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Reconnecting the Western Wildway

The 20 regional wildlife corridors highlighted below are essential to connecting the 6,000-mile Western Wildway from Mexico to Alaska.

This map shows the Western half of the United States with an orange outline along the center and orange dots that highlight the priority areas of the Western Wildway.

Regional Wildlife Corridors

Ajos Bavispe

One of Mexico’s oldest nature reserves, Ajos-Bavispe protects several of the Sky Islands—and many of the iconic species inhabiting them, including black bears, beavers, golden eagles, and the occasional jaguar and ocelot. The reserve’s forests have been shaped over millennia by fire regimes practically undisturbed by humans, providing a unique living laboratory for better understanding how ecosystems in North America thrive without fire prevention campaigns.

Aquarius Plateau

One of the spectacular high plateaus of central and southern Utah, the Aquarius Plateau rises 6000 feet above the colorful canyon country of Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to a high point of 11,328 feet atop Bluebell Knoll.  The extensive highlands of the plateau include rich forests, wet subalpine meadows, and a glaciated tableland dotted with numerous lakes. Sheep and cattle grazing occurs on much of the plateau, and logging of the plateau’s ponderosa pine and spruce-fir forests has increased in intensity over the last 25 years, resulting in widespread habitat fragmentation that threatens the Aquarius wildlife corridor’s connection between Canyonlands NP and Grand Staircase Escalante NM.

Aros-Yaqui

Heart of the Northern Jaguar: The mythical feline most people relate to tropical ecosystems, has its northernmost breeding population in the confluence of the Bavispe and Aros River, birthplace of the Río Yaqui, the largest in Northwestern Mexico. The region also holds a bizarre mix of temperate species such as bald eagles and tropical ones including military macaws. Its remoteness from human habitation presents big management challenges to the groups protecting it, while serving as its best defense from encroachment.

Bear River Range

The watershed of the Bear River, the Bear River Range and connecting mountains and valleys defines this corridor that connects the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and northern Rockies to the Uinta Wilderness and southern Rockies.  Historically, it was a prime corridor and habitat for grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines, Canada lynx, bighorn sheep, pronghorn and other wide ranging species. During its journey the Bear River slices through the Bear River Mountains, known for their regionally-important conservation corridor that links the northern and southern Rocky Mountains.

Centennial Mountains

This 28,000-acre mountain range, which forms the boundary between southwest Montana and Idaho, is some of southwest Montana’s wildest country. It is considered an important corridor for wildlife movement, providing an east-west trending mountain range connecting the Yellowstone Ecosystem with the rest of the northern Rocky Mountains. Abundant wildlife in the Centennial Mountains include moose, elk, deer, wolverines, badgers, black bears, a wide variety of birds, and occasionally wolves and grizzly bears. A wildlife corridor worth protecting!

Crowsnest Pass

There are few low elevation passes that traverse the Canadian Rocky Mountains.The Crowsnest Pass, 50 miles north of the Canada-US border, is a broad valley that snakes between towering and sacred mountains. Here elk herds gather, native trout hide in icy streams, and grizzly bears roam the hills. Yet transportation routes like Highway 3 are having a harmful effect on wildlife traversing the pass.

Flathead Valley

Canada and the U.S. created Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in 1932.However, British Columbia has yet to protect the Flathead River Valley – the “Missing Piece” of the peace park. Today, mountaintop removal coal mining, forest clear-cutting, rock quarrying, and highways and train corridors in the Elk Valley threaten to forever sever the wildlife corridor between Canada and the U.S. The Flathead Wild campaign will lead to doubling the size of the Canadian portion of the Peace Park by adding the southeastern one-third of the Flathead River Valley and ensuring U.S.-Canada connectivity for wildlife.

Grand Canyon Watershed

Well over 100 years ago, the American leaders Benjamin Harrison and Theodore Roosevelt recognized the national significance of the diverse wildlife, wildlands, and natural waters that the Grand Canyon watershed area encompasses. At its heart are the Kaibab Plateau, House Rock Valley grasslands and Colorado River canyons, rich with an elevational sweep of habitats, ancient forests, and exceptional wildlife like the endemic Kaibab squirrel, northern goshawk, and the endangered California condor.

The corridor was identified and ground-truthed through Wildlands Network’s “TrekWest” corridor protection campaign by outdoor adventurer John Davis and other scientists and conservationists in 2013. Conserving the key unprotected parts of this priority wildlife corridor is critical to allow wide-ranging native species to safely migrate between already protected wild habitat such as wilderness, national monuments and national parks.

Mogollon Plateau

Stretching from just southwest of Flagstaff to the White Mountains of eastern Arizona, the Mogollon Plateau and its prominent southern Rim mark the south edge of the Colorado Plateau in Arizona. The long escarpment, thousands of feet high in some areas, extends for nearly 200 miles across central Arizona, creating one of the West’s longest and most important wildlife corridors, of particular importance for movement of the Mexican gray wolf population between its reintroduced population in the Gila Mountain complex of New Mexico and the Grand Canyon.

