The Spine of the Continent: The Most Ambitious Wildlife Conservation Project Ever Undertaken

Overview


As climate change encroaches, animals and plants around the globe are having their habitats pulled out from under them. At the same time, human development has made islands out of even our largest nature reserves, stranding the biodiversity that lives within them. The Spine of the Continent introduces readers to the most ambitious wildlife conservation effort ever undertaken: to create linked protected areas extending from the Yukon to Mexico, the entire length of North ...
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Overview


As climate change encroaches, animals and plants around the globe are having their habitats pulled out from under them. At the same time, human development has made islands out of even our largest nature reserves, stranding the biodiversity that lives within them. The Spine of the Continent introduces readers to the most ambitious wildlife conservation effort ever undertaken: to create linked protected areas extending from the Yukon to Mexico, the entire length of North America.

This movement is the brainchild of Michael Soulé, the founder of conservation biology and the peer of E. O. Wilson and Paul Ehrlich, who endorse his effort as necessary to saving nature on our continent. With blue-ribbon scientific foundations, the Spine is as yet a grassroots, cooperative effort among conservation activists—NGOs large and small—and regular citizens.

The Spine of the Continent is not only about making physical connections so that nature will persist; it is about making connections between people and the land we call home. In this fascinating and important book, Mary Ellen Hannibal travels the length of the Spine, sharing stories about the passionate, idiosyncratic people she meets along the way—and the critters they love.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This is the biography of a big conservation idea – connected wild lands and nature-friendly landscapes the length of the Rockies – and of the scientific and conservation pioneers making it actually happen. Mary Ellen Hannibal gives us an engrossing and inspiring story. The Spine of the Continent comes to life through those who are making it happen.  This is a page-turner of science, action, and hope.” – Thomas E. Lovejoy, Biodiversity Chair, the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment

“The bad news is that human impacts are tearing nature apart at the seams. The good news is that conservation biology has quantified why we have to heal these wounds in our life-support systems, and how to do it. Scientists, NGOs, and regular people are joining in a geographical, social, and political effort to sustain wilderness along the Rocky Mountains—the most significant stretch of wilderness left on the continent. If we are to get any kind of handle on the extinction crisis that is decimating biodiversity, it will be by protecting the habitats that sustain it, along the Spine of the Continent. This is an engaging and entertaining book, and it is an important one.” —Paul R. Ehrlich, Bing Professor of Population Studies, Stanford University and author of The Dominant Animal

A fine overview of wide-angle environmentalism. Hannibal explores the ambitious Spine of the Continent Initiative, a massive project to protect wildlife and land by connecting expanses of acreage across North America.  —Kirkus Reviews

The Spine of the Continent initiative may be the most daring and important conservation effort of our era, knitting the islands of natural beauty we've preserved (or ignored) during the last century into a connected, functioning ecosystem to sustain us all. Mary Ellen Hannibal delivers a compelling and personal narrative about science, nature, the extinction crisis -- and the men and women determined to restore America's most epic landscapes.  —Edward Humes, author of Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash

“The concept of wildlife corridors is one of the most important in the history of conservation, and I am very pleased to see it moved into wider public attention.”—Edward O. Wilson, Professor Emeritus, University Research Harvard University
 

“Mary Ellen Hannibal has brought a critical issue to light, and her insightful book deserves a wide audience. The Spine of the Continent should mark an epoch in conservation history—the moment perhaps, let us hope, when large-scale thinking is at last brought to bear on our most precious landscapes. —Thomas McNamee, author of The Grizzly and The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat

"Spine of the Continent  is an impressive journalistic account of this conservation, brought to life through stories of people on the front lines. But it’s more. Hannibal provides one of the best, most accessible overviews yet written of conservation biology – its history, its key figures, its issues and arguments and aspirations. If you want to understand this scientific field and its key concepts, this book would be the place to start." --Cool Green Science, The Nature Conservancy

 

Kirkus Reviews
Hannibal (Good Parenting Through Your Divorce, 2006, etc.) explores the ambitious Spine of the Continent Initiative, a massive project to protect wildlife and land by connecting expanses of acreage across North America. The concept, pioneered by conservation biologist Michael Soulé, has been picked up by many others over the years, as a long-term way to help preserve wildlife and plant life in the West. Its ultimate goal was to unite discrete areas of publicly and privately owned wilderness to create one huge nature preserve stretching from Alaska to Mexico. In the first third of the book, Hannibal focuses on the history of conservation biology. The last two-thirds spotlight some of the many small organizations and researchers that are contributing to the larger vision, including projects focusing specifically on beavers, jaguars and wolves, among others. Throughout, Hannibal repeats the idea that everything in an ecosystem is connected. It's a seemingly simple concept, well-backed by research, and the author discusses how, in the long run, working for the preservation of even a single species links directly to larger issues such as climate change. Because Hannibal writes in a casual first-person voice, the narrative is occasionally haphazard, as she delves into the history of the beaver-pelt trade in America in one section and explores Soulé's life-changing experience with Zen Buddhism in another. It has its share of odd moments, as when Hannibal compares beaver ponds to the concept of romanticism, or when she asks a scientist who experimented on temperature-intolerant pikas in the 1970s, "How could you fry those bunnies?" The author doesn't fully explore the opinions of anyone who might oppose the Spine plan, but the book works well as an introduction to modern conservationist figures and concepts for casual readers. A fine overview of wide-angle environmentalism.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762786787
  • Publisher: Lyons Press, The
  • Publication date: 8/6/2013
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 816,671
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Mary Ellen Hannibal’s most recent book is Evidence of Evolution.  She has written for many publications, including The San Francisco Chronicle, Esquire, and Elle magazines, and extensively for environmental nonprofits.  She is a 2011 Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellow.
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Table of Contents

Maps vi

Introduction xiii

Part I America's Next Best Idea

Chapter 1 Bear with Me 3

Chapter 2 They Paved Paradise 19

Chapter 3 Reptile Brain 30

Chapter 4 The Disappearance 41

Chapter 5 A Science of Love and Death 52

Chapter 6 The Real Work 61

Chapter 7 Triple Crown 72

Part II Cores, Carnivores, and Corridors on the Spine

Chapter 8 Leave It to Beaver 91

Chapter 9 Holy Cow 118

Chapter 10 Not Hunting 136

Chapter 11 Take It from the Top 149

Chapter 12 Wolf Sign 162

Chapter 13 Borderline 175

Chapter 14 There Ought to Be a Law 195

Part III Congratulations, You've Won Climate Change

Chapter 15 Picka Pika 213

Chapter 16 Eyes in the Sky 232

Chapter 17 Welcome Home 238

Endnotes 249

Bibliography 257

Index 264

Acknowledgments 271

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