We can't save wild spaces without you
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Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative


August 12, 2022

What do migrating flocks of birds, herds of elk, or bighorn sheep, and impactful conservation efforts have in common?

Not a trick question! Just as conservation wins and progress benefits from us working together, for these animals to get where they need to go, together is better.

Since 1993, Y2Y’s mission is connecting and protecting habitat so people and nature can thrive. These stories provide a glimpse of how you make this possible.

Onward and over: The Stoney Nakoda Exshaw Wildlife Arch is going up

Y2Y supporters like you are helping build a system of safety in the Bow Valley and beyond

The newest addition to the network of more than 117 safe animal crossings in the Yellowstone to Yukon region will be the Stoney Nakoda Exshaw Wildlife Arch on the Trans-Canada Highway at Bow Valley Gap, just east of Canmore, Alberta. This project (at long last!) broke ground in April 2022 — something we and many of you celebrated.

Right now, it's like most other construction sites: heavy machinery rumbling down dusty paths, concrete being poured like cake batter into footings, and steel fences lining the road.

But, as you know, it's much more than another construction project.

This wildlife overpass is a critical pathway for wildlife trying to reach good habitat to forage in. It's the result of more than a decade of advocacy, science and support from thousands of people like you. This project provides hope, optimism and good news to uplift us.

It's also a step in the right direction in respecting and realizing First Nations' Treaty rights.

And it’s proof of the power of people coming together, often with different perspectives, to do something that benefits people and wildlife.

Not only is this the first wildlife overpass in Alberta to be built outside Banff National Park — the leading network of wildlife crossings in the world — it’s another stepping stone to making highways safer, and connecting landscapes in the Bow Valley and beyond.

Read more about why this overpass, and your support, matters.

A group of people walk along fencing posts, to the right of the Trans-Canada Highway, near the construction site of the new Stoney Nakoda Exshaw Wildlife Arch east of Canmore, Alberta. The scenery includes mountains, forests and greenery.

Cause for celebration

This is how support from folks like you and voices from a diverse community of people leads to shovels in the ground. In times when it can feel daunting to bring about positive change, and even unachievable at times, we hope this news helps you feel connected to big-picture solution — and to a network of people working to help wildlife stay connected.

Knowing how far we've come, we hope that you can crack a smile and think, wow, I helped make that happen. Thank you.

Y2Y president and chief scientist Jodi Hilty speaking in a segment of CNN International's Call to Earth documentary. The Bow Valley is seen blurred in the background.

Wildlife crossings go international

Y2Y’s work on wildlife connectivity in the Bow Valley was part of CNN International's half-hour-long Call to Earth documentary, entitled Protecting Nature’s Highways.

"When Y2Y started in 1993, there were exactly zero wildlife crossing structures [in the Yellowstone to Yukon region]. Today, there are 117," said Y2Y’s president and chief scientist Dr. Jodi Hilty during an interview with CNN's guest editor.

You're helping put Y2Y on the world map to expand awareness on habitat connectivity during a pivotal time in human history.

Up-close shot of a black bear snout sniffing a small BearVault canister

Y2Y and BearVault team up on ways to share space with bears

What we do today to connect and protect grizzly bears' habitat — with our partners' and your help — gives hope for a brighter future for people, bears and other wildlife that share landscapes. Using the right tools to coexist with bears is one important step.

Bears have a really good sense of smell, which is why they often get into unsecured attractants, such as food, and can become habituated. The ending to that story is typically not a happy one — but the solutions are in our hands.

Y2Y recently partnered with BearVault, a company that makes bear-resistant canisters for carrying and storing food, scented products, and anything else that might catch a bear's attention in the backcountry. Read our guest post about coexisting with grizzlies on their blog.

A glimpse into the wildness of Yellowstone

You are helping keep wildlife habitat healthy

In June, members of the Y2Y volunteer board of directors had an opportunity to visit Yellowstone National Park.

They saw firsthand how the animals in the park interact with one another — how they work together so they can all thrive on the landscape.

To see a wolf and her pups, a group of Y2Y board members are gathered to share scopes and binoculars, watching as the wolves stayed near their den.To see a wolf and her pups, board members shared scopes and binoculars, watching as the wolves stayed near their den.

