December 2016 - In This Issue:
Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy

News from Staying Connected

As the days grow shorter and snow starts to blanket the landscape, I am glad to have the chance to reflect on a busy fall and our many collective accomplishments, some of which are highlighted below. Conferences and meetings during the fall, held in New York, Maine, Vermont, Québec, and Massachusetts, provided opportunities for partners to meet in person, strengthen relationships, share best practices, and plan for future collaboration.

An energized SCI Steering Committee came together in October and committed to an ambitious regional work plan that includes applying new science to refine our on-the-ground work, supporting implementation of the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers' resolution on ecological connectivity, increasing our engagement with transportation agencies, and exploring innovative funding opportunities to further our impact across the region. I look forward to helping lead and support our partnership as we continue our collaborative work to ensure a connected forested landscape from the Tug Hill Plateau to the Maritime provinces.

Wishing you healthy and peaceful holidays,
Jessie Levine, SCI Coordinator
SCI's Camera Summit and Other NETWC Highlights

Photo courtesy of Sarah Piecuch, NYSDOT  
The Staying Connected Initiative was well represented at the recent Northe a s tern
Transportation and Wildlife Conference (NETWC), held in Lake Placid, NY, in September. The biennial
conference , hosted this year by New York State Department of Transportation,  d rew a record  number of attendees (244) from around the region, representing transporta tion departments, natural resource agenci es, academic institution s, and non-profit organizations. Bill McKibben, renowned author and climate activist, provided the  keynote address, delivering a message o f urgency to the transportation sector.
SCI partners were involved in the organizing committee and in leading  numer ous sessions featuring connectivity work from across the region  - f rom New York to Maine and Canada. SCI also hosted a "camera summit," which provided an opportunity for participants to share experiences, lessons learned, and best practices in utilizing wildlife cameras fo r understanding functional connectivity. Wildlife cameras are widely used across our region to monitor animal movement, select priority  transportation sites, and evaluate the effectiveness of improvement projects.
Participants at the camera summit expressed a desire for more coordination and standardization of protocols and data management throughout the region. To help meet these goals, Alissa Rafferty from The Nature Conservancy's Adirondack Chapter will be drafting a white paper summariz
ing lessons learned and highlighting best practices in camera monitoring. To learn more or get involved, contact Alissa .
Transportation Agency Partners Share Experiences on Connectivity Practices 

Transportation agency staff from Québec, New Brunswick, Ontario, New York, Vermont, and Maine recently came together in Québec City, along with researchers from Concordia and Clarkson Universities, for an informative and valuable day-long workshop to share experiences and lessons learned in  mitigating the impacts of roads on wildlife. Numerous SCI partners participated in the event, which was hosted by Québec's Ministry of Transportation and co-organized by the Ministry and Dr. Jochen Jaeger of Concordia University. Presentations highlighted lessons learned from a range of practices used by these agencies to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve habitat connectivity, including different types of ledges for wildlife inside culverts, dry culverts, dry passage inside new culverts and bridges, "joint use" crossings, seasonal signage, fencing, and overpasses. During a round table discussion at the end of the day, participants discussed ways to shift transportation agency culture and improve public awareness toward greater acceptance of the importance of investing in wildlife mitigation practices. Participants also  agreed to work together toward development of a road ecology mitigation inventory to continue to share information, best practices, and lessons learned. To learn more, contact Jessie Levine.
Connectivity Conservation in Western Maine

In early November, SCI's coordinator Jessie Levine, as well as staff from SCI partner organizations including Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy in Maine, participated in an inspiring forum in Phillips, Maine. The forum was organized and hosted by the Maine Mountain Collaborative, a coalition of land conservation organizations working
Photo courtesy of The Trust for Public Land: Jerry Monkman,
together to accelerate the pace and scale of conservation in western Maine's "Mountains of the Dawn," a five million-acre region that is nested within SCI's Northeast Kingdom (VT) to Northern NH to Western ME priority  linkage area. The forum brought together ecologists and practitioners to examine t he  importance of  Maine's Appalachian Mountain Corridor  as an ecological linkage  in an era of a changing climate,  as well as strategies to sustain a connected landscape. Following presentations from Mark Anderson (The Nature Conservancy) and Malcolm Hunter (University of Maine), Jessie provided an overview of SCI's multi-pronged approach to sustaining connectivity on the landscape. SCI looks forward to exploring opportunities to work with the Maine Mountain Collaborative to advance our common goals of an intact, connected, resilient forested landscape. Read the Maine Mountain Collaborative's brochure.
Documenting Wildlife Movement near Bridges and Culverts
in Vermont 

