Josh Burnim finishes 800-mile hike for wildlife corridors
The Sawtooths to Selkirks Hike
seeks to promote connections, both human and wild - educating people
about these places in their backyard, and inspiring people to renew
their bonds with the landscapes where they live and to preserve and
restore connected wildlife habitats in the Yellowstone to Yukon region.
Central Idaho - drained
by the Salmon and Clearwater Rivers - is the largest block of wild country
remaining in the U.S. Rockies. Yet, it is an island of habitat. Other
nearby but smaller islands are the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, the
Selkirks Mountains, and protected areas in British Columbia such as
the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy. Conservation Biologists have predicted
that if core areas of species habitat are not connected, more species
of wildlife, especially large mammals, will over time disappear from
these last wild places.
There are a couple basic lessons
from Conservation Biology that highlight this.
First, following the movements
of collared wolves, wolverines and other mammals with radio telemetry
has revealed that they travel much larger distances than we previous
knew. They have been observed traveling the large distances between
the core habitat areas. Many species of wildlife require large home
ranges, such as caribou, grizzlies, wolves, wolverines and lynx. Our
existing parks and wilderness areas do not meet these special needs.
Second, when populations are
isolated on an island of habitat surrounded by a sea of development,
they tend to disappear. Isolation from other populations of a given
species leads to inbreeding, and creates a situation where disease and
human and natural disturbances can be devastating. A paper by William
Newmark, published in the journal Conservation Biology in 1995, reported
that 29 mammal populations including the red fox, mink, and river otter
have gone extinct from national parks in western North American due
to their isolation.
As a result, bold conservation
proposals have emerged in the Rocky Mountains (as well as throughout
North America) to plan for wildlife networks of core areas of habitat
connected by corridors and buffered by transition areas.
Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
"Combining science and stewardship,
we seek to ensure that the world-renowned wilderness, wildlife, native
plants, and natural processes of the Yellowstone to Yukon region continue
to function as an interconnected web of life, capable of supporting
all of the natural and human communities that reside within it, for
now and for generations."
The Sawtooths to Selkirks Hike
was inspired by a two-year, 2100-mile trek by Canadian bear biologist,
Karsten Heuer from Yellowstone to Yukon.
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies
(AWR) became one of the first conservation groups to incorporate this
vision of connectivity when it first introduced the Northern Rockies
Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA) many years ago. Today NREPA continues
to increase its support in Congress as well as inspiring projects like
the Sawtooths to Selkirks Hike. Visit AWR's
Web site to find out more about NREPA
Supporting Conservation Groups