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Frequently Asked Questions

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 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 unexpected and unwanted consequences for people and wildlife.

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.

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 that could take 100 years or more to complete.

How does Wildlands Network involve private lands in its efforts?

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. 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 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 common sense solution for protecting native species.

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 large and highly interactive 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 the food web.

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 most 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 does the presence of endangered species affect private land use?

The presence of endangered species means that private landowners in the U.S. must be aware of the requirements of the Endangered Species Act; land use restrictions are typically minimal and logical for maintaining the overall health of the land. In some cases, landowners who agree to protect endangered species can benefit from public and private assistance programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture currently provides millions of dollars to landowners who protect endangered species through conservation easement agreements, technical assistance, and other incentivizing agricultural programs.

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 that identifies 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 clearly have a long way to go.

Does Wildlands Network believe that protected areas should be off-limits to humans?

No. New or existing federally protected areas within Wildlands Network Designs will always 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.

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 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 the walling off of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands?

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 immigration reform policy that channels immigration through legal ports of entry rather than through remote wildlands areas;
  2. “virtual fencing” technologies that minimize habitat destruction through use of radar, infrared heat, and motion-sensing equipment; and
  3. adherence to the legal requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to guide and help plan construction of border security infrastructure in ecologically sensitive areas.

What can I do to help protect our wildlands?

Citizens, conservation organizations, and others wishing to protect wildlands should be sure to participate in the public comment periods associated with updates to federal 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 animals and plants. To learn more about proposed federal land management changes, comment deadlines, and how to submit comments, visit our Public Lands Planning Atlas.

Concerned citizens should also contact state-level 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.