SCI partners in Vermont recently completed a trail camera project to assess  the frequency of  under-highway  wildlife  movemen t through bridges and culvert s .  Several site and structural characteristics were found to be important for determining the frequency of use of a particular
  Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy  
bridge or culvert by wildlife. These included local-scale structural connectivity, the p re sence of nearby deterring factors such as pens of hunting dogs, and the availability of dry, eve n movement surfaces inside of a structure. The study estimated that only a small minority of transportation structures on Vermont's highway system in Vermont are currently usable by wider-ranging wi ldlife, and that existing culverts and bridges do not meet  the needs for facilitating wildlife  move ment underneath roads.  Read the project report .
Updates from the Three Borders Linkage

SCI welcomes a new connectivity partner in the Northern Appalachians. Horizon-Nature Bas-Saint-Laurent was officially founded in October, following a very successful workshop on conservation challenges in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec. Among these challenges is maintaining connectivity in the Three Borders linkage area. Congratulations to all appointed board members! Learn more (in French).
Also in the Three Borders linkage, Two Countries, One Forest continues its project with the Ministère de Transports du Québec and the Université du Québec à Rimouski to model wildlife corridors along Quebec's Highway 85. With the final construction phase of this new highway expected to start in 2018, the results of this research will identify places where infrastructure is needed to ensure road users' security and safe passage for wildlife in this linkage. A first public bulletin about this research project will be released in early 2017.
Launch of the Northern Forest Atlas

The Northern Forest Atlas, a project of the Wildlife Conservation Society (an SCI partner) and the Northern Forest Atlas Foundation, recently launched its stunning website.   The project documents WCS ecologist Jerry Jenkins's 50-year legacy of field work in the Northern Forest.  The Atlas provides a comprehensive and multi-media set of natural history guides featuring the flora, fauna, and ecosystems from eastern Maine and the Maritimes to the edge of prairies in Minnesota and Manitoba. The new website includes graphic diagrams, educational field notes, learning tools, thousands of high definition photos, multiple high quality aerial videos, and articles and blogs by Jerry, who is widely recognized as one of the most effective communicators in his field.  It is a wonderful resource for naturalists and conservationists who are interested in studying and protecting the Northern Forest and will certainly be a treasured collection for years to come. View the website.
Taking Off for Conservation
Aerial view of the Moose River in the Adirondacks to Tug Hill linkage

SCI partners in Vermont and New York recently arranged aerial tours of priority linkage areas in both states in collaboration with LightHawk, an international nonprofit focused on accelerating conservation through the perspective of flight. The flights, which were provided pro bono through the generosity of two of LightHawk's extensive roster of volunteer small-plane pilots, demonstrated the power of getting a bird's-eye view of our work and the potential of SCI's growing relationship with LightHawk. As one participant put it, "At 1,000 feet up, you can really see how patterns of habitat connectivity and forest fragmentation lay out on the ground. You can cover a lot of terrain in a short amount of time, and it provides a great setting for getting a better understanding of SCI's work. It's really an unforgettable experience!" SCI is excited to continue developing our partnership with LightHawk, and we look forward to using the power of flight to help tell our story in a compelling way to key audiences on both sides of the international border - elected officials, the media, supporters, and others. Learn more about LightHawk, and read about a 2015 flight in Vermont.
The Staying Connected Initiative, a program of Two Countries One Forest, promotes wildlife habitat connections in an increasingly fragmented landscape. This unique cross-border public/private partnership includes over 30 collaborators, spanning five northeastern states and three Canadian provinces, working to ensure that people and wildlife thrive together.