Conservation Resource Alliance
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Wild Link for Landowners and Wildlife

August 27, 2001

Wildlife like the black bear, otter and bobcat are native Michigan animals that need lots of space to find food, mates, and shelter. And that space is getting much more difficult to find as northern Michigan's landscape is divided up into smaller pieces. The Wild Link program coordinated by the non-profit organization Conservation Resource Alliance, is a program designed to encourage private landowners to voluntarily manage their land in wildlife-friendly ways.

Staff biologist Kimberly Kook says, "CRA is convinced that Wild Link will literally change the future of northern Michigan, in ways that regulation, lawsuits and government never could." She 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. "Every time a rural property is subdivided and developed, we are breaking wildlife connections, and the isolated habitats that are left are not enough to sustain important populations." Kook describes 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. She 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."

CRA's Wild Link program has gotten off to a strong start. Since 1998, a regional advisory committee has worked to produce maps showing where wildlife corridors are located in the Grand Traverse and Little Traverse Bay regions. Ten-year management plans have been prepared for a number of landowners who offered to serve as initial test cases. Wildlife friendly practices, ranging from bird nesting boxes, to planting food-bearing shrubs, and relocating buildings, are underway throughout the region. "We are concentrating on the Grand Traverse and Little Traverse Bay area because it is on the hot seat for development in the next couple of decades," says Kook. "I tell people that our goal with Wild Link is to ?connect the dots,' to provide corridors that wildlife can use to move between the isolated good habitat areas, such as state forest lands and wildlife preserves."

CRA recently hired Dr. Richard Fischer, a wildlife corridor expert with the Army Corps of Engineers in Kentucky, to evaluate the Wild Link program to date and make recommendations. Fischer's report suggests corridor design specifics, such as widths and vegetation types, and recommends an intensive, pro-active effort to recruit landowner participation over the next 10 years. A recently published color pamphlet describes the goals of the Wild Link program, and includes photographs of real habitat work that has been completed.

The next phases of Wild Link will include an informational compact disc that landowners can use to explore different management options, and a concentrated pilot program in a specific wildlife corridor that will be selected for an intense protection/rehabilitation effort. 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 CRA's Wild Link program, contact CRA at (231) 946-6817, e-mail at: cra@traverse.com or visit the website at www.rivercare.org.


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Conservation Resource Alliance

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10850 Traverse Highway, Suite 1180
Traverse City, MI 49684
231-946-6817

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