Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative Foundation
Our Story Why We Exist
Why did the wolf cross the road? Or for that matter, not just the road, but the lands and waters of two Canadian provinces, three US states, numerous First Nations territories and countless private lands?
Not everyone can tell their own story. But mapping the travels of a 5-year-old female grey wolf named Pluie helped to change our perspective on, and the face of, conservation.
On a rainy June day in 1991, researchers in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, fitted Pluie with a radio-collar that went on to track her astonishing 100,000-square kilometre journey – more than 15 times the area of Banff National Park - over the next two years. Seeking out food and mates and trying to avoid the threats of civilization took her through Banff to British Columbia, and as far south as Montana, Idaho and Washington in the US.
It was journeys like Pluie’s, and the growing scientific understanding that conservation needed to happen at a broader, transboundary scale – the scale at which animals use the landscape - that inspired conservationist and Y2Y founder Harvey Locke to first write the words “Yellowstone to Yukon” on a map in 1993.
Scientists were finding that a whole range of species, from wolves to grizzly bears to fish and birds, were becoming isolated in protected ‘pockets’ and struggling to migrate from one area to the next. This affected their ability to support themselves, to reproduce and to adapt to a changing landscape and climate. And that in turn was impacting not just their survival, but the balance of the whole ecosystem that they interacted with.
The realization heralded the start of the collaborative Y2Y vision of an interconnected network of wild lands and waters in one of the world’s last remaining intact mountain ecosystems. That vision includes protecting not only the space needed for wildlife to roam, but clean air, clean water, and the integrity of the places we love to recreate in. For more than 20 years, Y2Y and its partners have been working hard and creatively to turn the vision into a reality.
And for more than 20 years, Y2Y has been bringing together the people, ideas and resources to make the connections that will ensure that animals like Pluie, as well as our own children and grandchildren, will be able to live and thrive with one another in harmony.
Our Impact What We Do
Y2Y is the only organization dedicated to securing the long-term ecological health of the Yellowstone to Yukon region. We work with over 300 diverse partners to protect and connect natural habitat across the 3200km of wild lands and waters - which has Alberta and the Rockies at its heart - and to ensure that people and wildlife can live together in harmony and thrive.
The region is a special place - home to the full suite of wildlife that was present when Europeans first arrived in North America; and the source of 13 major rivers, which provide clean, safe drinking water for more than 15 million people. It needs our best efforts, working together, to protect it.
We take action - locally, regionally and internationally - to safeguard the clean water, pure air, rich forests and iconic wildlife that are at risk. We bring together the right people in the right places to develop and implement regional, scientifically-grounded conservation solutions at the right time. That includes the public, First Nations, conservation organizations, scientists, academics, outdoors groups, local businesses, industry and government agencies.
The Y2Y vision changed the way people thought about conservation – and it changed the scale and focus of conservation efforts. We started thinking at the continental landscape scale that matters to animals.
And since 1993, the actions of Y2Y and its partners have increased protected areas from 11 to 21 percent within the Yellowstone to Yukon region, while new management restrictions have improved conservation across an additional 30 percent of lands. This collective work has also ensured that more than 1000km of roadways are, or are being made, wildlife-friendly.
Our 2015 Conservation Outcomes:
Catalyzed the efforts of 118 partners to enhance collective impact in the Yellowstone to Yukon region.
Collaborated on 67 conservation projects that protect habitat and connect wildlife throughout the region.
Protected more than 250,000 ac (100,000 ha) of land in Alberta’s Castle watershed.
Raised $326,000 to support grassroots projects.
Our Programs How We Do It
Since this vision was first conceived in 1993, our progress in protecting the land, waters and wildlife of the Yellowstone to Yukon region - which includes so many places important to Calgarians - has been guided by science and achieved through close collaboration and bold, innovative programming. We lead efforts to protect wild lands and waters throughout this region, but we also carry out, coordinate and support numerous projects that help animals to survive and thrive in the spaces between protected areas, and to safeguard them as they move from one area to the next.
We use eight key strategies:
1. Private Lands – working with willing property owners to secure and protect private lands that help maintain key wildlife corridors and habitat.
2. Protected Areas and Public Lands– identifying wildlife habitat that is at risk from development and find ways to protect it, such as helping to create new parks.
