Only Connect

The Spine of the Continent initiative is about protecting big cores of abundant nature, keeping them populated with carnivores, and connecting them to one another so that wildlife can trek from one to the next.” — Mary Ellen Hannibal

How does one connect a landscape that has fragmented? As Mary Ellen Hannibal writes in her new book The Spine of the Continent, “Nature doesn’t work without connection, The web of life depends on a continuous flow of interaction within which to renew itself. Cities, highways, and agriculture have made islands out of even our largest wilderness areas. The solution is ‘large landscape connectivity,’ on an enormous scale: thus the Spine of the Continent. E.O. Wilson calls it the most important conservation initiative in the world today. The Spine seeks to link protected landscapes along 5,000 miles of the Rocky Mountains, from Canada to Mexico.

Mary Ellen Hannibal travels the length of the Spine, meeting with many of the people and organizations passionately connecting a fragmented land. Each link presents its own special challenge:

For a salamander in Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada, connectivity is a couple of concrete underpasses that allow him to migrate across the road during mating season without getting squashed by traffic. For a grizzly bear in the northern Rockies, connectivity means huge protected areas across mountain ranges. For a wolf, one of the most highly contested denizens of nature, connectivity means legislative protection across state boundaries.

Here’s two earlier books from the Land Library’s shelves on the importance of biologic byways:

Rewilding North America: A Vision for Conservation in the 21st Century, Dave Foreman’s call for wildland networks instead of isolated protected areas, and, the subject of one of the Rocky Mountain Land Series all-time favorite events: Yellowstone to Yukon: Freedom to Roam, photographer Florian Schulz’s vivid look at a crucial link in the Spine of the Continent chain.

And take a moment to get inspired about one of North America’s most unique landscapes, as captured by the lens of Florian Schulz:

For more on the Spine of the Continent Initiative, be sure to visit their very helpful website!


Finally, the Spine of the Continent is about connecting landscapes, ecosystems, creatures, and people. It is about connecting our hearts and our heads to honor and protect this most magnificent habitat, the culmination of millions of years of evolution, where every piece has a part to play in what is originally known as Earth, the place we call home.” — Mary Ellen Hannibal

Vital to the Spine of the Continent initiative is the ancient migratory route of the pronghorn, the subject of one of our earlier posts:

–Pronghorn Passage


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