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, bull trout, and grizzly bears. Drawing on the latest research on how climate change may affect these species, WCS senior 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 67 percent be added to the National Wilderness system, which guarantees the highest level of protection, and 23 percent be managed to include non-motorized recreational activities.