Study identifies wildest corridors between key protected areas in U.S.

Development of natural areas in the United States, coupled with expected changes in climate, have increased the importance of migration corridors that connect protected natural areas. Large, connected wild lands reduce the isolation of animal and plant populations and allow for migration and movement that can help preserve populations of wild species and enhance genetic and ecosystem diversity.

“Our analysis identifies the most natural or wildest linkages between large protected areas across the lower 48 states,” says lead author Travis Belote, research ecologist with The Wilderness Society in Bozeman, Montana. “We don’t focus on habitat needs of any particular species, but rather believe that the most number of species will have the best chance to move around using the wildest linkages between protected areas.”

“Our hope is to move from an aspirational vision of connected protected lands to actual conservation priorities that allow animals and plants to find the best natural linkages between national parks and wilderness areas.”

“The wildest linkages between protected areas likely serve as our best bet for allowing all of nature’s diversity to shuffle around as the climate changes. We hope that all species will benefit from these natural corridors. From squirrels to wolverines to plants that depend on animals for dispersal, limiting development along the wildest linkages may give the greatest number of critters the best chance to move. Some species may need these corridors this week, and others may benefit over many generations.”

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