Connecting Wild Places

Journey LOGO selected finalOur natural and political landscapes are rapidly changing. Climate change is affecting ecosystems across the planet, and people, plants and wildlife are beginning to feel the pressures that come from a changing environment. Prolonged droughts, severe storms, growing deserts, deforestation, habitat loss and the resulting increase in stresses on wildlife are projected to become the norm in the future. While the impacts on humans will be significant, the impact on wildlife will be exponentially more detrimental.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 2011 Special Animals list, the majority of our wildlife need help: 88% of amphibians, 87% of native fish, two out of three mammals, and nearly half of all birds and reptiles are “at risk”. This decline of wildlife is indicative of the failing health of the ecosystems that all life on Earth depends on. As climate changes, it’s important that, as citizens, we fight to ensure that protected and connected wild places exist. Protecting and Connecting Wild Places is crucial for the survival of wildlife and is key to climate adaption. California’s 53 wilderness areas, 25 national and 270 state parks and beaches and 18 national forests offer a tremendous opportunity to provide a well-connected landscape, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

Old growth and late mature forests provide rare and extremely valuable habitat. The largest oldest trees store the greatest amounts of carbon and play a major role in regulating the Earth’s climate. Northern California forests are some of the most carbon dense forests on the planet, a majority of which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), which are under constant threat of extraction.

Wilderness areas, mostly high elevation, and parks offer islands of protected refuge for wildlife. Roadless Areas, rivers and ridges that contain our lower elevation cool carbon dense forests provide crucial refugia and habitat connectivity between these core areas. Habitat linkages are passageways allowing wildlife to move freely to search for food, find a mate, migrate, to keep genetic diversity strong and to seek refuge in response to a warming climate. A majority of wildlife corridors, managed by the USFS remain unacknowledged, unprotected and open to multiple threats such as logging, grazing and road building.

RGintheforest-1024x682The main reason for the current global mass extinction rate is habitat loss. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have produced a wellspring of research and documentation on the decline of species. Well over half of California’s fish, amphibians and mammals and nearly half of all birds and reptiles are “at-risk.”  Nearing an equal amount of research has gone into strategies to save species. There are dozens of professionally crafted collaborative plans, however, they do not enact change in policy, regulation or law.

Climate change demands political change. The globally significant forests of Northern California offer an amazing opportunity to establish an interconnected intact landscape by protecting and connecting wildlife habitat and mid-elevation older forests. It is time enact policy and implement climate adaption strategies. Our leaders in office and in forest, fish and wildlife management need to make a major shift in policy and practice to conserve our quality of life, wildlife and wild places.

One of OR-7′s pups in southwestern Oregon. Photo by USFWS.

The gray wolf is returning to California. Wolves need room to roam and packs are known to travel up to 30 miles a day. OR-7 traveled over 4,000 miles in the last four years between Oregon and California. Residing just over the border with his new family, it is entirely possibly his pups were conceived during his time in the Golden State and that the new pack will make California part of their home range.

Please sign the petition to urge your representatives and leaders in forest and wildlife management to act now to protect and connect wild places. 

The petition will go to:

  • President Obama
  • Secretary of the Interior- Sally Jewell
  • Secretary of Agriculture
  • Chief of the Forest Service- Tom Tidwell
  • Chief of Bureau of Land Management
  • US Fish and Wildlife
  • California US Forest Service Supervisors
  • CA Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • CA Fish and Games Commissioners
  • All of the CA House of Representatives and Senate
  • Governor Brown
  • Others TBD

Links for additional resources:

The California Essential Habitat Connectivity maps below delineate lands important to wildlife movement between large, mostly natural areas at the statewide scale.