Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
Y2Y Connections February 2022 newsletter
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Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative


March 01, 2022

You are inspiring change and making a difference one step at a time.

As most of us have experienced over the past few years, the conservation journey can also present us with the unexpected. We have to keep doing what we can one piece at a time to keep landscapes, waters, wildlife and ourselves healthy for many years to come.

Conservation requires being flexible and finding opportunities. By seeking positive change, adapting our approaches as the context changes, discovering new ways of doing the work, and taking time to be inspired by nature, we can make sure conservation endures.

That’s what this newsletter is all about; because what we do today will affect many tomorrows. Sometimes, big or small successes can take decades — and they often rely on the everyday actions of people like you.

We can never say it enough: We are grateful for all you do to support our ongoing efforts to help wildlife and people thrive.

As always, we hope what we share here gives you even a small glance at the lasting impact you have on this work.

A fox with its head in the snow and paws up in the air in search of prety

Learning from the wintry ways of the wild

Species finding ways to survive with snow

In the winter when temperatures can chill you to the bone, frost coats your eyelashes and venturing outdoors means layering up like an onion, do you ever wonder how wild species manage?!

The ways animals and plants adapt to, survive and thrive in snowy spaces are amazing. Think about some of the species found in the Yellowstone to Yukon region:

  • As food becomes sparse, grizzly bears prepare for seasonal slumber by digging dens on the sides of slopes or in the base of big trees. Their metabolism drops so low that a den with good drainage in an undisturbed spot helps them make it until spring.
  • Female wolverines need deep snow and solitude to den and produce healthy babies. They rely on cold temperatures to keep snowpack around through spring.
  • Other carnivores like foxes and coyotes know there's a buffet of tiny rodents under the snow. They can sniff out their next meal and pounce into the snow to attempt a catch.
  • In the winter, mountain caribou depend on horsehair lichen found draping from tree branches. They reach it using their big hooves to stand atop deep snow.
  • Lynx have evolved to endure cold, snowy winters. Their wide snowshoe-style paws help them stabilize on snow.

There’s much to learn about how species survive in the snowy months, especially as the climate changes (more about that in this blog post.) There’s also lots of work to be done over time to protect the habitats they rely on for food, mates, and movement in snow, rain or shine.

One of the ways Y2Y adapts to and weathers the storms through the proverbial winters of conservation is thanks to our monthly donors. Like the lynx, your monthly gifts provide us with the secure footing we need to stay on our toes and keep on protecting the landscapes that wildlife and people will forever rely on.

A person holds a small tree in both their hands extending towards the camera. They are wearing a yellow safety vest, and have more small trees on each side of them.

Indigenous-led efforts saving the ecosystems people & wildlife depend on

Y2Y partners in Alberta and British Columbia leading work to protect sensitive species and landscapes are an inspiration to us all

Recently, the Y2Y team gathered online to celebrate and recognize Indigenous-led efforts to defend culturally significant landscapes and wildlife.

We awarded one Ted Smith Award for Conservation Collaboration to West Moberly First Nations and Saulteau First Nations, and another to Latasha Calf Robe, Blood Tribe member and founder of the Niitsítapi Water Protectors.

Despite many challenges brought on by the past few years, these 2021 awardees endured and are making lasting change for people and wildlife. They are a tremendous inspiration to Y2Y’s work and we are grateful to continue working alongside them.

Coexistence catch-up

A closer look at projects protecting animals and people

Achieving impactful conservation outcomes isn't quick or easy. We are grateful to partner with folks who help wildlife and people share space, work that amplifies and supports the Y2Y mission. Catch up on some recent coexistence projects we have supported with your help!

A black bear perched in a tree eating off one of its branches looks down at the camera

1) Fruitful measures to protect bears

British Columbia is known for its bountiful fruit trees. These trees are also a juicy attraction for wildlife, which can lead to human-wildlife conflicts.

In 2021, wildlife scientist Clayton Lamb ran an Elk Valley Carnivore Coexistence pilot project to see if removal of some of the more tempting trees would lower the risks for humans and wildlife alike — usually a costly task.

