Tales of our progress, with your help
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Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative


August 31, 2021

You are part of the positive narrative for nature.

When was the last time you heard a good story? One that made you teary-eyed from laughing (or crying), filled with joy, or so fired up you felt compelled to take action?

We believe in the power of storytelling. Though Y2Y’s work is grounded in science, conservation is people-powered and therefore, also rooted in stories waiting to be unearthed.

There are the stories we tell about nature, and the stories nature tells us. People from many diverse cultures across the Yellowstone to Yukon region, including Indigenous Peoples, have long relied on learning and teaching others about our relationship with nature through storytelling.

Seeing, hearing and experiencing the complexity of ecosystems through different mediums — whether a beautiful painting, moving film or in a podcast — is an important part of strengthening that inherent connection we have with the places we live in and play.

When you share your stories on issues impacting wildlife and places, you speak to both the head and the heart and move others to be a voice for the voiceless. That’s one critical way you are supporting our work.

Read on for some of the voices and work helping ensure the story of our shared planet has a happy ending.

The Twin Sisters (Klinse-za) mountains are seen in the background with the words 'Caribou Homeland' as the text overlay

A vision realized: The story of standing up for caribou

New short film highlights the connection between preserving mountain caribou and Indigenous culture in northern British Columbia

Recovering mountain caribou in northern British Columbia has been a journey — one that has taken many years and a tremendous amount of work to achieve, especially on the part of local Indigenous communities. Sharing the story of these incredible efforts has given rise to change along the way.

"It was 16 caribou that sparked this epic journey,” said Naomi Owens-Beek, speaking about caribou recovery efforts during our July 7 online premiere of the short film Caribou Homeland. "Humans caused the decline of the caribou, and as stewards of the land we felt it was our obligation to help this species."

Naomi is a member of, and Treaty Rights and Environmental Protection Director for, Saulteau First Nations. She has helped lead caribou recovery efforts in Treaty 8 traditional territory for nearly a decade, and narrates the story of saving mountain caribou in Caribou Homeland.

Due to Indigenous-led conservation efforts, including the maternal penning program, and a historic partnership agreement unfolding, there are now around 112 caribou in the Klinse-za caribou herd.

Caribou Homeland celebrates a vision realized, but also forges a path forward for saving and recovering other herds in B.C.

"This is a story of hope for mountain caribou, a story of the leadership of West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations as they stood up for treaty rights, for caribou, for the land, and brought a species back from the brink in their traditional territory," said Tim Burkhart, Y2Y’s B.C. program manager.

You are part of this story, too. We wouldn’t be where we are today without your voice, your donations and your letters of support.

We still have a way to go. Caribou and our Indigenous partners need your help moving forward. Will you lend your voice to protect more caribou habitat in B.C.?

A child wearing winter clothing is smiling and leaning over a lawn sign that says 'Defend Alberta Parks'

For mountains, marshmallows and memories

Voices for protecting Alberta's wild places, waters and wildlife matter

"What do you love most about spending time in Alberta’s parks with your family?"

That's what we asked Clara (age 9) and Paige (age 6), who live in Canmore with their mom Hilary, and their dad Jeff.

"Camping, because I get to eat marshmallows and enjoy nature," Clara responded.

"I like paddleboarding," added Paige.

Whether you remember enjoying s’mores around the campfire as a kid, or find solace in the mountains as a grown-up, these places can be where we make our most cherished memories and come to understand our role in protecting nature.

These kinds of stories — ones shared by you and thousands of others — reveal our connections to wild places. Your stories have also made a difference in reversing some decisions made in 2020 that have threatened the very places we hold close to our hearts.

This includes the Alberta government’s parks cuts announced in March 2020, proposed open-pit coal mines in the province’s sensitive Rocky Mountains and foothills, and proposed developments in the mountain town of Canmore, AB, which would hinder a continentally-important wildlife corridor for grizzly bears, wolves and other animals.

Hilary, Y2Y’s senior Alberta program manager, has been close to this rollercoaster of issues over the past year. Yet, she is hopeful for positive change moving forward.

"I have been most inspired by the way people have pulled together; especially hearing voices on this issue from disparate communities, including people who may have never spoken up on environmental issues before," says Hilary.

Because you spoke out and shared your stories...

  • Alberta reversed course on their plan to delist and close more than 175 parks.

  • The coal policy was reinstated, helping protect the eastern slopes, and a public engagement process on future coal mining in Alberta is now underway.

