ON A SOGGY SEPTEMBER AFTERNOON in southeast British Columbia, Nancy New- house swung her truck through a bank of pearl-colored fog and bounced to a halt on the shoulder of Highway 3A. Newhouse, Tom Swann, and I emerged into the cold mist, stepping carefully around the puddled ruts carved in the pullout. A convoy of logging trucks, their
beds heavy with timber, sprayed mud at our shins. Adjusting our
raingear, we began trudging north along the highway; to our left,
a screen of cedar, spruce, and Doug fir shielded the valley below.
After a hundred yards, the curtain thinned, and Newhouse stopped.
“There it is,” she said, the hood of her Nature Conservancy of
Canada raincoat pulled low over her eyes. She pointed through
the trees, toward the floor of the Creston Valley. “There’s the
corridor.” I followed her finger, ba=led. Sorry, I wanted to ask,
but where’s the corridor? I searched in vain for signage. A nondescript swath of grainfields glimmered through the shifting fog.
The land lay flat, furrowed with oats. The brown arm of a dike,
built to stave o= the floodwaters of nearby Duck Lake, wormed
across the property.
Though the land appeared mundane to my human
eye—Yellowstone it wasn’t—from a grizzly bear’s stand-
point you’d be hard-pressed to find a more important parcel in
North America. This humble polygon of farmland, dubbed the
Frog Bear Conservation Corridor, was a crucial piece in a two-
thousand-mile puzzle, a bridge that would allow isolated clusters
of Ursus arctos horribilis to mingle and mate. “This movement
corridor is well known,” Swann, Newhouse’s colleague at Nature
Conservancy of Canada, told me as raindrops pooled in his trim
white beard. “The science is clear.” That science was why NCC
had recently purchased and protected 679 acres of the Creston
Valley. Though the land’s $2.5 million price tag was steep, New-
house and Swann had help: over half the funds had come from
the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, one of the
world’s most ambitious wildlife groups.
The vision of Yellowstone to Yukon, or Y2Y, is jaw-dropping:
Its leaders espouse a continentwide network of protected areas
and corridors that would allow animals to wander unhindered
through a landscape the size of France, Spain, and the United
Kingdom combined. The organization’s advocates dream that
the e=ort will preserve migration routes for caribou and wolves,
link pockets of far-ranging creatures like wolverines, and help
animals of all sizes flee northward in the face of climate change.
The group’s totem, however, is the grizzly, whose expansive habitat requirements make it a useful umbrella for protecting other
species. If an ecosystem can support bears, it’s probably healthy
enough for everything else.
The acquisition of those 679 acres represents the apotheosis
of Y2Y’s approach to conservation, in which habitat connectivity
ART BY MIKE REAGAN
Stitching new kinds of habitat into the Yellowstone to Yukon wildlife corridor