For example, a bear and her cubs only feet away from elk resting atop a mountain, or a bird flitting past that pauses to collect fur from a bison's winter coat rubbed-off to add to their nest.

Bison are landscape engineers. The herd grazing in the same areas during a season increases the recycling of nutrients and the productivity of the plants. This benefits herbivores in the park, which means more herbivores for predators to feed on, in turn, feeding plant life.

In the distance, bison are grazing on bright green vegetation in Yellowstone National Park. There is a mountain range in the background.As the bison graze in the valley, there are other species keeping them company. The whole area is teeming with wildlife that coexist and often benefit each other.

When elk flourish in numbers, they will split their herds, bringing changes to the forests and landscape as they venture into new areas. From bighorn sheep to beavers and hawks, each of these animals has a role to play in the survival of the other species.

These animals don’t only stay in the Park, they do their best to navigate other wild landscapes, travelling far beyond the Park's invisible borders.

Keeping wildlife connected and protected throughout the Yellowstone to Yukon region means more space for these animals to roam, feed, and breed — and we couldn't do it without you.

Y2Y 2022 storygather Josephine sitting on a rock with her child and partner. They are smiling at the camera. In the background is a partially snowy mountain valley in Jasper National Park.

Rainbow colors and vast landscapes: A reflection on Jasper Pride

Y2Y 2022 story gatherer, Josephine, shares the importance of inclusivity in mountain towns and national parks

On the heels of June, Pride Month, we’re sharing Josephine Boxwell’s experience at Jasper Pride and Ski Festival — an annual celebration that happens in April to take advantage of winter weather. She writes about why being able to celebrate the event in a national park is particularly special for her family. Here’s a short excerpt from her story:

"Running each April since 2009, Jasper Pride and Ski Festival features numerous events, colorful cupcakes, sparkly beer and plenty of community support. It is Alberta’s second-largest pride celebration and the only gay ski week in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

My family lives in a small Alberta hamlet. We’re more at home in nature than in most urban environments. We appreciate the importance of big city pride parades, but for us, being able to celebrate pride in a national park is particularly special because these are the landscapes that mean the most to us. The mountains are where we go to camp and hike and feel re-energized by the great outdoors."

Josephine is one of Y2Y’s 2022 story gatherers. These four people share personal stories, memories and places related to the precious landscapes of Alberta’s Eastern Slopes, often perspectives that are underrepresented.

Do you have a story you'd like to share, or a unique perspective and experience on the landscapes of the Yellowstone to Yukon region? We'd love to hear from you! Email us at [email protected].

Side view of a grizzly bear looking towards the camera, standing in bright green grass.

From valley bottoms to mountain tops, your support adds up for nature

Thank you for keeping the pressure off landscapes, waters and wildlife in Alberta

Remember when the Alberta government put parks on the chopping block in 2019? Then opened the Eastern Slopes to new coal mines shortly after? What about when significant development proposals were resurfaced in a critical Bow Valley wildlife corridor?

Continuing to take from nature without tangible actions to preserve its values does not align with a planet facing climate change and biodiversity loss.

Picture an avalanche: Experts say one can be triggered by even one small push wherever snow layers pile up on slopes. As with the lead-up to an avalanche, every decision big or small on how we decide to manage lands and waters in Alberta adds up — but we don’t have to reach a point of no return.

Your support also adds up; and, with that support, we can push for policies and decisions that benefit nature and people in the long term. Decisions that, before they are put into action, consider the overall impact they could have over time.

Recently, Y2Y and ALCES Land-Use released new research on cumulative effects in the Bow Valley. This modeling, which people like you helped fund, was done to better understand how development and recreation impact grizzly bear movement in this critical wildlife corridor.

The modeling shows that grizzly bear movement has already been impacted. Bears and other animals are looking for ways to get around extensive human activity in this narrow valley; but as it stands, they face huge challenges and barriers. The risk and occurrence of human-wildlife conflict has, and could continue to go up.

But there's good news: Our research shows that carefully planned development and well managed recreation could significantly reduce how much that risk increases. Solutions are available, but we need to come together — sometimes even making tough decisions — to get there.

