October 2020 - In This Issue:
© Irwin Barrett
News from Staying Connected

Dear SCI partners and supporters,

It is hard to find any words that have not been repeated many times in other newsletters and emails arriving in your inbox during this unprecedented time. 

So I will just say, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read and and enjoy these stories from around the SCI region. Thank you to the many partners who took the time to share their good news and accomplishments made in the arena of landscape connectivity in the past six months. 

I hope these stories from SCI partners bring you encouragement and opportunities to connect.

Best Wishes,

Erin Witham
A rainbow arches over Caribou Mountain in the 9,608-acre newly-conserved forest. © Mark Berry/TNC
Important Forest Habitat Preserved in Western Maine

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Maine recently announced the conservation of 9,608 acres in Franklin County, and the creation of the new Boundary Mountains Preserve. Running along 12 miles of the border with Quebec, Canada, this healthy, mature mountain forest extends a corridor of permanently conserved lands northward to a total of over 260,000 acres - a key piece of the Northeast Kingdom, Northern New Hampshire to Western Maine SCI linkage area. The new preserve contains important headwater habitat for the Kennebec River and includes 3,648-foot Caribou Mountain, 3,333-foot Merrill Mountain, and a dozen other peaks over 2,700 feet in elevation.

To learn more about the Boundary Mountains Preserve read the full press release from The Nature Conservancy.
Local Knowledge of Wildlife Movement in the Chignecto Isthmus 

Co-author Jessica Needham looks over the isthmus as the sun sets. © Victoria Papuga

Researchers at the School for Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia recently published a paper exploring local tacit knowledge application to identify wildlife locations, movement patterns, and heightened opportunities and barriers for connectivity conservation planning in the Chignecto Isthmus linkage of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
Reflecting on the research, professor and co-author of the paper, Dr. Karen Beazley stated, "What was rewarding about this work was the confidence gained by participants when they saw how well their knowledge aligned with that of others, increasing their sense of the value of their own contribution and the collective information compiled through bringing local people's knowledge together through the work. It represents co-production of knowledge and a more inclusive knowledge system. The process of engagement also fostered greater awareness of animal movements. For example, one participant, a trapper, reflected that he had always noted the animal tracks but now he wonders where they are going and why."
More broadly, the methods demonstrate an effective approach for representing differences and consensus among participants' spatial indications of wildlife and habitat as a means of co-producing knowledge in participatory mapping for conservation planning.
Click here to access the paper, "Accessing Local Tacit Knowledge as a Means of Knowledge Co-Production for Effective Wildlife Corridor Planning in the Chignecto Isthmus, Canada," by Jessica Needham, Karen Beazley, and Victoria Papuga.
Vermont Rolling Out Renewed Road Ecology Training Program

SCI Executive Committee member Chris Slesar showing off his snaking skills. Northern Water Snake are not usually a friendly "starter snake." © Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department

The Vermont Agency of Transportation and Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department have rebuilt their award-winning road ecology training program to include a three tiered system. 

The first tier is a web-based introduction to road ecology: what it is, why its important and what can be done to improve permeability for wildlife and driver safety. The course includes the "Introduction to SCI" video. This introductory course is now available for all employees in the State of Vermont as well as all municipal road crews. 

This integration significantly increases the number of people who can be reached each year. The second tier training is a three-day in-the-field course that enables participants to see habitats from the deep woods to the road edge and get knee deep in the muck, handling turtles, snakes and amphibians as well as tracking far-ranging mammals. 

To learn more about this program, check out the recorded presentation of the SCI Webinar "Highways & Habitats Training" presented by Chris Slesar with the Vermont Agency of Transportation and Jens Hilke with Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
Conservation Science in SCI's New Catskills to Adirondacks Linkage

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy (MHLC), located in SCI's newest Catskills to Adirondacks linkage, recently teamed up with Bird Studies Canada, Project Owlnet, and the Williston Conservation Trust to identify areas in the linkage to be included the Motus Wildlife Tracking System. The Motus Wildlife Tracking System is a large-scale, collaborative research network that uses a fixed radio-telemetry array to study the movements of birds, bats and large insects for the benefit of conservation. This summer a Motus receiver station was successfully placed on the Strawberry Fields Preserve, a privately owned easement land open to the public that sits above the Mohawk River Valley in Montgomery County, New York.

This receiver station is an effort for Motus partners to increase locations throughout the Northeast, including SCI linkages, to learn more about bird migration routes, migration patterns, and species life history. When migration season was only just beginning, the Strawberry Field location was already seeing birds passing over, including the Chimney Swift captured on the map below.

Learn more about Motus by visiting their website, and learn more about MHLC's tower and results here.

A Chimney Swift's migration path across SCI linkages. Map courtesy of motus.org.

Ecological Corridors Celebrates the Completion of Phase 1

Still from the Ecological Corridors Video © NCC
Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is proud to celebrate the completion of Phase 1 of the Ecological Corridors project, an innovative initiative that promotes the health and safety of Quebecers, animals, and plants. The project, carried out in five regions, aims at mobilizing communities, land managers, woodlot owners, and farmers to conserve important ecological corridors in the province.

