Western Wildway©

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The Western Wildway Initiative (Spine of the Continent Initiative© )-connects the world's largest network of conservation lands.

National parks, natural icons and spectacular wildlife will thrive with connection of wild places.   

Along the entirety of the Rocky Mountains and associated ranges, we are re-constructing the world’s most extensive network of protected, connected landscapes – the 5,000-mile-long Western Wildway. Our vision is one of coordinated international conservation action that will protect, connect, and restore a contiguous network of private and public lands along the spine of the Rocky Mountains and associated ranges, basins, plateaus, and deserts from Alaska’s Brooks Range to the Mexican Sierra Madre Occidental.

The resultant Western Wildway will provide sufficient “Room to Roam©” for wildlife populations, sustain ecological processes in an era of increasing human population and climate change, and safeguard our natural heritage for the enjoyment of future generations.

The weaving together of this landscape tapestry is achieved through Wildlands Network’s Spine of the Continent Initiative and our Southwest Programs. There are hundreds of organizations working on nature protection and restoration along this Wildway, many of them specializing in regional efforts. Over the past decade, Wildlands Network has spread our vision of a tri-national Wildway across the continent and has been building a formal network of such organizations interested in partnering with us to accomplish this ambitious goal.

The Western Wildway Initiative

Though North America has benefitted in incalculable ways from several generations of conservation successes, our protected wild areas remain isolated, often requiring that conservationists work in similar localized isolation. Rather than try to protect one discrete parcel of land or species at a time, Wildlands Network recognized that the West needs a systematic framework through which local, regional, and national-scale conservation efforts can coordinate and share expertise and resources.

A key strategy in this work recognizes that conservation projects must span state, provincial and national borders, and identify the critical connectivity projects necessary to close the gaps between protected areas within the Western Wildway. Through the Western Wildway Initiative (which embodies the Western Wildway Network), we are developing a broad partnership network (see map attachment below) and have helped our partners conduct scientific analyses to determine the most ecologically important and vulnerable landscapes needing some form of protection. The results of these analyses are our trademark Wildlands Network Designs©, which serve as regional conservation planning maps. These “WNDs” are blueprints for on-the-ground conservation action.

Coordinated and administered by the Wildlands Network, the Western Wildway Initiative (aka Spine of the Continent Initiative) is being implemented on the ground by an international steering committee consisting of 10 of western North America’s most respected conservation organizations, and innumerable other collaborating partners including private land owners, scientists, conservationists, and others.

The Western Wildway Network Steering Committee: Round River Conservation Studies (British Columbia, Canada); American Wildlands (Montana); Heart of the West Coalition (Utah, Wyoming, Colorado); Colorado Safe Passage Coalition (Colorado, New Mexico); Western Environmental Law Center (Western U.S.); Grand Canyon Wildlands Council (Arizona, Utah); New Mexico Priority Wildlife Linkages Coalition (New Mexico); Defenders of Wildlife (U.S.-Mexico Borderlands); Wildlands Network (Arizona, New Mexico); and Naturalia (Sonora-Chihuahua, Mexico).

Together with their own coalition partners, these steering committee members represent 21 conservation organizations working to reconnect the Western Wildway, known as the Spine of the Continent. Additionally, Wildlands Network coordinates several working groups in which dozens of other large national-scale organizations participate. These working groups bring expertise in federal and state land management policy, climate science, communications, private lands conservation incentives, and other skills that are needed to bolster the on-the-ground conservation action.

The Spine of the Continent Initiative recently received the endorsement of many more significant collaborators during Wildlands Network’s “Western Conservation Summit,” attended by more than 40 national and international conservation organizations, regional business enterprises, conservation funders, and private landowners with holdings within the Western Wildway region. During the Summit, participants received a video-taped message from famed conservation biologist, E.O. Wilson, in which he promoted the Western Wildway Network Initiative as “one of the most important conservation efforts of our time.”

When barriers blocking the historic, continental travel routes of wide-ranging native species like bears and wolves no longer exist along the Western Wildway, our vision for the Spine of the Continent will be a reality. We are making progress every day, piece-by-piece, toward completion of this tri-national conservation jigsaw puzzle. For more information on the Western Wildway and The Spine of the Continent Initiative, please contact us at: info@wildlandsnetwork.org or visit westernwildway.org


WesternWildway_Partner_Map__Oct2014.pdf5.12 MB