In this project partly supported by a Y2Y partner grant, Clayton worked with WildSafeBC to provide subsidies for people to remove fruit trees known to attract bears into town and swap them with non-fruit or nut-bearing trees. Seven landowners participated and... success! There is now a waitlist to join the program in 2022.


2) 'Zapping' away human-bear conflict

Bears are always searching for food. Can you blame them? These big creatures cover lots of ground across the Rockies and foothills of Alberta. Imagine the required calorie intake!

When they discover good smells (from hens to an orchard of apples) they'll do what it takes to get to it — that is, unless something makes it unworthy of the effort.

Making food unavailable to bears through the use of electric fencing and other tools can not only help keep people safe, but also reduce the likelihood of property damage and number of bears relocated or killed. It's a long-term solution that’s a win-win for all.

Follow along in this new video as Jay Honeyman, human-wildlife conflict specialist, pays a visit to an alpaca ranch, 'celebrity' hens and others to see how the installation of electric fencing has paid off.

WATCH: ZAPPED! Keeping bears and people safe in southern Alberta >>

A wolf in a field with horses blurred in the background

3) Home on the range for carnivores and cattle

Naomi Louchouarn with the University of Wisconsin's Carnivore Coexistence Lab was one of Y2Y’s 2019 partner grantees. She studied an Alberta rancher's non-lethal 'range riding' efforts to see if they were effective in protecting cattle from being hunted by wolves, grizzly bears and other large carnivores.

After nearly three years gathering data from remote cameras, tracks, scat, fur and other wildlife signs, the study’s initial results show it's working! No cattle attacks or kills were observed during the 2020 field study.

Louchouarn says range riding works not only through the riders' presence (usually on horseback) but also because they know what wildlife signs to look for, and understand the cattle's behavior. For example, when the herd becomes stressed, riders can alert the rancher to calm the herd down and make them less vulnerable to predators. Importantly, the rancher must also proactively manage the cattle's stress levels.

"Trying to prevent conflicts by killing large carnivores isn't proven to be cheaper, more effective or a long-term solution," says Naomi. "People will and should be able to make their livings in this region while sharing space with wildlife. It's imperative that methods for responsible practices in carnivore country are developed and supported by strong science."


Wildlife overpass in Banff National Park during winter

Inspiring bold moves to connect wildlife and people

We need to get moving on crossing structures for connectivity

Busy roads are serious barriers to wildlife connectivity. Whether animals are killed or seriously injured trying to cross, or deterred from crossing altogether, their ability to seek food, reproduce and adapt to seasonal and climatic changes is impacted.

For decades, Y2Y has advocated for wildlife over-and underpasses to help keep wildlife connected.

People like you have been integral to that journey — raising your voices, investing in our work and showing your relentless support. That has resulted in 117 wildlife crossings, giving the Yellowstone to Yukon region more such structures than anywhere in the world; but our work is not yet done!

Our goal is to normalize consideration of wildlife needs — which, of course, also boosts human safety — within highway planning. After years of laying the groundwork, new partnerships are now inspiring bold opportunities to further enhance wildlife crossing infrastructure.

To foster connections for wildlife, we need to connect people. Y2Y recently hosted a webinar that took that premise to a new level.

Held just as bipartisan infrastructure legislation in the U.S. was setting aside $350M to support wildlife crossings over the next five years, the transboundary session shared a vision, progress and next steps from experts working to advance safe wildlife passage across the four busiest major highways in the region: Interstate 90 and Highway 93 in Montana, and Highways 1 and 3 in Canada.

Panels covered Indigenous-led transportation work and people’s connection to wildlife and the land, as well as federal, state and provincial government perspectives and bringing science into action. Those attending showed energy and optimism, and recognition that conserving wide-ranging wildlife requires us to think on a large landscape scale.

It’s time to seize the momentum. There’s an incredible opportunity for Canada and the U.S. to work together on actions that support continental-scale connectivity. This webinar emphasized the shared excitement for real change, and Y2Y is playing a key role.

