Migration link proposed for parks

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    By LAURA PERRETT

    Environmental groups envision a wildlife corridor from Yellowstone National Park to Canada’s Yukon Territory, known as Y2Y, according to the Grassroots Environmental Effectiveness Network.

    “Recent research on animal movements and conservation biology principles make it clear that to sustain viable populations of large carnivores we must think on this scale,” wrote Harvey Locke, past national president of Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society, in “Yellowstone-to-Yukon Biodiversity Strategy.”

    Rod Mondt, program director for Wildlands Project, said, “It’s necessary to have corridors to help the wildlife movement … exchange genetic material. Isolated populations are separated by some kind of habitat they can’t transcend. There’s only a couple ways to deal with that.”

    “You can manually manipulate those populations by transporting individuals. That does work for some species, but not all, especially the ones sensitive to human touch. The other option is to link those areas with a corridor and allow the species to move naturally,” Mondt said.

    A conference scheduled for October 2-5 will be at Waterton Lake National Park, Alberta, Canada, to discuss the issues of the wildlife corridor.

    The movement corridors would connect a long chain of core protected areas surrounded by buffer zones.

    “Core protected areas must be large, secure refuges for all native species. Connections between these core areas by way of habitat corridors will help ensure that species can move with relative ease between core areas.”

    If species can travel easily between core areas, they should also be able to move easily between the sub-populations that inhabit them, Locke wrote.

    “This will allow for important genetic mixing between the sub-populations of any one species.”

    GREEN also emphasized this benefit of the corridor. “The corridor … would aid large species like the grizzly in maintaining a diverse gene pool by allowing them to travel to other areas populated by the species.”

    Mondt said there are wildlife corridors in a variety of places, although the idea of conservation biology and linking populations is relatively new.

    “It’s kind of common sense that wildlife needs corridors, not unlike our use of corridors. We go to Albertson’s and buy food and get back through corridors. If corridors are broken or blocked, it’s a hassle,” he said.

    An important element of the corridor is the buffers.

    Buffers surrounding the core areas “will ensure that protection for core areas doesn’t simply ‘fall-off’ at their edges,” Locke wrote.

    Human activity will be less intense closer to the core but will increase as a species moves out from the core.

    “In inner buffer areas, a variety of low-intensity uses … such as low-intensity oil and gas wells, livestock grazing, selective logging, and roadless mining, hunting and fishing would be allowed. In the outer sections of the buffers, more intensive uses, such as motorized recreation, large-scale mining, oil and gas processing and agriculture could be undertaken,” Locke wrote.

    Although many core areas already exist for this corridor, additional ones are needed, Locke wrote.

    “Additional large-core areas are needed in the Muskwa-Kechika area of the Northern Rockies of British Columbia and in the Wind, Snake and Bonnet Plume river drainages in the Yukon. Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society is hard at work to secure these.”

    Mondt said costs for the wildlife corridor depend on implementation of the project.

    “There will be costs in the traditional management of landscape. Our hope and belief is that a lot of those will be mitigated with other kinds of benefits.”

    To Locke, the need for the wildlife corridor is obvious.

    Locke wrote, “The need for such a carefully designed system is clear: The area encompassed by the Yellowstone-to-Yukon vision is synonymous with wildlife and wilderness throughout the world. Taking in the mountains and valleys of western Wyoming, Idaho, western Montana, the east and west Kootenays, the Robson Valley and the Northern Rockies of British Columbia, the eastern slopes of Alberta and the southeastern Yukon though to the north end of the Richardson Mountains, it contains some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth.”

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