Idaho's High Divide provides a wildlife corridor for animals that need plenty of room to roam. Keeping it healthy and intact helps cushion against the effects of climate change, increased off-road vehicle use and fragmented land management.
In the Northern Rockies, bears, wolverines, lynx, elk, pronghorn antelope and other wildlife depends on safe passage between wild, relatively intact ecosystems like Central Idaho, Greater Yellowstone and the Crown of the Continent. Idaho’s High Divide, a mix of mountains, sagebrush and mighty forests, is a vitally important corridor for them—especially as climate change shifts temperature and precipitation, forcing species to move and adapt across this landscape.
Work we are doing
Idaho's High Divide. Credit: Mason Cummings.
Ensuring habitat connectivity
One of the most important functions of protecting wildlands is providing swaths of land that link different wildlife populations, strengthening so-called “habitat connectivity.” Connectivity allows for a more diverse mix of genetic material across a group of animals, resulting in stronger, healthier and more adaptable populations. This will be especially important as the effects of climate change cause temperature and precipitation shifts, forcing species to find new homes. The Wilderness Society is working to ensure that ecosystems in Central Idaho, Greater Yellowstone and the Crown of the Continent are afforded this kind of connectivity. Idaho’s High Divide region benefits wildlife like bears, wolverines, lynx, elk, pronghorn and more.
Revising land management plans
The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are revising land and resource management plans for millions of acres in Idaho’s High Divide area. These plans will chart the future of this landscape for decades. The Wilderness Society sees this as an opportunity to study the relatively intact and unique landscape and expected effects of climate change in the Northern Rockies. We are working with partners to devise a plan ensuring that habitat connectivity remains strong even in the face of climate change.
Working with federal agencies and local groups, we aim to sustain and protect connectivity between Central Idaho and Greater Yellowstone, and in the process build a model for how to do the same in other large landscapes.
Pronghorn antelope. Credit: Abhijit Patil, flickr.
Mapping the values of the land
Effective conservation depends on assessing the things we hope to protect in a given landscape. The Wilderness Society has completed an analysis of the “wildland values” of Idaho’s High Divide, quantifying and mapping its ecological conditions and how human activity has impacted them. Our report serves as a valuable starting point for discussing what makes this place special and what must be done to protect it.
The Wilderness Society is engaged in collaborative efforts to improve connectivity between Central Idaho and Greater Yellowstone, working with a number of local, regional and national conservation groups and other participating stakeholders.
Wilderness is a precious resource with many human, natural and economic benefits that we need to protect.
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