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- Published on Amazon.com
I first heard the phrase "wilderness corridor" when I lived in California's Bay Area in the early 1990s. At that time, the concept was used in conjunction with a bike trail linking the entire Bay Area from Antioch to Oakland. One of the benefits of such a trail, , we were told, would be allowing wildlife to roam freely throughout the suburbs.
I don't recall how that particular issue played out, but the idea was--and is--a good one. Animals don't understand or follow man-drawn boundaries. They roam in territory that most likely has been roamed by their ancestors for thousands of years. Animals are guided by instinct, and man's attempts to limit them to national parks and protected areas is doomed to failure.
And so the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, or Y2Y, was born. In her Publisher's Notes, Helen Cherullo explains the concept as a "dream of a small group of biologists and conservationists--to link the existing parks in the United States and Canada with connected corridors into one intact ecosystem," stretching from Yellowstone National Park, along the Rocky Mountains and through the Yukon. It is 460,000 square miles of untouched land--the last undisturbed parcel of land in the two countries, according to Cherullo, extending 1,990 miles from Cokeville, Wyo., to the Arctic Circle.
This area of land, the Y2Y Ecoregion, is the home of grizzlies, 118 fish species, 10,000 golden eagles and hundreds of bald eagles, to mention but a few of its inhabitants. It is the traditional land of 31 indigenous Native or First Nation (in Canada) peoples, who have inhabited the area for more than 10,500 years. Less than 3 million people occupy the land at this time, but that is changing rapidly.
Florian Schulz, a photojournalist who has long championed conservation, tells the reader that the United States and Canada are making the same mistakes his native Europe did--all of that continent's "true wilderness" is gone, cut down for human use and cleared to develop man's idea of civilization. It's a mistake, Schulz says, that should not be repeated.
So he rounded up some of the world's most noted scientists: geneticist David Suzuki, wildlife biologist Douglas H. Chadwick, and biologist Karsten Heuer, as well as authors and journalists, to document the vast resources, the wildlife and the dangers of approaching development. Interspersed with stunning photography and Schulz's observations, this oversize art book is both visually stunning and a good read.
While obviously a conservation treatise, the book is so filled with magnificent anecdotes, facts, scientific studies and theories, as well as marvelous pictures of Nature and her children in all their glory, that one cannot just plop it on the coffee table and forget it, as we do with most "art" books. This one begs to be read, to be perused carefully. The photos call for our attention and admiration, the stories and concerns of the writers compel us to pay attention and take a stand.
The current practice of isolating specific areas as "nature preserves," according to biologists Robert H. MacArthur and Edward O. Wilson, actually contributes to extinction. In a book they published more than 40 years ago, they proved that "islands" of nature--small areas kept separate from other small areas--leads to insularity, which is detrimental to biodiversity and ecological health. Small "islands" harbor fewer species and fewer individuals of those species, and these small populations are more vulnerable to climate change, drought, inbreeding and food supply failure.
David Quammen, noted conservation journalist, points out the problems with bear management in the Lower 48 as an example of insularity leading to extinction.
This concept was one of the precursors to the Y2Y concept.
There's not room in this column to summarize the book--it's something you have to read, more than once, to fully digest. The overall idea of connectedness and attachment to nature is captured eloquently by Suzuki in the Foreword.
"For most of our 10,000-year existence, our species, Homo sapiens, lived in an intimate relationship with the natural world. ... predictable regularities were collected into a worldview, the sum of all observations, insights and speculations, in which everything, including the past, present and future, was part of a seamless whole. ... In such a world of elaborate interconnection, people understood that everything they did had consequences and therefore every deliberate act was laden with responsibility."
The words of all the contributors are as eloquent, as passionate, and as though-provoking.
But it is Schulz's photographs that catch the reader, mesmerizing us with the vision of mountains and lakes and rivers and animals. Schulz captures not only the images hew ants us to see, but imbues them with life: a grizzly eating a root, so close we can smell its breath; logging activities in British Columbia almost cause us to sneezed from the dust thrown up; the purple majesty of Mt. McKinley at dawn causes us to stop breathing for the sheer wonder of the beauty.
We humans are visual animals, so we will remember the images long after we've forgotten the text. But the views of this pristine land and its denizens should stay with us forever, and hopefully, we will embrace the Y2Y concept so we can see the actual places Schulz has immortalized in person, rather than as faded memories in dusty books, years after the original has been destroyed.
Readers interested in learning more about the Y2Y Conservation Initiative can visit [...] for information. Florian Schulz's images can be seen at [...]