Conservationists celebrate new "vision’ |

Conservationists celebrate new "vision’

Summit Daily/Brad OdekirkThe Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project, the Wildlands Project and the Denver Zoo celebrated the release of the Southern Rockies Wildlands Network Vision in Denver on Thursday. Conservation groups say the new vision is a blueprint for preserving the region's ecosystem. It includes action on wildlife corridors at Vail Pass, shown in this photo taken from a plane.

DENVER – For many years, the conservation movement has been reactionary in nature, but with a new plan celebrated last Thursday at the Denver Zoo, conservationists say they are taking a new approach that is action-based.

In Denver, the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project (SREP), the Wildlands Project and the Denver Zoo announced the release of the Southern Rockies Wildlands Network Vision.

The vision is the result of a decade of scientific study that is a blueprint for conservation action in the Southern Rockies, a SREP press release stated.

The report describes how citizens of the Southern Rockies, which includes Colorado, can ensure the continued existence of wild nature in the region. It emphasizes the need to maintain and restore natural landscape connections for wildlife and the overall health of the Rocky Mountain ecosystem.

Conservation biologists say that creating large landscapes of protected wildlife habitat is the best way to preserve ecosystems by providing wildlife with the room they need to disperse, find food and mates and survive.

Many factors are contributing to slow but steady erosion of natural, wild heritage in the region, said SREP conservation biologist Michael Soule, whose Boulder-based nonprofit headed the report. He said these many factors mean that piecemeal solutions can’t work.

“Only a science-based vision – one that is bold, rigorous, humane, and pragmatic – can forge a consensus about how to restore the beauty and diversity of these precious mountains and valleys,” Soule said.

To create the “vision,” the SREP project hosted workshops to identify existing wildlife corridors and integrate that information with geographic information system mapping.

SREP is using the data and maps in meetings with local groups, land trusts and agencies to assist with preservation campaigns that affect lands identified in the report.

The program is in the works, with government agencies, land trusts and local conservation groups.

For example, work that aims to restore landscape connections is already moving ahead as SREP collaborates with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to identify the most important wildlife links across highways in the state, such as Vail Pass.

The vision for the Southern Rockies is part of a larger movement to connect and span Mexico, the United States and Canada along the “Spine of the Continent,” a potential 4,000-mile network of lands that constitute a grand-scale wildlife corridor.

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