As conservationists, we know the countless threats facing our natural world today. And while these challenges can sometimes feel insurmountable, we also recognize that there are things we can do – partnerships we can forge, actions we can take, and policies we can implement – to help protect and restore wild places. Most recently, E.O. Wilson called for the conservation of half the world’s land and sea in order to save 85% of biodiversity. He describes this vision in his 2016 book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. While Wilson’s theory wasn’t a new concept for those working in conservation, it was the call to action we needed to implement theory on the ground.
Through the Eastern Wildway Network, an initiative of Wildlands Network, we seek to map out and implement this call to action in eastern North America. For the past year and a half, we have spent painstaking hours tracking down and evaluating datasets, meeting with conservation leaders, and crafting a visionary map of what Half-Earth would look like in the East. The result is our draft Eastern Wildway map, which we affectionately call our “Half-East” map.
To delineate the cores and corridors that would make up the Eastern Wildway, we began by drawing habitat cores, based on a combination of The Nature Conservancy’s resilience scores (Anderson et al. 2016), the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy, the Northern Appalachian Wildlands Network Design (Reining et al. 2006), and aerial imagery. We then drew in corridors connecting these core areas, basing the corridor routes and widths on connectivity models from The Nature Conservancy’s regional flow data (Anderson et al. 2016), Theobold et al. (2012), Haddad et al. (2016), McGuire et al. (2016), Belote et al. (2016), the Florida Ecological Greenways Project, the North Atlantic and South Atlantic LCC Blueprint, and aerial imagery. The result is a comprehensive conservation design that takes the first step toward implementing Half-Earth in the East.
The Eastern Wildway, if restored, reconnected, and protected, would conserve nearly half of the land and water in eastern North America (48.68% to be exact). Today, the Eastern Wildway is roughly 28.5% secure under various levels and types of conservation protections, including federal, state, and provincial designations, as well as private conservation easements. Moving forward, we will use this conservation network design to engage the land trust community, ensuring the Eastern Wildway is stitched together parcel by parcel, protected in perpetuity. Developing the strategies and campaigns to do this will be outlined during the Eastern Conservation Summit this October.
Before we get to work on the ground; however, we want to reach out to conservation experts across the Eastern Wildway to refine, edit, and improve the map, which represents many of the iconic landscapes of the East. We are seeking input now on whether:
- we missed a crucial core or corridor that should be included,
- we mistakenly incorporated an urban area or some other area that would not be appropriate for conservation efforts, or
- you have ideas for the top priority cores or corridors you believe we should spend most of our time and resources on in the short-term.
If you are interested in providing feedback, we can supply you with GIS files of these cores and corridors or detailed maps from your area of expertise. We will also hold a mapping workshop during our upcoming Eastern Conservation Summit to give participants a chance to look over, discuss, and draw edits to the draft map. To learn more or get involved, please contact Dr. Ron Sutherland, Conservation Scientist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the Eastern Wildway Network or attend the Eastern Conservation Summit, please contact Maggie Ernest at email@example.com.
Anderson, M.G., A. Barnett, M. Clark, A.O. Sheldon, J. Prince, and B. Vickery, 2016. Resilient and connected landscapes for terrestrial conservation (August 8, 2016 version). The Nature Conservancy, Eastern Conservation Science, Eastern Regional Office. Boston, MA.
Belote, R.T., M.S. Dietz, B.H. McCrae, D.M. Theobald, M.L. McClure, G.H. Irwin, P.S. McKinley, J.A. Gage, and G.H. Aplet, 2016. Identifying corridors among large protected areas in the United States. PLOS One: DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154223
Haddad, N., 2015. Connectivity for Climate Change in the Southeastern United States. Final project memorandum to the USGS Southeast Climate Science Center, SECSC Project 009.
McGuire, J.L., J.J. Lawler, B.H. McRae, T.A. Nunez, and D.M. Theobald, 2016. Achieving climate connectivity in a fragmented landscape. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113:7195-7200.
Reining, C., K. Beazley, P. Doran and C. Bettigole, 2006. From the Adirondacks to Acadia: A Wildlands Network Design for the Greater Northern Appalachians. Wildlands Project Special Paper No. 7. Richmond, VT: Wildlands Project. 58 pp.
Theobald, D.M., S.E. Reed, K. Fields, and M. Soule, 2012. Connecting natural landscapes using a landscape permeability model to prioritize conservation activities in the United States. Conservation Letters 0:1-11.