22 Jun 2011:
Rockies Wilderness Area
Sought as Buffer to Climate Change
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is recommending that 888,000 acres of public lands in Montana’s Crown of the Continent ecosystem receive federal wilderness protection
to prevent habitat loss for species most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including wolverines, bighorn sheep,
Grizzlies in the Crown of the Continent
bull trout, and grizzly bears. Drawing on the latest research on how climate change may affect these species, WCS senior conservation scientist John Weaver mapped their distribution across the Rocky Mountains from Glacier National Park to the Canadian Rockies, including prime wildlife habitats and the areas that connect them. Weaver also spent four months surveying the terrain and its wildlife on foot and on horseback. As temperatures continue to warm, he said, different species will continue to seek out suitable, year-round habitats, and it is critical to protect those ecosystems. “To help vulnerable fish and wildlife cope with new challenges, we need to build upon existing protected areas and enhance connectivity across diverse habitats,” he said. Of the 1.3 million acres of public lands in the region, Weaver recommended that 67 percent be added to the National Wilderness system, which guarantees the highest level of protection, and that 23 percent (310,000 acres) be managed to include non-motorized recreational activities.
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