This project is being implemented by seven main organizations: NCC, Nature-Action Québec, Appalachian Corridor, Horizon-Nature Bas St Laurent, Éco-corridors laurentiens, Staying Connected Initiative, and the Conseil regional de l'environnement Centre-du-Québec. During Phase 1 of the Ecological Corridors project:
  • over 2,000 hectares were protected in ecological corridors
  • 630 municipal representatives, woodlot owners, and farmers met in person
  • over 170,000 people were reached through trainings, activities, workshops, newsletters and social media. 

Learn more about the Phase 1 Highlights. The project also developed this awesome video to educate communities about the importance of ecological corridors. 

We thank our financial partners in this project: the Ministère de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques which, as part of its 2013-2020 Climate Change Action Plan, whose budget is derived from the Green Fund, has contributed nearly one million dollars. The Woodcock Foundation and the Echo Foundation also contributed to this project. Thank you also to the financial partners who allow us to keep the Ecological Corridors project going: the Woodcock Foundation, the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs, and the Fondation de la faune du Québec.

Wolcott Floodplain Restoration and Wildlife Shelf Project  

Overview of Wolcott Restoration Project
Partners in the Wolcott Floodplain Restoration and Wildlife Shelf Project in Wolcott, Vermont, are thrilled to be well into their second phase of work! 

This year partners are removing a bridge that was obstructing the flow of a river and ice and was also an impediment to wildlife movement. They will also be installing a wildlife shelf underneath a bridge that takes VT Route 15 over the Wild Branch. 

This Fall, deconstruction of the bridge, which has been unused since 2004 finally began. Jens Hilke from Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department said, "We're thrilled to be working on this project that involves restoration of Department owned land as well as improvement of adjacent transportation infrastructure and river process."  The Nature Conservancy had received money from the Canaday Foundation to have the bridge removed and the metal recycled.

As illustrated in the image above, in the first phase of work, partners removed an artificial berm that channeled a stream on the property to create a new stream channel and wetland complex. In the third and final phase, next year when all the machinery is gone, partners will replant the whole area with riparian tree species. For more information, contact Paul Marangelo.

 New Tool to Assist Conservation Prioritization in Maine

© Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust

The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust (MATLT) is currently beta testing a new conservation GIS portal that comprehensively analyses all 3,317 parcels within one mile of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) corridor in Maine. 

MATLT has aggregated data that quantifies National Park Service A.T. values: Scenery Along the Treadway, Views Beyond the Corridor, Natural Resource Quality and Ecological Connectivity, American Heritage, and Visitor Experience. 

The data is used to create scorecards displaying values and interpretation; these are available for conservation partners at their request. There will also be a publication outlining new priority areas along the A.T. in Maine, based on this data. The purpose of the Maine A.T. 2020 program is to catalyze conservation efforts and ensure that A.T. remains an intact corridor in a time of climate change, habitat loss and fragmentation of the landscape. 

To learn more about how MATLT is using this tool, visit their website. If you would like to see a demonstration of the Maine A.T. 2020 Parcel Prioritization Tool, please contact us at info@matlt.org.
Appalachian Corridor Protects 215 Hectares on Mount Foster

Mount Foster © Appalachian Corridor
Appalachian Corridor recently concluded the acquisition of 215 hectares on Mount Foster for the purpose of establishing a permanently protected area.
Strategically located in the heart of the Northern Green Mountains linkage, the protected area is another step towards the preservation of unfragmented habitat blocks for a diverse range of animals including mammals with large home ranges such as moose, bobcat, black bear, and fisher, along with small mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. Amongst the many species, salamanders, including Spring Salamander and Northern Dusky Salamander, find quality habitats on Mount Foster.
A real estate project originally planned on Mount Foster almost a decade ago had raised the ire of local citizens and Appalachian Corridor. The protection of Mount Foster will deliver direct ecological benefits as well as offer opportunities for outdoor recreation for current and future generations who will be able to safely use a trail network that will be managed by Appalachian Corridor. 

With this latest acquisition, Appalachian Corridor has enabled more than 14,400 hectares under perpetual protection on its territory since its founding in 2002. Click here for more information about this project or contact Marie-Hélène Thibeault.
SCI Webinar Series 

Ship Harbour - Long Lake © Irwin Barrett
Since June, Staying Connected Initiative partners have hosted three different webinars to share their work and connect with partners across the SCI region and beyond. Over 115 people have attendedWe are happy to share recordings of these webinars:

We have another upcoming webinar on Tuesday, October 13 at 1:00 PM ET about the North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative (NAACC) Terrestrial Wildlife Passage Assessment. This webinar will present the NAACC road-stream crossing assessment module for terrestrial wildlife passage and how it can be used in landscape modeling to create a conductivity index to assist in the identification of wildlife corridors and connectivity zones throughout a 13-state region in the northeastern U.S. To attend, register here

If you have a topic or project you would be interested in sharing with SCI partners via webinar, please reach out to Erin Witham
Upcoming Events
The Staying Connected Initiative promotes wildlife habitat connections in an increasingly fragmented landscape. This unique cross-border public/private collaboration includes over 65 partners, spanning five northeastern U.S. states and three Canadian provinces, working to ensure that people and wildlife thrive together.