Connecting the Gems
An expedition on foot to understand wildlife connectivity and the relationships between people and nature.
Two of the most intact and important ecosystems are the Greater Yellowstone and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho. Today, these two areas are essentially ecological islands of protected habitat. When wildlife can no longer migrate or disperse to new habitats, the long-term health of the population is in jeopardy. It is therefore essential that we maintain clear routes between these "gems" to ensure healthy populations of grizzly bear, wolverine, moose, mountain lion, and many other species. By traveling through the region on foot, from the point of view of the wildlife, it was our goal to gain a unique understanding of the conditions and threats to key habitats, presence of various species, current management practices, and perspectives of local people between these two ecosystems. We collected data on the choices that moving animals must make and the hazards they face, while we trekked 520 miles through some of the most remote and rugged mountains in the lower 48 states. We followed the most likely route that wolverines and grizzly bears would take through the area.