Where does Wildlands Network work?
Our area of focus extends across the continent of North America. We currently have field staff working on the U.S. East Coast, West Coast and Southwest as well as in Mexico—and we are growing. Our headquarters is moving to Salt Lake City, Utah in January 2020.
How is Wildlands Network funded?
Wildlands Network is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Our income is primarily based on grants and donations from philanthropic foundations, individuals, and corporations.
Is Wildlands Network associated with any governmental or political groups?
No. Wildlands Network is an independently operated, non-governmental organization. However, our collaborative approach to land protection is occasionally recognized by political organizations and governmental agencies. Some Wildlands Network-inspired projects, such as the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, have at times been endorsed or noted by federal conservation agencies in Canada and the U.S.
Why does Wildlands Network want to enlarge and connect wild areas?
The science of conservation biology tells us that existing protected areas are too small and too isolated from one another to allow for the natural flow of animals, plants and vital ecological processes like pollination and fire. As human development expands further into undeveloped land, the remaining scattered “islands” of protected habitat are increasingly prone to pollution, poaching, the invasion of exotic species, habitat fragmentation and loss and other threats. Each of these changes can significantly alter nature’s balance, resulting in declines in biodiversity over time and even species extinction.
To keep our wildlands and wildlife healthy for future generations, we must shift our strategy from protecting islands of habitat to creating habitat networks: core wild areas connected to one another by landscape linkages—or corridors—that are managed for wildlife connectivity and sustained by vibrant human communities.
What is rewilding?
Rewilding means making our landscapes whole again. Today’s national parks and other protected areas, although critical to conservation, are too small and isolated from one another to support wildlife migrations and dispersals, native plant communities, and services provided by nature—like pollination, carbon storage, and clean water. Wildlands Network is helping to rewild North America by protecting core reserves, reconnecting them via vast corridors of habitat, and restoring apex predators.
How long will it take to reconnect and rewild North America?
Aldo Leopold once said, “In our attempt to make conservation easy, we have made it trivial.” Wildlands Network recognizes that there are no quick fixes to North America’s ecological problems. Creating a continental system of connected wildlands is a long-term, visionary effort and will require consistent updates in strategy and diverse partnerships to maintain and progress in the face of our rapidly-changing world.
How does Wildlands Network develop its Wildway maps?
Conservation science increasingly supports the restoration of habitat connectivity as one of the most effective strategies for protecting biodiversity in a rapidly developing world. Wildlands Network’s Wildway concept offers a solution for protecting native plants and animals by connecting the wild spaces these species need to survive. Wildways consists of cores, or large areas of natural habitat, as well as linkages between the cores, referred to as corridors.
Wildlands Network’s Wildway maps are intended to provide continental-scale context to the work of conservation organizations, as well as guide management decisions for public- and privately-owned land. Our maps also guide the prioritization of investments in conservation, restoration and infrastructure projects, such as wildlife road crossings. To create these maps we integrate a wide range of existing data sets and feedback from expert conservationists and researchers from across the continent.
How does Wildlands Network involve private lands in its efforts?
Wildlands Network’s science-based approach, as demonstrated by our mapping work, can assist private landowners and land trusts identify properties with high ecological value. For instance, in the East we have assisted a group of land trusts in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy identify high value parcels for protection. In the West, Wildlands Network started a private lands initiative that has fully blossomed into an independent nonprofit focused on private lands conservation—the Western Landowners Alliance.
Wildlands Network also seeks to assist private landowners in maintaining ownership and wildlife-friendly management practices by promoting incentives and other policies that advance good stewardship. This approach encourages the continuation of ecologically-sustainable, traditional land uses while providing a commonsense solution for protecting native species.
Private landowners and land trusts interested in helping Wildlands Network achieve its long-term vision can voluntarily participate in several ways, including restricting development through conservation easements, selling or donating property to land trusts or conservation buyers, cooperatively restoring and protecting wildlife habitat and pursuing land stewardship incentives through various governmental agencies.
Does Wildlands Network advocate the reintroduction of wild predators?
Yes. Conservation biologists widely agree that all members of an ecosystem must be present if that ecosystem is to provide optimum benefits to both wild and human communities. The scientific foundation of wildlands protection and restoration begins with functional populations of native carnivores and other keystone species, which play disproportionately important roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems. The regulatory effects of top carnivores on other animal and plant species are critical to upholding the natural interactions of food webs.
