N.H. Fish & Game Department announced today that they have been awarded a nearly $1 million wildlife conservation grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s State Wildlife Grants (SWG) program. The grant will fund a project entitled “Staying Connected in the Northern Appalachians”, which is intended to maintain, enhance, and restore habitat connectivity for 41 wide-ranging and forest-dwelling species of concern across the Northern Forest to help mitigate the impacts of habitat fragmentation and climate change.
“Securing the habitat connectivity of our Northern Forests will provide a critical buffer against climate change and habitat loss for some of our most valued wildlife, including moose, Canada lynx, American marten, wolf, black bear, and bobcat,” said Dr. Steven Fuller, a wildlife biologist at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “It is unacceptable for us to witness the next mammalian extinction in our backyards or to allow the continued impoverishment of the most diverse fauna in the Northeast.”
The connectivity project was spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy's four northern forest chapters, and involved strong collaboration amongst 14 partner agencies and organizations spanning Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. The N.H. Fish & Game Department strongly supported the project because it will help to advance the state’s Wildlife Action Plan, and submitted the proposal on behalf of the many partners involved in the effort. N.H. Fish and Game intends to pass most of the funds to The Nature Conservancy's New Hampshire Chapter, who will manage the project and contract with other partners including New Hampshire Audubon and Two Countries One Forest, an international organization dedicated to using landscape conservation to protect and maintain the Northern Appalachian ecoregion.
“The Northern Appalachian ecoregion is unique: we know of very few places in the world where such a large and intact temperate mixed and deciduous forest is located so close to so many people,” said Mark Zankel, Deputy State Director for The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire. The Northern Appalachians ecoregion, also known as the Northern Forest, spans two countries, four states, four provinces and 80-million acres; it contains rare alpine vegetation, at-risk species, old-growth forests, very large unfragmented forest blocks, high quality rivers and streams, and 5.4 million people.
While extraordinarily intact compared to other forests of its type across the globe, the Northern Appalachians are not immune to the significant challenges posed by fragmentation and climate change. Studies coordinated by the bi-national group Two Countries One Forest reveal that this ecoregion risks being separated into a series of ecological islands — isolating populations of Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) identified in state wildlife action plans, and limiting their ability to adapt to a changing climate. Staying Connected in the Northern Appalachians will focus on six vulnerable areas where landscape connectivity for wildlife is at risk: 1) Tug Hill Plateau – Adirondacks (NY); 2) Adirondacks Mountains to the Southern Green Mountains (NY-VT); 3) Taconic Mountains to Southern Green Mountains (NY-VT); 4) Northeast Kingdom across northern New Hampshire to western Maine (VT-NH-ME); 5) Northern Green Mountains (VT – Canada); and Maine’s North Woods to Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula (ME-Canada).
“In light of the challenges facing the Northern Forest region, we need to understand how black bears, pine marten, moose and other wide-ranging species are going to be able to migrate from large blocks of conservation land like Nash Stream Forest northward to the Connecticut Lakes headwaters, and between Vermont’s Nulhegan Basin across the Connecticut River and east to Lake Umbagog,” said Zankel.
The project includes the identification of key wildlife movement corridors, habitat stepping stones for protection, priority road segments to focus barrier mitigation work, and community conservation values to help build support for land protection and other efforts needed to enhance connectivity. Complex computer modeling will build off of a statewide connectivity model currently under development by N.H. Fish and Game Department. Grant partners will work with at least 56 towns within the habitat linkage areas to incorporate habitat protection and connectivity in town master plans, land use ordinances, the establishment of town forests and best practices for development. Transportation agencies from across the 4-state region will be active participants in the project to help identify and incorporate recommended connectivity retention and improvements as part of road maintenance/upgrade work planned for 2009-2014 along priority habitat linkage segments.
"This work has major implications for how we adapt existing crossing structures and how we build new ones," says Cathy Goodmen, an Environmental Manager at N.H. Department of Transportation. "It will be a vital resource for us as we try to make roadways safer for animals and humans."
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is the guardian of the state's fish, wildlife and marine resources and their habitats. The Department works in partnership with the public to conserve, manage and protect these resources and their habitats. Visit http://www.wildnh.com.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.