Conservation Resource Alliance
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Property Owners Rally For Wildlife

May 12, 2003

The Conservation Resource Alliance's new Wild Link program is getting a warm welcome from private property owners in two northern Michigan "ecological corridors" where the program is being introduced this Spring. Wild Link is a program designed to 'connect the dots,' preserving corridors that wildlife can use to move between the isolated good habitat areas, such as state forest lands and wildlife preserves. Cooperation of the private property owners in between is key.

According to Sarah Hazzard, a Conservation Resource Alliance biologist, "If we want our communities to be rich in wildlife, forests, and vast, peaceful spaces, we've got to take steps now to save the large-scale connections." She notes, "Every time a rural property is subdivided and developed, we potentially break wildlife connections, and the habitat fragments that are left are not enough to sustain important populations. Fortunately, Hazzard reports that response of private property owners has been overwhelmingly positive. Owners of more than 3,000 acres of priority lands located in Emmet, Charlevoix and Antrim county corridors are cooperating with long-term management plans and projects, ranging from bird nesting boxes, to planting food-bearing shrubs, and timber management.

One of the targeted corridors surrounds Emmet County's Maple River, a high-quality coldwater stream which lies between several significant ecological areas, including Wilderness State Park and the vast Dingman Swamp. Hazzard says, "We have estimated that preserving the corridor surrounding the Maple River will connect more than 120,000 acres of public or protected land, ensuring that the ecology of those lands continues to thrive." The Conservation Resource Alliance corridor maps indicate that there are about 100 large privately owned parcels in the Maple corridor; encouragingly 15 landowners have already stepped up to participate in Wild Link. Additional Wild Link work is underway in the Antrim/Charlevoix Chain of Lakes corridor. Professionals from other conservation groups are cooperating in the effort, too. The Little Traverse Conservancy, conservation districts, and local foresters may be part of the "team" which assists a landowner, depending on his or her particular interests.

Conservation Resource Alliance Chairman, Dan Hubbell, who is also a Wild Link participant, says, "We are convinced that Wild Link will literally change the future of northern Michigan, in ways that regulation, lawsuits and government never could." Hubbell says "We have an important opportunity to preserve and enhance wildlife corridors in northern Michigan now, before they are destroyed and we have to start from scratch. The organization is following efforts to restore wildlife corridors in Florida and other parts of the world, where land development has all but eliminated habitat connections and animals, like bobcat, that populate them. Hazzard notes, "In one Florida county alone, voters approved $150 million to restore wildlife corridors. We can be much more cost-efficient in northern Michigan with a pro-active approach."

Financial support for Wild Link has come from the Frey Foundation of Grand Rapids, Michigan's Coastal Management Program, the National Park Service, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. For more information on the Wild Link program, contact Conservation Resource Alliance at (231) 946-6817, e-mail at: cra@traverse.com or visit the website at www.rivercare.org.


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10850 Traverse Highway, Suite 1180
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