Today’s human communities can safely and peacefully coexist with wolves, cougars, bears and other large carnivores just as some have done for thousands of years—and continue to do in many parts of the world, including North America. In many cases, coexistence simply requires human tolerance. Restoring and protecting wildlands greatly diminishes the likelihood of people coming into conflict with top predators, whose needs are best met within their natural habitats.
How much land must be protected to achieve Wildlands Network’s vision?
The amount of land needed to establish a continental system of connected wildlands will be determined by long-term, science-based mapping and analysis to identify the protected areas and linkages required to sustain wildlife and natural processes. Our conservation proposals often include enlarging existing protected areas—including Wilderness Areas and National Parks—creating new protected areas, and encouraging various levels of additional protections for federal, state, and private lands. Of course, making such proposals a reality will require extensive public and private buy-in and engagement. World-renowned conservation biologist E. O. Wilson tells us that we must protect half of the Earth’s ecosystems and wildlife from destruction if the diversity of life, including humankind, is to survive into the distant future. We are making progress, but clearly have a long way to go.
Does Wildlands Network believe that protected areas should be off-limits to humans?
No. New or existing protected areas within Wildways should be accessible to humans for a wide range of activities, including hiking, primitive camping, nature study, photography and wildlife viewing. Sustainable hunting and fishing opportunities, as well as certain levels of grazing, would also remain possible where permitted under existing laws. Management practices are best determined on a case-by-case basis.
What are the human benefits of protecting wild nature?
Nature provides us with a complete life support system: fresh air oxygenated by plants, drinking water purified by wetlands, nutrient-rich soils and native pollinators for food production, hospitable climates tempered by the effects of regional ecosystems and natural beauty that lifts our spirits and inspires our souls. Healthy wildlands are the natural heritage that we will pass on to our children. To safeguard this heritage, it is our responsibility to halt the human-caused loss of biodiversity occurring in our lifetime. When we do what is right to protect wild nature, we also do what is right for our children and for all future generations.
Preserving biodiversity also has economic benefits for humans. For example, it is no coincidence that communities located in regions where nature flourishes tend to have higher rates of job growth than areas lacking such benefits. Communities choosing to invest in protecting nature today will be at the forefront of economic and social development tomorrow, as North Americans increasingly seek clean, safe and healthy places to live.
What is Wildlands Network’s position on border wall between the U.S. and Mexico?
While national security is always a priority when dealing with international borders, efforts to provide such security should include protecting our most endangered species and globally important ecosystems. Information gathered through Wildlands Network-sponsored ecological symposiums and scientific workshops indicates that maintaining both national and ecological security in the borderlands region must include:
1. the creation of a new, comprehensive, and just immigration policy that channels immigration through legal ports of entry rather than through remote wildlands areas, as well as the repeal of legislation that allows federal agencies to waive bedrock environmental protections;
2. transparent and ethical use of sophisticated technology designed to minimize habitat disturbance, while allowing for enforcement of relevant law;
3. adherence to the legal requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other federal laws to mitigate environmental impacts.
What are the safety implications of working in Mexico?
The safety of our staff is our number one priority at Wildlands Network. We are committed to our conservation efforts in northwestern and other areas of Mexico because we view this work as critical to our mission and are confident it can move forward safely. Episodes of extreme violence and organized crime in Mexico are localized issues, and do not impact the cities where our staff are based. We closely monitor the situation to ensure our field work is conducted in the safest way possible, and that our staff are equipped with the tools and knowledge they need.
What can I do to help protect our wildlands?
Citizens, conservation organizations and others wishing to protect wildlands can participate in the public comment periods associated with updates to federal, state and regional agency management plans and rule changes. Comments should focus on ensuring that wildlife habitat connectivity is incorporated into new plans—particularly habitat connections that may help mitigate future climate change-related threats to native animals and plants.
Concerned citizens should also contact elected officials responsible for nominating or appointing members to state wildlife commissions, encouraging them to appoint commission members who base their decisions on the best available science—with the ultimate aim of conserving the full range of biological diversity.
You can also donate to support Wildlands Network’s work and follow us on social media for regular updates.