Rewilding at Many Scales: A Book Review Essay

By John Miles Dave Foreman, in his landmark 2004 book Rewilding North America: A Vision for Conservation in the 21st Century, makes a convincing case that “To make protected areas more effective, conservationists must now (1) work on very large landscapes, probably continental in scope, and (2) undertake ecological restoration based on rewilding.”[1] He advocated a science-based approach to protecting and creating a network of “core wild areas, wildlife movement linkages, and compatible use lands to meet habitat needs of wide-ranging species, maintain natural disturbance regimes, and permit dispersal and reestablishment of wildlife following natural events such as fires.”[2] Dave was thinking big, though of course he was working at all landscape scales. In 2018, he has been working on a local rewilding project in the Sandia Mountains near his Albuquerque home. Since he wrote this book, much thought and action has been invested in pursuing this vision and some progress made on large scale initiatives like Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y), Yellowstone to Uintas (Y to U), and Algonquin to Adirondack (A2A)..

In this essay I address the question of whether rewilding should be seen only as a large-scale effort or whether it should be pursued at many scales… My thinking about this was stimulated by my reading of recently published books: Joe Riis, Yellowstone Migrations (Seattle, Braided River, 2017); Matthew Kauffman, et al, Wild Migrations: Atlas of Wyoming Ungulates (Corvallis, Oregon State University Press, 2018); Ben Goldfarb, Eager: The Surprising Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2018); and Scott Freeman, Tarboo Creek: One Family’s Quest to Heal the Land (Portland, OR: Timber Press, 2018.) All of these books describe, in my view, rewilding. They may not all involve Foreman’s core wild areas, but they describe work based on science and efforts to enhance wildlife movement across landscapes. They promote land use compatible to the needs of wide-ranging species. Some of these species, like elk, pronghorn, and mule deer in the Yellowstone region, and salmon in the Pacific Northwest, are very wide-ranging. Beavers may not range widely but as a keystone species enhancing habitats, they help the wide rangers and restore natural processes on the land. Read entire article.

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Wild and Scenic Rivers: The St. Croix River

By Alison M. Jones The St. Croix River runs through Wisconsin and Minnesota as a valuable upstream tributary to the Mississippi River, one of No Water No Life’s (NWNL) 6 case-study watersheds. In 1968, the St. Croix River was among the first 8 rivers added to the new Wild and Scenic River System, making this a 50-year anniversary of that designation. (The other rivers added at that time were the Clearwater, Eleven Point, Feather, Rio Grande, Rogue, Salmon, and Wolf Rivers.)

Two other segments of the St. Croix were added to the Wild and Scenic River System in 1972 and 1976. A total of 252 miles of the St. Croix River have been designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act: 193 miles for their scenic value and 59 for their recreational value. To read more and to see the photos click here.

Wolfpacks Manage Disease Outbreaks

Wolves are known to be lazy hunters. Consequently, they will always choose the easiest prey, meaning young, sick or old animals. This preference for easy prey significantly influences the population dynamics and compositions of the preyed animals, for example deer or wild boar. In particular, during disease outbreaks the wolf plays a crucial role to keep the number of infested animals at bay. Data from Slovakia underlines the wolf’s important position as the doctor of the wild. Read more from the European Wilderness Society blog. Click here.

Review of Fire Storm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future

Review by John Miles

While I was reading Edward Struzik’s Fire Storm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future, the Camp Fire in Northern California roared through 100,000 acres in two days, destroying many structures and killing, at this writing, 80 people with more than a thousand missing. Natural disasters like these are attributable to weather and not necessarily climate change, but warming oceans and extended droughts are causal factors in such events. Reading of the consequences of sea level rise and megafires, I could not help but think about how many of us humans are in denial and cannot summon the will to do anything to mitigate climate change and is effects.

Edward Struzik is a Canadian science and environmental journalist who has lately focused his work on the impact of climate change in Canada and the Arctic. His most recent book, Fire Storm, is a hard look at what seems a new normal for wildfire in the northern latitudes – megafires, which are defined as fires of over 100,000 acres. He opens his book with a riveting account the May 2016 Fort McMurray fire in northern Alberta that burned nearly a half million acres, destroyed 2400 buildings, and required the evacuation of 80,000 people. Luck was with the people of Fort McMurray and its surroundings, and no one died, but this fire is considered the worst natural disaster in the history of Canada. Struzik writes:

The important thing is that no one died in the fire, people keep telling me over and over again. They are right, of course. But they are also wrong, because loss of life is not necessarily the best way of measuring success. Fort McMurray was the worst natural disaster in Canadian history. It could have been much worse if so many things – wind, demographics, safety training, quick and creative thinking, heroism, and luck – hadn’t aligned in the manners they did. The town dodged a lot of bullets. Read more.