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Pacific Wildway

From Baja California, Mexico north to Alaska’s Prince William Sound extends one of the longest and wildest chains of mountain ranges in the world. This largely unbroken chain is draped with a rich diversity of vegetation and roamed by some of the most charismatic wildlife inhabiting North America. The regions inland seas and coastal waters are home to marine mammals, including orca and grey whales, sea otters, a variety of seals and are home to a multitude of aquatic species such as salmon and halibut.

In recent decades, however, the West coast of North America has been flooded with an exploding population of people. Humans continue to develop land at an alarming rate, transforming landscapes so drastically that native habitats and species are swiftly being lost or diminished. The fertile valleys and coastal fringes south of the Canadian border are all but completely converted to human use. Aggressive logging, land conversion for agriculture, relentless road construction, and urban sprawl have severely degraded ecosystems. Iconic species including salmon and orcas are in trouble, and other species trying to return home, like gray wolves, struggle for space and acceptance.

Our rapidly changing climate adds another layer of urgency to the need for protecting wildlands and wildlife. Wildfires of unwitnessed intensity and frequency challenge all living things. And as humans increasingly dominate this landscape, we create more and more barriers to wildlife movement and hinder the ability of native species to shift northward or to higher elevations in response to changing conditions. We impede ecosystem services like the purification of water and air, carbon sequestration, and pollination. In doing so, we fracture our great natural heritage and threaten human health, livelihoods and economies.

The Pacific Wildway is our solution to this environmental and cultural crisis.

A large brown bear with long claws and a humpy back stands in a forest clearing
Photo: Ashley-Price

A Wild Vision for Protecting the Pacific Region

The Pacific Wildway will reconnect, restore, and rewild the Pacific region of North America, from British Columbia to Baja California.

While our vision is grand, our focus is directed: Wildlands Network employs coordinated conservation strategies that integrate cutting-edge science, innovative policy initiatives, and broad-based grassroots organizing.

Our work is guided by the most comprehensive and robust climate adaptation and landscape connectivity blueprint  for the region that guides conservation efforts and prioritize projects.

  • We are working to incorporate our blueprint into state habitat connectivity planning.
  • County land use planners and land trusts now have access to a climate adaptation guide for their land use planning and land acquisition strategies.
  • The blueprint provides state and federal departments of transportation and NGOs the information they need to guide the location of future road mitigation projects that will enhance and protect wildlife movement, including crossing structures.

To implement our strategies decision makers and partners must have tools that meet the challenges. Our policy initiatives provide those tools across jurisdictional boundaries:

  • The federal Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act will provide federal, state and tribal land managers with tools, and in some cases, money necessary to protect wildlife corridors on these lands. 
  • Our state wildlife corridor legislation, such as the Oregon Wildlife Corridors Act that we drafted and helped pass will lead to state wildlife connectivity plans to protect habitat and address barriers to movement, including highways and roads.  
  • County level ordinances, such as the one passed by Ventura County, California, are the next level of government at which we will operate.
  • At a time when states are strapped for cash, we are working with state agencies on novel initiatives to help fund conservation actions such as habitat protection and road crossings.
  • And we are helping state fish and game agencies adopt policies that reflect the broad interests of all their constituents by working with them on new strategies that will provide more enduring protection for core habitats and all native species, including large carnivores—not just “game” species;

But science and policy only results in actual conservation gains when it is implemented through on-the-ground projects.  To make such projects a reality, we work to establish healthy, functional collaborations among a diversity stakeholders who want to work together to create a Pacific Wildway.

  • In southwest Washington we are working with other NGOs to identify funding sources for implementation of shovel ready road mitigation projects.
  • In Oregon we are working with an established collaboration of NGOs and agencies to help identify priority lands for climate connectivity in southern Oregon. We also lead a group of individuals from NGOs, agencies and government personnel to help promote the Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund.
  • In California we are working to identify organizations and agency partners to move forward road mitigation work to reduce wildlife vehicular collisions in a priority location in northern California.

Wildlands Network employs coordinated conservation strategies that integrate cutting-edge science, innovative policy initiatives, and broad-based grassroots organizing.

Once established on the ground, the Pacific Wildway will provide lasting protections for myriad wildlife native to the Pacific region, including big horn sheep, gray wolves, black bears, wolverinesgrizzly bearsnorthern spotted owls, orcas and salmon. This grand-scale wildlife corridor will facilitate unrestricted movement among wide-ranging animals and those forced to move to adapt to a changing climate. It will secure the habitats upon which they and other wildlife depend now and in the future.

A snowy mountain rises above a lake and is reflected in the water below. Rocky outcrops jut into the water in the foreground.
Photo: Richard Forbes

Wildlands Network has long recognized the Pacific Wildway as a key piece of our continental connectivity strategy. Given this region’s progressive environmental policies, elected officials, and citizens—and large swaths of public land—we believe it is ripe for a strong offensive push to advance environmental protections and preserve the diversity of life in perpetuity.

The Pacific Wildway will ultimately demonstrate that large-scale connectivity is not only visionary, but vital.