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TrekEast: Ground-Truthing the Eastern Wildway

In 2011, Wildlands Network’s wilderness explorer, John Davis, set out to identify the Eastern Wildway by embarking on a 7,600-mile, human-powered journey—deemed TrekEast. During his journey, John explores how wild Nature can coexist with rapidly expanding human development on the East Coast of North America, which is home to some of the most populated regions on the continent.

Map showing dotted line stretching from lower tip of Florida to Cape Breton in Canada, highlighting 10 trail legs and 6 ecoregions

John’s ultimate goal in adventuring thousands of miles was to prove the need for an Eastern Wildway, an extensive wildlife corridor linking eastern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The Eastern Wildway will provide protections for endangered animals such as red wolves, Canada lynx, and cougars.

John’s trek entailed walking, cycling, canoeing, and kayaking for 10 arduous months, during which he identified numerous places along his route in immediate need of protection, including the Caloosahatchee Crossing in Florida, Pine Mountain in southeast Kentucky, the Southern Lake Champlain Valley in New York and Vermont, and the corridor between Gaspesie and Forillon parks in Quebec. In a series of blog posts he wrote during his journey, John described these places and other wild lands, as well as the wildlife he encountered along the way.

Throughout his journey, John was accompanied and supported by naturalists, birdwatchers, hunters, foresters, farmers, hikers, and other outdoor recreationists—all critical players in making the Wildlands vision a reality.

A man and a woman kayak in separate blue kayaks along a brown river. Their backs are to the camera.
Photo: John Davis

In 2015, John published Big, Wild, and Connected, which lays out both the opportunity and the urgency for creating the Eastern Wildway.

Based partly on findings from John’s journey, during which he identified priority areas for restoring habitat linkages, we’ve drafted a “Half-East Map,” which shows what an Eastern Wildway could look like on the ground. Using the map as a guide, we are currently working with more than 100 conservation partners in the Eastern Wildway Network to identify priority areas along the Wildway for immediate conservation protection.