  • Canmore Town Council voted against two large developments that would have put wildlife corridors at risk, after several readings and an extensive six-day public hearing.

While each of these issues are distinct, the positive outcomes we have seen to date have been evidence of one thing: your stories and your voices matter greatly. But our work isn’t over yet, and it’s possible we’ll need your voices on these issues again.

Hear more from Hilary, Jeff, Clara and Paige, and see how you can stay in the loop and take action when nature needs it most — for the love of mountains, marshmallows and memories.

Y2Y's U.S. team (left to right) Jessie, Hannah, Robert and Nick

Thinking big for wildlife and people

Y2Y welcomes Robert Petty as United States program director

By supporting Y2Y, you're not only helping us make conservation happen on the ground, but also helping grow our talented team so we are best equipped to get the job done.

That’s why we are excited to introduce you to one of the newest members of Y2Y’s United States program team: Robert Petty! In June 2021, Robert joined us as U.S. program director to lead our work in the southern anchor of the Yellowstone to Yukon region.

Robert has spent his career as a conservationist, naturalist and educator. Through it all, one common thread is his dedication to connecting people with the natural world to inspire conservation action.

"One of the most powerful ways people become inspired to live a life that supports conservation is by having direct and frequent experiences in nature.

I grew up in the woods of Indiana and have always loved exploring the natural world. Birdwatching has long been a passion as well as hiking, backpacking and spending time on my land working to restore habitat with native plants; but among my favorite ways to experience the natural world is navigating the rivers, either kayaking or canoeing.

The work we do at Y2Y, and my role supporting the U.S. team, will depend entirely on working with people to engage them in helping achieve our mission. It is necessarily a collective effort to inspire whatever conservation action each can take to preserve this magnificent, vast, Rocky Mountain ecosystem."

— Robert Petty, Y2Y U.S. program director

That's just a snapshot of the conversation we had with Robert about his journey in conservation. Head to our blog for the full Q&A.

Grizzly bear painting by Erik Fremstad close-up (left) and painting of a mountain caribou by Brandon Cameron (right)

The art (and science) of conservation across the Yellowstone to Yukon region

You are helping paint a picture of healthy ecosystems and connected, protected landscapes for wildlife and people

Over Y2Y’s decades-long history, we have been graced by the talents of many artists who share our vision of an interconnected system of wild lands and waters stretching from Yellowstone to Yukon, harmonizing the needs of people with those of nature. Perhaps you are one of them!

Here, we invite you to meet some of the painters, illustrators and other creative conservationists who have shared expressions of a better future for nature and people in recent years:

Brandon Cameron, member of Saulteau First Nations, painted a vibrant caribou in celebration of the historic partnership agreement between Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations, B.C. and Canada to protect mountain caribou habitat.

Erik Fremstad spent nine months documenting the history of the grizzly bear in the form of a striking portrait of the animal. He also donated over $1,100 from sales of the painting to Y2Y.

Long-time Y2Y donor Sara Solaimanian recently shared her family’s story of how wildflowers and watercolors inspired a generational love for nature.

As you can imagine, this list is far from exhaustive.

No matter how you’re able to support our work, we’re grateful that you are helping us paint a picture of healthy ecosystems for people and wildlife across the Yellowstone to Yukon region.

Person standing with their dog on a leash overlooking a mountain vista

Four ways to enjoy nature responsibly with your conservation canine or cat

They're curious. They're cuddly. They're cunning. They're our furry adventure companions!

Dogs and cats, that is — or conservation canines and cats as we like to call them.

"Leave No Trace" is the gold standard for leaving the wild places you visit as (or better) than you found them. This also applies to the decisions you make while hitting the trails or enjoying the views with your pets.

Here are four ways you can enjoy nature while protecting the pets, wild places and wildlife you love:

  1. Leash up – Leashes save lives, including your furry friend's. Off-leash dogs can cause stress for wildlife and prompt aggression in wildlife like bears, coyotes and cougars. Wildlife then may have to be relocated or killed.
  2. Pick it up, it's your "doody" – When they gotta go, they gotta go. Just make sure to scoop the poop and dispose of it properly in a bear-resistant trash bin when available. This simple action makes the outdoors more pleasant for all and helps protect water sources, plants and wildlife habitat.
  3. Store it away – Bears probably love the enticing smell of your dog's meaty food mash. While camping in the front or back-country, store your pet’s food with yours in a bear-resistant food storage locker or in your vehicle.
  4. Know before you go – In many parts of the region, there are certain parks, protected areas and trails that don't allow dogs. Check national, provincial or state parks' websites before you head out to check for trail closures and ensure the area is pet-friendly.

