Wildlands Network

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WIldlands Network's logo
Wildlands Network
TypeNon-governmental organization
Area served
North America
MethodConservation, research
Key people

The Wildlands Network (formerly known as “Wildlands Project) was created in 1991 to stem the tide of species extinctions that was being recorded across North America. Evidence that such extinctions were often exacerbated by a lack of habitat connectivity between existing protected areas[1] resulted in the organization’s adoption of a primary mission focused on scientific and strategic support for creation of “networks of people protecting networks of connected wildlands.”


In 1991, Dr. Michael E. Soulé envisioned a conservation group that focused on fieldwork, all based on sound science. Soulé joined forces with David Foreman, Douglas Tompkins, and other conservationists, he formed the North American Wilderness Recovery Strategy. The name would later become simplified to the Wildlands Project, now known as Wildlands Network. The complete list of Wildlands Network's cofounders includes: Bill Devall, Jim Eaton, David Foreman, Mitch Friedman, Monte Hummel, David Johns, Roz McClellan, Reed Noss, Jamie Sayen, George Wuerthner.

Since its founding, Wildlands Network has worked to simplify conservation terms in order for the public to understand them. The Wildlands Network has also helped universalize the language for conservation planning. The Wildlands Network has helped inspire many other conservation organizations across the world.[2]

Priorities and campaigns[edit]

As a demonstration of where large landscape-scale habitat connectivity in North America was most needed, Wildlands Network identified four “Continental Wildways” traversing the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, the Canadian Boreal Forest region, and the “Spine of the Continent” between Alaska and Mexico.[3]

Over the period of 2000-2006, Wildlands Network scientists and associated conservation organizations mapped six regional “Wildlands Network Designs”[4] (WNDs) within those corridors in the Rocky Mountain West and the Northern Appalachians. These conservation plans identified existing protected areas and proposed wildlife corridors that would connect them as pathways for wide-ranging (keystone) species in need of “room to roam.” The plans also described the various positive ecological impacts that these species had on other flora and fauna.[5]

In recent years, Wildlands Network moved from a focus on continued creation of WNDs to guiding implementation of the recommendations in the six existing plans. The organization developed a network of public and private individuals, groups, and agencies working in the regions covered by the WNDs to accomplish this goal. Initiatives currently focus on connecting habitat in the Western (Spine of Continent) and Eastern (Atlantic) Wildways.

Current Projects[edit]

Eastern Wildway[edit]

This proposed corridor would connect the Adirondacks, the Great Smoky Mountains, the Appalachians (including the Northern Appalachian Corridor),[6] and the Everglades. It is made up of public lands, such as national parks and nature preserves.[7] In order to have the greatest impact on migrating wildlife and threatened ecosystems, key areas of importance have been identified in the proposed corridor, known as the “Essential 16”.[8] In 2015, the Eastern Wildway Network was formed in order to advance efforts in North America. Over 30 conservation leaders have partnered in order to aid the conservation efforts and introducing essential species back into the area, like wolves and cougars. The partnership serves to open more opportunities for the Eastern Wildway campaign to reach its goals.[9]

Western Wildway[edit]

Also known as the Spine of the Continent Initiative, this is a proposed 6,000 mile swath that will stretch from the Brooks Range in Alaska, down the Rockies through Canada and the United States, to the Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico.[10][11][12]

Pacific Wildway[edit]

This proposal runs the length of the Pacific Coast from Baja, Mexico to where the Coast Range converges with the Rockies, where it connects to the Western Wildway.[13]

Boreal Wildway[edit]

Also known as the Canadian Boreal Initiative, this proposal would encompass most of the 1.2 billion acre North American Taiga biome in Canada.[14][15] This area is of particular importance due to its function as a carbon sink (with slower decomposition rates, the Boreal forest can sequester carbon more efficiently than its temperate and tropical counterparts, such as the Amazon Rainforest)[16] and its large swaths of unaltered landscapes from coast to coast.

On-the-Ground Campaigns[edit]

On-the-Ground campaigns are the current fieldwork campaigns that the Wildlands Network has committed to.

Wild Cats Campaign[edit]

Cougars, Jaguars, Bobcats, Lynx, and Ocelots are important to the natural cycle of the ecosystem. Their populations have dwindled due to hunters, trappers, and habitat loss. This has caused great ruin to the natural world. The Wildlands Campaign caters to each of these cats in their original habitats in order to foster the populations. [17]


Cougar populations have suffered due to human interference. Whereas cougars were once prevalent in Eastern North America, their populations have dwindled as a result of human interference. The Eastern North America decisuous region therefore could fail to regenerate because of the abundant populations of deer. The Wildlands Network focuses on 2 main goals in regards to the conservation of cougars. To push stronger policies for the protection of cougars in the Eastern U.S, and to continue the recovery of cougar populations in various wildland complexes. One of the main methods of carrying out these goals is to educate the public on the need for cougars. [18]