We need your continued help to put those solutions into action. Consider becoming a monthly donor to help us bring forward sound science for smart decisions, and respond to emerging issues.

Connecting kids with conservation

6 books and resources we love for kids about wildlife, conservation science, and more

Human health and nature conservation benefit when we learn about, connect with, and spend time outdoors — no matter our age!

Books and other learning resources complement this time spent in nature. Together, these different ways of learning can help foster our drive to protect the places and animals we have gotten to know through our experiences.

Add these books and resources to the fall reading list:

1. Make Way for Animals: A World of Wildlife Crossings

Why this book is on our list: Bryn (age 3) who is Y2Y program manager, Adam’s, son, says: "I like the workers and the construction. And the overpass that keeps animals safe — big ones and small ones, too."

2. We Are Water Protectors

Why this book is on our list: Written by Indigenous author, Carole Lindstrom, this book highlights the importance and significance of clean water. At Y2Y, we work to connect and protect landscapes to keep headwaters healthy.

3. The Wolves of Yellowstone: A Rewilding Story

Why this book is on our list: Y2Y senior donor relations manager, Renee's, daughter says: "I love learning about wolves and this is a beautiful story. The pictures are also really pretty!"

4. Stand Like A Cedar

Why this book is on our list: This book asks readers what do you hear when you are in nature? This resonated with Anya (age 11), who is Y2Y donor relations co-ordinator, Robin's, daughter. Anya says: "I like to go out in nature and then close my eyes and draw what I hear. When I hear something, I am taking in nature, then it comes out as my drawing. I feel more connected to nature when I do this."

5. CBC Kids News

For example, this explainer on Indigenous-led conservation for recovering caribou in British Columbia.

6. Follow a Raindrop

Why this book is on our list: Y2Y's accounting coordinator, Chi, says: "This is one of our favorite family books (especially me!) We had questions about how water systems work on the earth, and this book gave us the answer easily and clearly. My son said 'What? the water we use can’t be replaced? It's an eye-opener!' "

P.S. Are you an educator looking to bring more conservation to your classroom? One great resource is the Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley's 'Future Leaders' lesson plans, which explore topics of wildlife and climate change, with an emphasis on Indigenous perspectives and student conservation action.

Sharing stock and bonds to safeguard nature

Have you ever thought of gifting securities to Y2Y? A stock donation is a unique way to financially support our work. Making a gift of appreciated securities, stocks, bonds or mutual funds is easy to do and may provide you with a tax deduction and savings on capital gains taxes.

Photo of Y2Y summer intern Wyatt Klipa on a hiking trip in a green, mountainous valley.

A collective coexistence

Y2Y summer intern pinpoints best practices for sharing space in bear country communities

Meet Wyatt Klipa — Y2Y’s U.S. summer intern! He's a master's student at the Yale School of the Environment, focused on human-wildlife coexistence. With a background in environmental education, he has now turned his attention to educating on a bigger scale.

Wyatt's summer research project with Y2Y brings awareness to best practices for towns, cities and rural areas that will help them share space on the same landscapes wild animals occupy.

Y2Y works with and supports communities and partners across the Yellowstone to Yukon region in their conservation efforts. From modeling grizzly bear movement in Alberta's Bow Valley to reconnecting grizzly bear habitats across the U.S. Rockies, we couldn’t do this work without your support, and that of our partners.

What has Wyatt learned? How can communities come together to make their neighborhoods safer for people and wildlife? What are some of the places taking these necessary steps already? Read our recent blog post to find out!

Photo credits —
Banner: Two bighorn sheep walk across a rocky slope (Jeff Reynolds)
Inset photos: Y2Y supporters join staff on site visit of future overpass near Canmore (Tim Johnson); Y2Y president & chief scientist Jodi Hilty speaks on CNN 'Call to Earth' documentary (CNN video screenshot); A bear smells a BearVault bear canister (BearVault); Y2Y volunteer board members during a board meeting trip in Yellowstone (B. LeBlanc); Bison grazing in Yellowstone (B. LeBlanc); Y2Y story gatherer Josephine with her partner and child in Jasper (Josephine Boxwell); Grizzly bear in grass (Shutterstock); Y2Y summer intern Wyatt KlipA