The Wild Edge features profiles of people working hard to protect this ecosystem. We invite YOU to join theM in the stewardship of this wild corridor.
Katie Voelke is the Executive Director of the North Coast Land Conservancy, preserving the Oregon Coast by connecting “Islands of Conservation;” pockets of wilderness fragmented by development and tourism. These small holdings, says Voelke connect other larger wilderness holdings together so returning fish, migrating birds, and larger animals can move freely. “We can’t know which critters we might be protecting this land for,” says Voelke. “But what we do know is that life on Earth needs this land.”
Urbán has dedicated the last thirty years of his life to studying whales of all kinds in the waters around La Paz, Mexico, where he works as a marine mammal researcher at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur. “From my point of view, the whales are a natural resource,” Urbán said—not a resource to harvest, but one to protect.
George Divoky came to the Arctic to study birds, not climate. He arrived in 1970, a rookie ornithologist sent by the Smithsonian Institution to assess seabirds offshore from the Prudhoe Bay oil field. There he discovered a colony of black guillemots, natty pigeon-sized auks that supposedly never nested this far north.
He’s returned every summer since, with his nonprofit Friends of Cooper Island, recording every detail of breeding, diet, nesting success, survival. It’s an extraordinary chronicle, one of very few comprehensive long-term studies of seabird populations and the first in the Arctic.
“The oceans are our pantry, our playground, our highway,” says Julie Packard, co-founder and director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Since it opened in 1984, the aquarium, despite its breathtaking exhibits such as a huge backlit jellyfish tank in a darkened room, has become so much more. It also conducts original research and collaborates with researchers at leading marine labs, and is an important voice in marine stewardship.
Serge Dedina, PhD, is executive director of Wildcoast/Costasalvaje, a bilingual, binational conservation organization active on both sides of the US-Mexico border. “For me the highlight of what we do is making sure these areas remain intact ecosystems,” Dedina explained. “There is inherent value in preserving these huge landscapes, value beyond their biodiversity value or their ecosystem services value.”
“Do we need more jobs? Yes,” says Robin Samuelsen, a commercial fisherman in Dillingham, Alaska, who is a board member of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Council and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation. “But we don’t need to destroy our habitat here in Bristol Bay for short-term income from a mine that’s going to destroy our culture and our subsistence lifestyle.”
Craig Matkin & Eva Saulitis
When the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill reeked havoc on the Alaska Peninsula, Matkin and Saulitis were there to chronicle the devastating impacts on the whale populations in the region. Since then, they founded the North Gulf Oceanic Society to support their research and aid in the slow recovery of the land and marine life. “Prince William Sound has a particular kind of power,” Saulitis says. “The more time I spend out there, the more strongly I feel that the place has an aspect of its spirit that is untouched by the oil spill. It is whole.”
Lindsey Bloom of Juneau, Alaska started out as a deckhand on her father’s boat. Now she spends the off-season organizing support for salmon conservation, on issues such as the Susitna dam. “I have the growing sense that we are on the cusp of either repeating the mistakes already made in the Lower 48 or of charting a new course when it comes to salmon,” Bloom said.
Ian McAllister came of age on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, in the late 1980s, when environmentalists were struggling to preserve the last remaining stands of old-growth forest on the island. Today as an author, filmmaker, and photographer, he works in collaboration with scientists and his First Nations neighbors, helping to publicize threats to the Great Bear and pique the concern of policy makers, most recently through Pacific Wild, a nonprofit conservation organization he and his wife, Karen McAllister, founded.
For years, World Wildlife Fund has been one of the foremost visionary organizations fighting for Freedom to Roam and the Baja-to-Beaufort corridor in particular. "The Freedom to Roam concept now has a global call for action,” says Jeffrey Parrish, former senior director for conservation resources at World Wildlife Fund. “Large-landscape conservation is the only way wildlife and wildlands will survive into the next century, whether we are talking about pronghorn in Wyoming or tigers in Nepal.”
Rick Ridgeway is the vice president of environmental affairs at clothing company, Patagonia. He's helped to raise awareness of large-landscape connectivity has grown under the rallying cry of Freedom to Roam, aided by World Wildlife Fund and Florian Schulz.
Third-generation fisherman David Harsila has been chasing salmon in Washington State’s Puget Sound for forty years—a period corresponding with a steady decline in the number of wild salmon. “Around the world, fishermen began as fisheries resource extractors and found that these resources are finite and can be overexploited,” Harsila said. “Fishermen have to bear the responsibility of becoming good resource managers.”