Norte de la Sierra Madre

Last of an ancient lineage: Old-growth forests are special wherever in the world they may be found, but in Mexico they are almost non-existent, which makes the northern Sierra Madre Occidental more unique, as it holds the last patches of spruce/pine forests where thick-billed parrots still nest. These forests once were home to the Imperial woodpecker, largest of the world’s woodpeckers, tragically pushed to extinction by loggers in the last century. Keeping the remaining old-growth forests and protecting the thick-billed parrots and other species is our last chance to retain a fraction of the ancient wonder of our continent.

Peace River Break

Located in northeastern British Columbia (B.C.), the Peace River Break is the lifeblood of a diverse ecosystem. One of the most important geographical features of this region is the east-west traveling river, which is the only river in the entire Yellowstone to Yukon region that cuts through the Rocky Mountains. As a result, it creates a continental climate that supports diverse ecosystems, acts as a sanctuary to a number of threatened and endangered species, and provides rich soils that could feed up to a million people.

Peel Watershed

The Yukon’s Peel River Watershed is one of the largest and most beautiful intact natural areas left in North America. Industrial development threatens to fragment this stunning landscape and harm its delicate ecological balance. The Peel watershed is the northern anchor of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and part of the Canadian and international campaign to protect the boreal forest.

Powder Rim (Red Desert)

Protecting this high, juniper-clad land bridge for wildlife migrations linking the Rockies to Adobe Town across the southern flank of the Red Desert is essential. The Powder Rim contains Wyoming’s largest overlapping crucial winter range for elk, mule deer, and pronghorn, rare juniper songbirds and nesting raptors, as well as its own resident desert elk herd.

Praderas de Janos

The last prairie: As grasslands all over the world face a massive tide of quick conversion to agriculture, a few remaining sanctuaries bravely hold the “thin green line”. Foremost among these in Mexico is Janos, a region called the country’s Yellowstone for its unique diversity of mammals. Janos holds North America’s largest prairie dog colony, Mexico’s only wild bison herd and populations of pronghorn, white tail deer, badgers and porcupines.  It is also the site of black-footed ferret reintroductions and an important region for over 200 species of birds.

Rocky Mountain Front

One of the last best places to hunt, fish, camp and watch wildlife in the area, there is no plan in place to protect these existing multiple uses on the Front’s 400,000 acres of public lands. That’s why a hardworking coalition of ranchers, hunters, business owners, weeds experts, and conservationists have spent years working out a plan to keep the Front the way it is. The proposed Heritage Act ensures that there is reasonable access for all users, including wide-ranging wildlife.

Sky Islands

Mountain islands in a sea of grass. The powerful image of desert peaks sloping out into grasslands not only conveys what the landscape is like in the region that links the Rocky Mountains to the Sierra Madre Occidental, but also holds the key to understanding how evolution shaped the unique biodiversity one can find here. A broad range of elevations, latitudes, climatic zones and wildlife habitats have resulted in the highest diversity of mammals, birds, bees, and ants anywhere in the contiguous United States. The Mexican portion of this archipelago is even more diverse and threatened.

Tetons to Upper Green River

A hundred years ago in the wake of establishing the Forest Service, President Teddy Roosevelt took a hunting trip to the Thompson Divide, which he described as “a great, wild country…where the mountains crowded together in chain, peak, and tableland; all of the higher ones wrapped in an unrent shroud of snow.” Today the Thompson Divide remains largely that same wild land that Roosevelt saw, except for the threat of oil and gas development. Fortunately a group of local business owners, ranchers and hunters have banded to save the Thompson Divide.”

Thompson Divide

A hundred years ago in the wake of establishing the Forest Service, President Teddy Roosevelt took a hunting trip to the Thompson Divide, which he described as  “a great, wild country…where the mountains crowded together in chain, peak, and tableland; all of the higher ones wrapped in an unrent shroud of snow.” Today the Thompson Divide remains largely that same wild land that Roosevelt saw, except for the threat of oil and gas development. Fortunately a group of local business owners, ranchers and hunters have banded to save the Thompson Divide.

Upper Rio Grande Watershed

The Upper Rio Grande Watershed Area extends from the headwaters of the Rio Grande in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado in the north to the Middle Rio Grande and Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque to the south. This region includes critical wildlife corridors such as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, Rio Grande floodplain zone, and the Galisteo Wildway. Urban development, ex-urban sprawl, roads and highways, elimination of surface water sources, depredation, and potential mineral and oil and gas development seriously threaten habitat connectivity and wildlife health throughout the region.

Vail Pass

Nestled in the mountains between Vail and Copper Mountain, the Vail Pass Wildlife Movement Corridor encompasses national forest and Wilderness land, and the refuge of high subalpine forests and lakes. Meadows blooming with wildflowers break into magnificent mountain backdrops, creating some of Colorado’s finest scenic views. Diverse wildlife roves the vast mountain habitat, including at-risk species such as the highly-imperiled Canada lynx. This site has been identified as an ecologically significant site both statewide and regionally for wildlife and habitat connectivity.