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Reconnecting the Eastern Wildway

Map highlighting 16 locations from Florida to Quebec
The Essential 16 locations in urgent need of habitat connectivity, identified by John Davis during his TrekEast expedition. Map: Wildlands Network

Securing wildlife corridors between Eastern core reserves is vital to sustaining biodiversity. During his 2011 TrekEast from Florida to Quebec, Wildlands Network’s John Davis identified many such habitat linkages in urgent need of restoration and protection—and scores of heroic conservationists working to save them. These conservation efforts are often conducted in partnership with hikers, birdwatchers, hunters, foresters, farmers, and outdoor recreationists.

John noted at least 16 locations throughout the Eastern Wildway where immediate action must be taken to restore and protect habitat connectivity. Wildlands Network has compiled this list as a small sampling of places where, with modest steps, we can reclaim a key part of North America’s great natural heritage. Some of these areas will require relatively small habitat linkages, but all are potentially part of large wildlands complexes—and thus crucial to the future of the Eastern Wildway.

Active ecological restoration (jobs!) will be needed to re-establish landscape connectivity in the East. Park, wilderness, and corridor proposals have already been drafted for many areas discussed in the Essential 16, and we urge you to reach out to regional conservation groups to learn more about these proposals. Meanwhile, stay tuned as Wildlands Network expands our own efforts to merge recreation corridors with conservation to benefit biodiversity.

Mapping the Eastern Wildway

Drawing of the Eastern United States with much of the coast the interior regions mapped out in green and yellow.
Wildlands Network’s map of the Eastern Wildway builds on E.O. Wilson’s Half-Earth theory, protecting 48.68% of eastern North America. Map: Wildlands Network

To further develop our vision of a reconnected, restored and rewilded North American East Coast, we produced a forward-thinking map of the Eastern Wildway, from Canada’s Gaspé Peninsula to the Florida Keys. Based on previous Wildlands Network Designs and connectivity models for various species, and building upon The Essential 16, the map provides an answer to the increasing habitat fragmentation plaguing the East Coast’s wildlands and wildlife: large landscape connectivity, with room to roam for myriad species.

The map, which shows protections for 48.68% of eastern North America, represents a grand vision of what conservation could like along the Eastern Wildway. It builds upon Dr. E.O. Wilson’s Half-Earth theory, which proposes that allocating at least 50% of the earth for wildlife can sustain biological diversity. Such ambitious rewilding will take time, money and resources, but the results—a protected oasis for both people and wildlife—are sure to be worth it.

Collaborating with partners from all over the Eastern Wildway Network, we’ll use the map as a tool to prioritize on-the-ground conservation projects, working together to build a network of protected core habitat areas and wildlife corridors. Stay tuned to our website for future versions of the map.

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Rethinking Roads for Wildlife

In our Eastern Wildway, we recently completed an analysis of North Carolina’s roads to identify priority segments most in need of wildlife mitigation. The results of this analysis will help transportation planners and conservationists strategically identify where and how mitigation can provide the greatest benefit to local wildlife. In the coming months and years, we will conduct similar assessments for other Eastern states.

A large brown, four-legged animal with horns crosses a road in a forest as cars wait for it to pass.
Elk crossing a road. Photo: Noel Reynolds

Wildlands Network has launched 2 on-the-ground field studies in North Carolina in order to better target road mitigation strategies. In one study, we will assess the performance of a wildlife underpass by installing motion-sensitive cameras along its bridge span, thus enhancing our knowledge of how such structures function in important ecological corridors within an urban landscape.

We will also track elk movements across busy highways to identify road segments most in need of fencing and safe wildlife passage. This information will help to reduce future wildlife-vehicle collisions and support the recovery of the regional elk population.

For more information, contact Dr. Ron Sutherland, Conservation Scientist, ron@wildlandsnetwork.org.