This one webinar presented the culmination of more than 25 years of work, relationships and research that was made possible because of donors like you. This is an important moment in time, and your continued support ensures we are there to help drive it forwards.

Supporter spotlight

You are supporting enduring conservation of our shared planet

People like you from all over the world believe in Y2Y's big, transboundary vision — because, among other reasons, you know how important conserving large landscapes is for the long-term health of people and wildlife.

We are continuously inspired by your stories of support. Here are two of Y2Y’s donors' reasons for why they stand behind Y2Y’s work from "near" and "far."

Maureen B. - Québec, Canada

Maureen lives in a rural area north of Québec City and has been donating to Y2Y for more than 15 years. She was first inspired to learn more about Y2Y when she read the book Being Caribou by former Y2Y president, Karsten Heuer.

"I'm very attached to the Yukon — I've been going there yearly for the past 15 years because I love nature, wildlife and the people who live there. I have also visited Yellowstone often. Just knowing there’s this long corridor connecting these places and making it easier for wildlife to move is amazing. Everything is interconnected.

You can support a conservation movement no matter how far you live from where the work is happening. Y2Y invests a lot in protecting habitat, to keep the conservation movement going. Keeping species that need large home ranges like grizzly bears and wolves around for generations to come is just one reason I'm drawn to support Y2Y's work."

Y2Y donor Maureen standing on a slope looking towards the camera smiling. Behind her is a valley in the Yukon, Canada.

Photo: Maureen in Yukon Territory, Canada

Marcella W., Colorado, United States

After learning about our work in 2018, Marcella says she followed Y2Y's large landscape footsteps on a smaller scale in her northern Colorado neighborhood.

"Y2Y has inspired me to notice a threat in my own neighborhood. From the Y2Y model I learned how to approach the problem, share the importance of conservation, and inspire change elsewhere.

In a neighborhood effort we sought to preserve habitat, protect an endangered plant, and advocate for appropriate use of our lakeshore. In 2020 I facilitated a process to develop a management plan that brought the natural environment to the fore. Today that plan serves as a guide for managing a lake and shoreline area as a cohesive ecosystem for plants, animals and people.

In the first year, we removed invasive species, cleaned up debris, documented migratory bird pathways and monitored over 2,000 stems of the rare Gentian flower. We were able to reverse 20 years of neglect along the shoreline. Now, we are implementing an education program in the neighborhood that we hope will model ecosystem management for other neighborhoods and communities.

Y2Y has been an inspiration for me in this entire effort. It's one baby ecosystem at a time, right?!"

Six people standing in front of a large garbage bin smiling. Y2Y donor Marcella is second from the left. Behind them are fall trees and a house.

Photo: Marcella (second from left) and neighbors doing a shoreline clean-up

Let us know your story of inspiration and what you are doing in your own backyard to support nature. Send us an email!

A vast mountain valley during low-light with wildflowers in the foreground

Putting in the time to protect a 'global gem'

You are part of Y2Y’s 25-year progress story

When big nature news comes out, such as the release of exciting new research or a new protected area, it's important to reflect on all the time and people it took to make it a reality.

In late 2021, a long-awaited research paper came out detailing how Y2Y’s collaborative conservation work has made a measurable difference on the ground over more than two decades.

The findings show a more than 80 percent growth in overall protection across the Yellowstone to Yukon region from 1993 to 2018.

This is one of the most intact mountain regions in the world, which means years of collective work, and your support all along the way, are protecting a global gem.

"With so much happening in the world, people need hope," says Dr. Jodi Hilty, Y2Y’s president and chief scientist and co-author on the paper. "There are solutions for conserving nature out there that science shows are working. Y2Y’s large landscape approach is one of them."

The path for Y2Y’s audacious vision has been uncertain at times; but together we have been figuring it out.

To help this work endure for generations to come, Hilty emphasizes that we must put Indigenous-led conservation at the forefront in both the United States and Canada.

"Around 12 million acres of new Indigenous Protected Areas have been agreed upon in the Yellowstone to Yukon region,” says Hilty. "Y2Y has been supporting Indigenous communities and leadership in achieving official designation on these areas."