Jaguars are the largest wild cats in the world, and once roamed from the southern U.S to Argentina. Jaguar populations are dwindling at an alarming rate due to rapid urban development. The Wildlands Network focuses on creating conditions for jaguars to migrate freely between the US and Mexico because this migration path is essential for their survival (see Borderlands Campaign). One of the ways the Network is doing this is by advocating for wildlife crossing structures at key locations along Highway 2, which runs parallel to the U.S-Mexico Border. [19]

Borderlands Campaign[edit]

The Borderlands Campaign's goal is to ensure that wild animals have access to all of the natural immigration pathways that they had long before humans colonized the land. Political boundaries are meaningless to animals, and the Wildlands Network attempts to help governments recognize that by campaigning for animal crossing bridges rather than walls. The Wildlands Network identifies core areas and habitat corridors essential for the natural immigration patterns of many species. There are currently three core areas in Northern Mexico that the Network is hoping to strengthen protections in. [20]

Red Wolf Campaign[edit]

The Wildlands Network focuses on merging science and activism in order to protect the remaining red wolves in the southeastern United States. The red wolf is one of the critically endangered in the world. Only about 30-50 of them exist in the wild. The Network is trying to take measures on their behalf in order for them to survive. Red wolves are essential for keeping deer populations in check because deer are destructive to vegetation. Red wolves also help keep smaller animals in check, preventing them from overpopulating. The Wildlands Network is currently focused on three major campaigns to save the Red Wolves. Firstly, installing cameras in the areas where red wolves are known to roam, and releasing the footage to the public in order to show that wolves are not overkilling deer, but rather keeping their populations in check. Secondly, promoting political pressure on the United States Fish and Wildlife Services, which is the main U.S agency in charge of conservation efforts of Red Wolves under the Endangered Species Act. Thirdly, advocating for red wolves targeting the public such as through newspapers, presentations, and rallies. [21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Soulé, M., & Terborgh, J. (1999). Continental Conservation: Scientific foundations of regional reserve networks. Washington: Island Press.
  2. ^ "Wildlands History". Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  3. ^ Foreman, D. (2004). Rewilding North America: A Vision for Conservation in the 21st Century. Washington: Island Press.
  4. ^ Foreman, D., et al (2000). Sky Islands Wildlands Network Conservation Plan. Tucson: Wildlands Project; Foreman, D., et al (2003). New Mexico Highlands Wildlands Network Vision. Albuquerque: Wildlands Project; Miller, B., Foreman, D., et al (2003). Southern Rockies Wildlands Network Vision. Denver: Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project/Wildlands Project; Jones, A., Catlin, J. et al (2004). Heart of the West Conservation Plan. Salt Lake City: Wild Utah Project; Burke, K., Crumbo, K., et al (2006). Grand Canyon Wildlands Network Vision. Flagstaff: Grand Canyon Wildlands Council; Reining, C., Beazley, K., et al (2006). From the Adirondacks to Acadia: A Wildlands Network Design for the Greater Northern Appalachians. Richmond: Wildlands Project.
  5. ^ Terborgh, J., & Estes, J. (2010). Trophic Cascades: Predators, Prey, and the Changing Dynamics of Nature. Washington: Island Press.
  6. ^ "Northern Appalachians Corridor | Wildlands Network". www.wildlandsnetwork.org. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  7. ^ "Eastern Wildway© | Wildlands Network". www.wildlandsnetwork.org. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  8. ^ "The Eastern Wildway Essential 16 | Wildlands Network". www.wildlandsnetwork.org. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  9. ^ "Eastern Wildway". Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  10. ^ "Western Wildway". westernwildway.org. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  11. ^ "Western Wildway© | Wildlands Network". www.wildlandsnetwork.org. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  12. ^ Hiss, Tony. "Can the World Really Set Aside Half of the Planet for Wildlife?". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  13. ^ "Pacific Wildway© | Wildlands Network". www.wildlandsnetwork.org. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  14. ^ "Boreal Wildway© | Wildlands Network". www.wildlandsnetwork.org. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  15. ^ "International Boreal Conservation Campaign - Pew Trusts". www.pewtrusts.org. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  16. ^ Ruckstuhl, K.E; Johnson, E.A; Miyanishi, K (2008-07-12). "Introduction. The boreal forest and global change". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 363 (1501): 2245–2249. doi:10.1098/rstb.2007.2196. ISSN 0962-8436. PMC 2387060. PMID 18006417.
  17. ^ "Wild Cats Campaigns". Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  18. ^ "Cougars". Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  19. ^ "Jaguars". Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  20. ^ "Borderlands Campaign". Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  21. ^ "Borderlands Campaign". Retrieved 2017-11-20.