An expedition to understand wildlife connectivity and the relationships between people and nature.

Two of the most intact and important ecosystems in the world’s temperate zone are found in the Northern Rockies of the United States. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho are large, wild landscapes that support rich and abundant wildlife populations. Today, these two areas are essentially ecological islands of protected habitats.

When populations of animals exist in isolation, they are left without the ability to maintain genetic diversity. Simply put, when wildlife can no longer migrate or disperse to new habitats, the long-term health of the population is in jeopardy. It is, therefore, essential that we maintain clear migration and dispersal routes between protected ecosystems. By connecting the gems that are these ecosystems, we can better ensure healthy populations of grizzly bears, wolverines, moose, mountain lion, and so many other species.

By traveling through the region on foot, from the point of view of the wildlife, it was our goal to gain a unique understanding of the conditions and threats to key habitats, presence of various species, current management practices, and perspectives of local people between these two ecosystems. We collected data on the choices that moving animals are forced to make, and the hazards they face, while we treked through some of the most remote and rugged mountains in the lower 48 states. We hoped that by documenting specific instances of fragmentation, we could provide key information to agencies working to promote and protect these areas.

The trek was about 520 miles in length, and we sucessfully completed the route on August 8th, 2010. We followed the most likely routes that wolverines and grizzly bears would take through the area.

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