According to the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, "Indigenous-led conservation works because it honors the relationship between people and the land. It recognizes that caribou herds, salmon runs, and songbird nesting grounds benefit from sustained, respectful care." We agree.

For more than 25 years, you have been part of a long-term effort to care for and protect the landscapes that wildlife and people rely on. Thank you for believing in our vision, and for continuing to lend your voice to what nature needs most.

Stump Kitchen's Alexis Hillyard (left) smiling and waving at the camera, with Y2Y's summer outreach intern Karambir on the right. They are in a backyard covered in fall leaves. There is text that says "Y2Y & Stump Kitchen" and a "play" button.

Finding inspiration in your backyard

You don’t have to go far to experience nature's wonders

Y2Y was thrilled to partner with Alexis Hillyard in 2021 to inspire people to share a deeper connection with nature, and with each other. Alexis runs a popular YouTube channel called Stump Kitchen, on which she aims to celebrate all the beautiful ways people move through the world.

Alexis was born with a limb difference, which she calls her "stump." On her channel, she cooks tasty vegan and gluten-free recipes and explores her home of Edmonton, Alberta, all while inspiring others with limb differences to not let anything stop them from doing what they love.

In this video, she met up with Y2Y’s summer outreach intern, Karambir, to make birdseed bars (for humans) and go birding around the neighborhood. You don’t have to be an avid backcountry adventurer or live in a mountain town to experience nature's wonders. Explore your backyard, listen to the sounds of nature and enjoy!

Why we partnered with Stump Kitchen >>

Dr. E.O. Wilson picture on the left, smiling at the camera, and a black-and-white photo of Dr. Thomas Lovejoy on the right, smiling, pictured with a bird, likely perched on his arm

Conservation movement loses two giants

We appreciate you taking a moment to recognize and remember two pillars of conservation who passed away in late 2021. Not only were Dr. E.O. Wilson and Dr. Thomas Lovejoy incredible voices for conservation, they helped form the foundational science that guides Y2Y’s work.

Often hailed as "the father of biodiversity", Dr. Wilson made several contributions to science throughout his life. However, perhaps the most significant was his exploration and development of the theory of island biogeography in the 1960s. This concept is the core of what Y2Y does: the idea that isolated "islands" of habitat are not enough to maintain biodiversity. This later lead to wildlife corridors becoming a key conservation tool to increase connectivity between habitat islands.

An innovative conservation biologist, it was Dr. Lovejoy who coined the term "biological diversity" in 1980. While much of his work took place in the Amazon, his research there had a global impact. He played a key role in establishing the field of conservation biology itself. This set the stage for strengthening the scientific case for understanding the impacts of fragmentation and corridors and why landscape scale conservation is needed.

Y2Y’s president and chief scientist Dr. Jodi Hilty says, "In some ways it is daunting to have such visionaries pass on. Their work impacted not only me, but so many others who will carry on the torch to ensure that this beautiful planet conserves life in all its forms into the future."

Findings and research by Drs. Wilson and Lovejoy formed a movement and informed action. Both scientists were incredible advocates for nature. Their legacy, influence and gifts live on through our work and we are thankful for their curiosity and contributions to the world.

Watch a short film from 2019 about island biogeography featuring Dr. Wilson and Dr. Hilty: From Ants to Grizzlies: A General Rule for Saving Biodiversity >>

Photo credits —
Banner: Elk calf (Shutterstock)
Inset photos:
Fox dives for its prey under the snow (National Park Service / Neal Herbert); Land restoration in and around northern British Columbia on Treaty 8 lands (Ryan Dickie); Black bear in tree (Shutterstock); Wolf and horses (Shutterstock); Wildlife overpass in Banff National Park (Shutterstock); Y2Y donor Maureen B. in the Yukon (supplied photo); Y2Y donor Marcella W. (2nd from left) with neighbors doing shoreline clean-up (supplied photo); Valley in Glacier National Park (National Park Service photo); from left, Dr. Wilson (photo by Jim Harrison used under CC BY 2.5) and Dr. Lovejoy (photo by Jerry Freilich used under CC BY-SA 4.0)