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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Getting Connected

Florian Schulz takes his Freedom to Roam project into the second phase—Baja to the Beaufort Sea

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For decades, conventional wisdom said that national parks, wilderness areas and refuges were the answer to preserving natural lands and providing sustainable wildlife habitats. But for some time, these large protected areas have been losing the native species they aim to protect. Existing mainly as small isolated pockets of land, these spots lack the connectivity needed for wildlife to migrate. Without migration, populations lose the genetic diversity and health that develop from a cohesive ecosystem.

Since the early 1990s, consensus has grown among conservation biologists and landscape ecologists that natural corridors, or narrow strips of land connecting isolated patches of wild habitats, are vital to supporting both wildlife and human communities over time. For more than a decade now, photographer Florian Schulz has worked tirelessly to educate the public about this effort through his Freedom to Roam project.

“This conservation vision is similar to the creation of national parks over 120 years ago,” Schulz explains. “But many scientists and experts agree that something more is needed to stop interrupting the flow of migration. Ecosystems depend on interconnectedness.”

Committed to exploring some of the most remote natural corners of North America, Schulz first set out to document the Rocky Mountain region extending from Yellowstone National Park along the spine of the mountains and leading north into the Yukon region of Canada. This area makes up one of the last fully intact mountain ecosystems on the planet. The work culminated in his award-winning book Yellowstone to Yukon: Freedom to Roam (Mountaineer Books) and a traveling museum exhibit that’s currently on display at Chicago’s Field Museum, as well as lectures across the country.

For the Y2Y (“Yellowstone to Yukon”) project, Schulz partnered with natural history museums, universities and conservation groups. He’s looking to do it all over again as he embarks on the second phase of this project, called “Baja to the Beaufort Sea,” or B2B. This is a broad region encompassing a long connected line of sand, surf, cliff, island, estuary and marsh, along with adjoining coastal forest and ocean.


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