Rolling hills and bluffs. Picturesque, panoramic views. Diverse forests and farms. These are just some of the aesthetic values of the Split Rock Wildway. But from a conservation perspective, the Split Rock Wildway is more than just a beautiful place. It is a vital pathway for wildlife and represents the future of land conservation.
The Split Rock Wildway was conceived as an effort to create and protect a wildlife movement corridor stretching from Lake Champlain to the Adirondacks, with the hopes of even greater expansion, to ensure connectivity and to maintain healthy ecological systems by designating a natural passage for wildlife and people.
The region’s ecological integrity is being threatened by the pressures of more people, more development, and a rapidly changing, unstable climate. If the health of the region’s natural places is to be protected, then humans must act now to conserve key habitats and link them together across the landscape.
A report by Canadian and US scientists (“The Northern Appalachian/Acadian Ecoregion: Priority Locations for Conservation Action,” Trombulak, S.C., et al., Two Countries, One Forest Special Report No. 1, October 2008, available at 2C1Forest.org.) found that establishing an eco-regional system of large, linked wildlands is essential for conserving biodiversity and adapting to climate change—and that any conservation strategy less ambitious is likely to fail.
Because of its large Wilderness and Wild Forest area, the six-million-acre Adirondack Park is viewed by the scientists as the cornerstone of this system, but only if it is linked across the Champlain Valley to the Green Mountains and on to Central Maine, Canada’s Gaspé Peninsula and the rest of the eco-region. The Split Rock Wildway helps establish the first critical linkage in this system.
A Natural Passage for Wildlife and People
The Split Rock Wildway runs 15 miles from the 4,000-acre Split Rock Wild Forest on the western shore of Lake Champlain to the Adirondack Mountains. As global temperatures warm due to climate change, wildlife will be able to use the Split Rock Wildway and other conserved corridors to move to higher elevations and more northerly latitudes. Without conserved corridors, wildlife unable to adapt could become extirpated or extinct.
As envisioned, the Wildway will be a combination of conserved wildland, timberland, and farmland—all managed to promote the protection of habitat and movement of wildlife across the landscape. Success of this project will require improved highway crossings for wildlife, especially across interstates and other high-traffic roads, as well as allowing for wide forested swaths along streams, ridges and fencerows. With landowner permission, people will use the Wildway too, for hiking, skiing, hunting, fishing, bird-watching, and other nature-oriented activities. And, because of these and other amenities conserved lands provide, the Split Rock Wildway will attract businesses, workers, and visitors to the region.
Help Conserve the Wildway
The Northeast Wilderness Trust and its principal partners in New York, including Champlain Valley Conservation Partnership/Champlain Area Trails, Eddy Foundation, and others, invite you to help conserve the Split Rock Wildway. There are many ways you can help including:
- putting an easement on your land,
- contributing money to support land conservation and stewardship, and
- volunteering time to monitor ecological conditions and watch over conserved properties.
There are roughly 6,000 acres conserved in the Split Rock Wildway so far (including lands in public ownership), and more work is being done to expand this effort. Go here to see Northeast Wilderness Trust’s completed projects and learn about tracts of land that have already been added to the Wildway.[The information in this post originally appeared on the Northeast Wilderness Trust Website and is republished here with permission from a brochure titled “Split Rock Wildway” printed by the organization.]