are sufficient to protect the lynx and that climate modeling is too uncertain to justify the continued listing of the species, scientists and conservationists have raised alarms about the lynx’s future. “The earlier finding was that lynx remain in danger and are likely to be exterminated by the end of the century. Since that’s the best science, then we need to follow that,” said Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center.

Read more from AP.


Scientists and WWN Partners Argue for Sustained Funding of LCC Model in the U.S.

America’s biological diversity is at risk, say scientists in a new opinion piece, published Jan. 5, 2018 in the journal BioScience. The op-ed maintains the future of wildlife and its habitat, ecosystems, geophysical features, landownership and more on a continental scale is at risk without stable multi-jurisdictional science input and planning processes.

The eight authors—Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative’s president and chief scientist, Jodi Hilty, and The Nature Conservancy’s co-chief external affairs officer, Lynn Scarlett—argue  these issues are currently comprehensively and effectively addressed by a set of 22 landscape conservation cooperatives (LCCs) across North America. The authors also show that the geographic framework, cooperative nature, and ability to fund, coordinate, and disseminate science is unmatched by any other entity in the United States.

Read the entire opinion piece here.


Work to Begin on Climate Change Adaptation in Northern Idaho

This summer, work by Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative and Idaho Fish and Game will begin helping western toads, northern leopard frogs, western bumblebees, Suckley’s cuckoo bumblebees, pale jumping slugs, and grizzlies adapt to climate change in northern Idaho.

“Climate change can seem like such a daunting problem that people sometimes feel like they can’t contribute to solutions,” says Lacy Robinson, project coordinator at Y2Y. “This project will not only demonstrate proactive actions we can take to help species adapt to climate change, but the citizen science component will allow local citizens to be part of that solution.”

The two organizations will conduct habitat restoration work on Boundary-Smith Creek Wildlife Management Area near the U.S.-Canadian border now through 2020, thanks to grants from Wildlife Conservation Society Climate Adaptation Fund and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Read more here.



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Katie Davis
Western Director

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