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Yellowstone to Yukon Reserve Network


Imagine a fine Persian carpet.

And a hunting knife.

The carpet is 12x18 feet and beautiful.

We sharpen the knife to a razor edge and set to cutting the carpet into 36 equal pieces, each a rectangle, each 2x3 feet. The severing fibres squeak, like the muffled yelps of outraged Persian weavers. Never mind the weevers.

When we're finished, we measure the pieces, total them and find there are still nearly 216 square feet of carpet-like stuff. But what does it amount to? Do we have 36 nice Persian throw rugs?

No. What we have are three dozen ragged fragments, each one unravelling quickly.

from song of The Dodo,
by David Quammen, Scribner, NY 1996.

Pluie, a female wolf captured and radio-collared by ranchers in the Rockies of Alberta in the early 1990's, has changed the way we look at wildlife conservation.

Over the course of only two years, scientists followed her travels from Alberta into Montana, Idaho and on into BC, crisscrossing an area of more than 100,000 km2.

The travels of Pluie and other radio-collared animals recently highlighted a fundamental flaw in Western North American wildlife conservation: our conventional system of protected areas is too small and disjointed to meet the needs of wide-ranging species like the wolf, wolverine and grizzly bear.

Recent scientific studies tell us that wolves, grizzly bears, cougars, lynx and wolverine in the Rocky Mountains need more land to survive than anyone previously imagined. One study, by World Wildlife Fund, concluded that at least 80,000 km2 of contiguous grizzly bear habitat are needed in the Rockies to buffer the bears against the negative effects of inbreeding, disease and forest fire. Such a vast area is more than twelve times the size of Banff National Park and nine times the size of Yellowstone National Park! A large, proactive plan was needed for the Rockies--one of the last strongholds of large carnivores left in the world. In the absence of massive pristine areas, the plan needed to consider connecting existing protected areas via wildlife corridors--so animals can move between them. With that vision, a number of conservation groups and wildlife scientists began working together--to exchange information, build a map of a reserve network, and solicit support for its adoption. The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) was born.

Once in place, the Y2Y system of connected nature reserves will allow for the natural movements of wide-ranging species to:

  • Secure food and mates
  • Avoid genetic inbreeding
  • Escape from and return to areas swept by fire, disease and other disturbances


Y2Y does not propose to exclude human activity from identified corridors within the reserve network. In fact, it seeks ways in which wildlife and people can coexist to preserve what is best about the region--the wildlife populations, the diverse human communities, clean wild rivers and unsurpassed wilderness that drew many of the inhabitants to the region in the first place.

Some examples of human activity that are compatible with wildlife corridors include sustainable, low-intensity resource extraction like selective timber cutting, ranching with financial compensation for livestock lost to wildlife, and non-motorized recreation.


The International Union for the Conservation of Nature recently recognized the Y2Y Initiative as one of the leading - edge conservation efforts on the planet (IUCN 1997 World Meeting). The Initiative was also adopted into the work plans of the US Parks Service and Parks in an international agreement signed in May 1998.

For information on how Y2Y will be implemented, please see enclosed backgrounder "How Will Y2Y be Realized?". For more information on the Y2Y Initiative or any Y2Y documents, contact:

Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
Phone (403) 609-2666
Fax: (403) 609-2607

land-use compatible with wildlife movementRanching with financial compensation for livestock lost to wildlife is one of many types of land use that is compatible with the retention of open spaces for wildlife movement between protected areas.

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