3. Policy – helping to shape and create policies and practices that support our vision.
4. Transportation – working to make busy roads (like the TransCanada Highway and Highway 3) safer for humans and wildlife, for example by installing fencing and crossings.
5. Co-existence - supporting education and outreach programs and tools that help people share space with wildlife.
6. Appropriate Development - supporting development that is consistent with our vision, and speaking out if it brings more damage than benefit.
7. Habitat Restoration – working to heal damaged forests and streams in key wildlife areas.
8. Promoting the Vision - promoting a connected landscape through our ever-growing networks and diverse businesses, scientists, non-profit groups and local communities.
Several of our more local initiatives are outlined here, and many more can be found on our website.
I. Protecting Alberta Headwaters
Alberta’s mountain headwaters supply fresh water to millions of Albertans, provide key ecosystem services such as flood and drought control, support habitat that is home to wildlife including iconic grizzlies, wolverines and caribou, and offer year-round, awe-inspiring recreational opportunities.
Y2Y has been leading conservation partners, outdoors groups, industry, local businesses and government agencies in efforts to safeguard our headwaters from inadequate protection and management, industrial development and over-use. Recent climatic conditions and events have reflected just how important it is that we find better ways to look after our watersheds. Find out more...
II. Reducing Wildlife/Vehicle Collisions
Highways fragment wildlife habitat throughout the Y2Y region and can be major barriers to connectivity and survival. Not only are animals (and of course humans) killed or injured through collisions, but highways can block or deter them from moving to find food, mates and new or seasonal habitat.
Highway 3 is just one of the busy highways that Y2Y is working to mitigate the impacts of. This east-west route south of Calgary helps up to 9,000 vehicles a day cut across the Rocky Mountains. The road also bisects an area of prime wildlife habitat, which is part of a north-south wildlife movement corridor for some of the region’s most iconic species, such as grizzly bears, wolverines, cougars and bighorn mountain sheep. There is nothing to help them negotiate the trucks, cars and motorbikes that thunder along, and frequent wildlife/vehicle collisions are taking a heavy toll on both humans and animals.
Y2Y is supporting Alberta initiatives around Crowsnest Pass and Rock Creek to help wildlife cross the road safely and to warn drivers of the dangers. Find out more...
III. Supporting Cutting-Edge Climate Change Programs
The ‘Crown of the Continent’ is one of the largest and most intact natural ecosystems in North America, and incorporates many of Calgarians’ beloved ‘back-yard’ recreational areas. The Crown of the Continent Conservation Initiative (CCCI) is a partnership between 14 leading conservation organizations, hosted by Y2Y, who work together on progressive, scientifically-based, large-landscape conservation and connectivity, through a climate change lens. CCCI also engages with community members, tribes and government agencies.
Having identified gaps in our approach to conservation through a comprehensive ‘Climate Impacts Assessment’, CCCI is now forging ahead with on-the-ground projects to support the resilience of our water sources, lands and wildlife in the face of changing environmental conditions. Find out more...
Our Requests What You Can Do
Be a part of the Y2Y vision and help protect and connect this iconic region and its wildlife forever! There are many ways you can make a difference:
Donate – give a little each month or make a one-off gift to Y2Y to help protect and connect the Y2Y region permanently. You may also want to consider donating to celebrate a special person or occasion, contributing through a payroll giving scheme or with your company, or remembering us in your Will. Donate through our secure online portal or contact us on 403-609-2666.
Take Action - There are many instances when speaking up on conservation issues – and for animals like Pluie who can’t speak up for themselves – can make a real difference. Sign up for Y2Y’s Action Alerts, and when an issue needs your help, we’ll send you an alert. Be part of the community speaking up to connect and protect the Yellowstone to Yukon region!
Spread the Word – We can do so much more together than we can do alone. Letting others know about the Y2Y vision and projects, and directing them to the Y2Y website, is a great way of building a community that can protect the landscape at a scale that matters to nature.
Grizzly bears, caribou and wolverines, and the habitat they – and we – depend on, face immense challenges in the wake of human development. We’re slowly but steadily proving that there is hope – please join us in the journey to help people and nature thrive.