Reader's Corner Idaho Statesman Column
11:03 am
Tue February 5, 2013

"The Spine Of The Continent" By Mary Ellen

In a world besieged by climate change and population boom, the natural splendor of our planet is facing unprecedented peril. Each year, more of the animals and habitat that contribute to the rich biodiversity of our planet are becoming threatened. If nothing is done to reverse the trend, we may soon lose many of them forever.

That’s the premise of “The Spine of the Continent: The Most Ambitious Wildlife Conservation Project Ever Undertaken” by Mary Ellen Hannibal. The book focuses on the science behind an ambitious wildlife conservation effort to create linked protected wilderness areas extending from the Yukon all the way south to Mexico. The Rocky Mountains, and the diverse natural areas they support, provide a foundation for a cycle of life that has played out for thousands of years. The Spine is a grassroots conservation effort comprising top scientists, conservation activists and concerned citizens dedicated to finding ways to help that continue.

Their biggest challenge is that too many species are being stranded into small “islands” — areas cut off from one another by encroaching development, miles of cattle fences and a crisscrossing grid of deadly highways. Without the ability to travel between “islands,” species are unable to traverse ancestral migration routes, interbreed or expand their range. The Spine of the Continent project is about making connections between antelope, wolves, beavers, bears, elk, wolverines and other North American fauna and the lands they call home, regardless of international borders, local jurisdictions or national park boundaries, thus allowing species to not only survive, but to actually flourish.

In researching “The Spine of the Continent,” Hannibal traversed 5,000 miles of Rocky Mountain wilderness from Waterton Lakes, Canada, down to Sonora, Mexico, talking along the way to the people who are passionate about making the necessary changes to save wildlife. Her book offers a thought-provoking look at an issue of growing concern and efforts to address it.

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