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Bits of good news for the earth

Review: “Rewilding Earth: Best of 2019,” eds. John Davis and Susan Morgan, The Rewilding Institute/Essex Editions

The Rewilding Earth Institute is an organization of conservation activists based out of New Mexico but whose concerns cross the globe. The organization’s publication “Rewilding Earth: Best of 2019” highlights conservation projects and their progress. One project particularly highlighted in their 2019 anthology is the Adirondack Wildways initiative.

One chapter celebrates the purchase of the Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve by the Wilderness Trust. The wilderness preserve serves as a corridor between the Lake Champlain valley/Split Rock Wildway and the larger Adirondack Park. The 2,400-acre property, with its ponds and rugged terrain, will foster populations of otters, falcons and other native wildlife. Says author Jon Liebowitz, executive director of the Northeast Wilderness Trust, “The act of rewilding is to give land back to wildlife and wildlife back to the land.”

Editor John Davis also contributes a chapter on the larger project of connecting wildways in the Northeast, including the removal of a dam on the Boquet River, reopening spawning grounds for salmon and other fish that use the tributary, and access to Lake Champlain. He noted that trackers in the Split Rock Wildway are commonly finding the prints of bobcat, fisher, otter, mink and coyote. He also mentions the Algonquin to Adirondack Collaborative, working to create wildlife crossings of major east-west highways along that corridor. He notes, however, “Despite much good land-saving work … the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada continue to be starved of their top carnivores, and thus suffer from over-browsing and related trophic cascades.” “Trophic cascades” are the side effect of an imbalance in species types, which can disrupt food chains and cause overabundance of certain species, further disrupting the ecosystem, making it susceptible to disease and destruction.

A third chapter further explores the issue of wildlife crossings, and their possibilities and limitations in the Adirondacks. Wildlife crossings are passageways built over or under busy roadways, allowing animals to cross safely. Banff National Park in Canada has had great success with its approach of fencing and bridges and tunnels. Author Kevin Webb notes that from 2009 to 2018, animals were implicated in over 40,000 police-reported accidents in the Adirondacks, over 6% of which resulted in injury or death of the driver or passnger, and no doubt a much higher percentage in the death of the animal. He reviews several target sites for crossings and how they might be effective.

The reader is left with the dual sense that much is possible and much is still to be done as we continue to learn how to be better stewards of the land and better partners to our fellow denizens of these Adirondacks and this earth.

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