Every action you take matters for the health of ecosystems across the Yellowstone to Yukon region. Some of the "petfluencers" on Instagram are already showing us how it’s done. Take Bodhi the Adventure Cat for instance, or these adorable adoptable dogs.

Does your pet already proudly wear the conservation canine or cat badge? Send us a photo or tag us on social media!

P.S. We are proud to have supported the Keep Wildlife Alive program in Banff and Canmore in Alberta over the past few years. The latest campaign hit the ground this past spring and summer, from which we sourced several of these helpful tips.

Sue and John smiling and standing in front of a sign that says 'Entering Yellowstone National Park'

Connect and protect the wild landscapes and wildlife you love, forever

Your gift for people and nature can be 'Forever Wild'

Sue and John live in Montana and have pledged a legacy gift to Y2Y. Sue told us a little about why she is a member of our Forever Wild Legacy Circle:

"I first saw a grizzly bear in Yellowstone around 21 years ago, not long after the wolves were reintroduced. I was watching a wolf when this grizzly all of a sudden came up. The size of these predators — I'd never seen anything like that before. The wolf backed off; the bison surrounded their young. It was so profound.

This intact landscape is so important — it’s a gift. We absolutely have to preserve it for future generations and do whatever we can to enable it to survive."

— Sue, Y2Y 'Forever Wild' legacy pledger

Leaving a legacy gift is a lasting way of ensuring a personal impact, and an opportunity to safeguard the wildlife and beautiful landscapes you love into the future. It will link you forever to enduring efforts to connect and protect habitat so nature and people can thrive.

Two grizzly bear cubs standing in vegetation looking toward the photographer

Grizzly bears, corridors and mountain research

Sometimes, people like to tell stories about us, sometimes about our hundreds of partners' work, and at other times we’re the ones telling the stories. Whether you’re a devoted book browser or podcast player, here are a few bits and bytes we’d recommend adding to your list:

Canadian Mountain Podcast: Mountain research through Indigenous and Western knowledge systems

How do we gain knowledge about mountain systems? Canadian Mountain Network looks at the benefits of using both Indigenous and Western approaches, and how their respective methods of understanding work together. Y2Y is involved in the Nı́o Nę P’ęnę́ project across the Mackenzie Mountains from Yukon to the Northwest Territories, which is discussed in this podcast.

Listen now

Four-Fifths a Grizzly, a riveting read by Douglas Chadwick

"Yellowstone to Yukon: can a model for interconnection save the wild? A new book shares this ambitious initiative (Y2Y) that aims to protect a 2,000-mile segment of the Continental Divide ecoregion and change how we think of conservation."

Read the excerpt in The Revelator | Buy the book from Patagonia

Emerging Environments Podcast

Hear from Y2Y’s conservation scientist Dr. Aerin Jacob and University of Northern B.C.'s Dr. Matt Mitchell in episode two on mapping ecosystem services for conservation planning in Canada.

In episode eight, enjoy this talk with Y2Y’s president and chief scientist, Dr. Jodi Hilty, on the scope of Y2Y, her contributions to international planning efforts for ecological connectivity and the nature of large-scale conservation initiatives.

One of Us: A Biologist’s Walk Among Bears, a recent book by Barrie K. Gilbert

Drawn from decades of experience, One of Us: A Biologist’s Walk Among Bears explodes myths that depict grizzlies as bloodthirsty beasts and reveals the intelligent, adaptable side of these astonishingly social animals. He also explains their pivotal role in maintaining and protecting their fragile ecosystems and pulls no punches when outlining threats to bear conservation.

Buy the book

Photo credits —
Banner: Person walking with children in forest (James Wheeler via Unsplash)
Inset photos: Caribou Homeland cover image (David Moskowitz); Y2Y's senior Alberta program manager, Hilary's, daughter (Hilary Young); Y2Y's U.S. program team (L-R) Jessie, Hannah, Robert and Nick (Nick Clarke); Grizzly bear painting by Erik Fremstad (L) and mountain caribou painting by Brandon Cameron (R); Person with dog (Adam Linnard); Sue and John, two of Y2Y's legacy pledgers, in Yellowstone (Sue M.); Two bear cubs (National Park Service)