Connecting the Gems is a new project conceived by Deia Schlosberg and Gregg Treinish, who were Adventurers of the Year in 2008 for their remarkable trans-Andes traverse. Here Gregg Treinish shares details about their upcoming 450-mile hike through Lewis and Clark's Rockies.
The Northern Rockies of the United States are one of the most important and intact ecosystems found today in the world’s temperate zone. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho are large, important landscapes that still fit the descriptions of Lewis and Clark, who came through the area more than 200 years ago. Rich wildlife populations and vast areas of untouched wilderness still reign here. Unfortunately, these areas are increasingly at risk of becoming isolated islands of disjunct habitat.
When populations of animals exist in isolation, they are left without the ability to maintain genetic diversity. Gene flow across populations is crucial if animals are going to survive in the face of a changing climate and a rapidly expanding human population. It is essential to the survival of grizzly bears, wolverines, wolves, moose, mountain lion, lynx, and so many other species that need the ability to wander, that clear and safe migration and dispersal routes remain permeable long into the future. It is believed that the best chance for the preservation of a viable carnivore community in North America is in this area, and indeed it may be the last place in the Lower 48 where this is possible. With increasing human development, wildlife habitat in this area is becoming extremely fragmented, and the populations it sustains are therefore at a much greater risk of extinction.
During the summer of 2010, we will team up with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC), the Craighead Environmental Research Institute (CERI), and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), to help ensure the unimpeded movement between Yellowstone National Park and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness area. By traveling through the region on foot, from the point of view of the wildlife, we aim to gain a unique understanding of the conditions and threats to key habitats, presence of various species, current management practices, and perspectives of the local people. We will be collecting data about the choices that moving animals are forced to make and the hazards they face, while we trek through some of the most remote and rugged mountains in the Lower 48. By documenting specific instances of fragmentation, GYC, CERI, WCS, and other agencies working to promote and protect these areas, will have the information they need to ensure that future generations have the ability to experience these charismatic megafauna, which we are lucky enough to share our wild spaces with today. We expect that the trek will be about 450 miles in length and take about two months to complete. We will be following the most likely routes that wolverines and grizzly bears would take through the area, and are bound to encounter several wildlife species along the way. You can follow our progress at www.connectingthegems.org
Photographs by Gregg Treinish, Lynn Donaldson