The Wildlands Project Comes to Hidalgo County (Part 15)
  The Sky Island Alliance, Nature Conservancy, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and Wildlands Project affiliation is similar to an intricate puzzle. With your permission, I’ll try to explain the organizations and individuals involved in this collaborative effort - one piece at a time.

A Country Girl’s Musin’
By Judy Keeler

To refresh everyone’s memory, let’s take a look at what we know about the Wildlands Project. Much of this, according to
their own words:

The Problem - “human activity is undoing creation; the remaining degraded and fragmented lands will not sustain their biological diversity and evolutionary processes”.

The Mission – “to protect and restore the natural heritage of North America through the establishment of a connected system of wildlands”.

To stem the disappearance of wildlife and wilderness everyone must “allow the recovery of whole ecosystems and landscapes in every region of North America”.

“Recovery on this scale will take time—100 years or more in some places”.

The Vision – “rests on the spirit of social responsibility and acknowledges that the health of American society and its institutions depends on wildness”.

The Challenge – “Wild land proponents are called to their task” by their perception “that existing parks, wilderness areas, and wildlife refuges do not adequately protect life in the face of increasing human populations and technological changes”.

Despite the establishment of parks and reserves from Canada to Central America, wild land proponents claim “true wilderness and native, wild land-dependent species are in precipitous decline”. They give as examples:

“Grand predators—including the grizzly bear, gray wolf, wolverine, jaguar, and American crocodile—have been exterminated from large parts of their pre-Columbian range and are imperiled in much of their remaining habitat.”

“The disappearance of these top predators and other keystone species hastens the unraveling of ecosystems and impoverishes the lives of human beings”.

“Forests have been over-cut, cleared, and fragmented, leaving only scattered remnants of once vast ecosystems”.

“Tall- and short-grass prairie, once home to an extraordinary concentration of large mammals, has been almost entirely destroyed or domesticated”.

“Deserts, coastal areas, and mountains are imperiled by sprawling subdivisions and second-home development”.

“Motorized vehicles penetrate the few remaining roadless areas on illegal roads and tracks”.

“A rising tide of invasive exotic species—ecological opportunists of the global economy—threatens a new wave of extinction and the eventual homogenization of ecosystems everywhere”.

To further alarm their followers they claim these trends, taken globally, “are among the notable causes of the current and sixth major extinction event to occur since the first large organisms appeared on Earth a half-billion years ago”.

As a remedy, they believe “regional and continental networks” should be established that “will protect wild habitat, biodiversity, ecological integrity, ecological services, and evolutionary processes.

True wilderness, in their opinion, means creating:

“Extensive roadless areas—vast, self-regulated landscapes—free of mechanized human use and the sounds and constructions of modern civilization;”

“Viable, self-reproducing populations of all native species, including large predators;”

“Natural patterns of diversity at the genetic, species, ecosystem, and landscape levels.”

We should also be aware:

The Wildlands Project’s preserve model is referred to as the principle design to protect biodiversity within Section 10 of the United Nation's Global Biodiversity Assessment - authorized under the U.N. Convention for Biodiversity.

Conservation Biology’s preserve model, largely untested, will be used to establish large swaths of land as core preserves with surrounding buffer zones and linking corridors.

Member groups to the Wildlands Project “will recruit other activist, professional ecologists, and sympathetic agency personnel to assist in developing the proposed wild land areas”.

Trust groups such as the Nature Conservancy will be plugged into the proposals so when gaps are identified within a proposed reserve network, these privately held areas can become priorities for land acquisition.

Using the preserve model, the activist groups will “identify and map existing protected areas including federal and state wilderness areas, parks and wildlife refuges, heritage areas, monuments, BLM Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs), and US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Research Natural Areas (RNAs)”.

Activists will rely on other maps including: “National Park system maps, National Wildlife Refuge maps, BLM Wilderness Status maps and Nature Conservancy preserve maps”.

After all the already protected areas are laid out onto a single map, “the next step will be to overlay this map with a map of large roadless areas”. These roadless areas are defined as containing 100,000 or more acres in the West and 50,000 or more acres in the East.

Although it “may be necessary to allow some roads to remain open to official use for short periods to allow active restoration in severely abused areas, or for reintroduction of extirpated species”, the “majority of dirt and gravel roads on public lands should be closed quickly.”

Unprotected roadless areas on federal and state lands will be targeted for future wilderness bills, heritage sites or other “protective” legislation. Private lands within these areas will be given the highest priority for agency or trust acquisition.

In addition to legislating wildlands, the maps will also be used to appeal grazing, mining and timber harvesting and to establish litigation strategy in areas determined to be “priority wild lands”.

At least half the land area in the 48 conterminous states would be encompassed in core reserves and inner corridor zones

"One hundred years ago, John Muir argued that the newly withdrawn Forest Reserves in the West should be protected from logging, mining and livestock grazing." A key part of the Wildlands Project is to “return to Muir's vision for management of our public lands”.

In support of the Wildlands Project member organizations have petitioned to list over 2,000 species as threatened or endangered and have filed lawsuits challenging federal management for over 100 species.

By establishing “partnerships with grassroots and national conservation organizations, government agencies, indigenous peoples, private landowners, and with naturalists, scientists, and conservationists across the continent” a “network of wildlands from Central America to Alaska and from Nova Scotia to California” will be created.

Related article:

Technical Review of the Wildlands Project –


These articles are being published in the Hidalgo Herald, a local newspaper. If you would like a copy of the articles in this format send your request to: Hidalgo County Herald -

Brenda McCalmon, editor
101 East 4th St
Lordsburg, NM 88045
Phone: 505-542-8705
Fax: 505-542-8704

To read the complete set of the "Wildlands Project Comes to Hidalgo County" articles, visit:

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Judy Keeler, rancher and activist!

Contact: Judy Keeler
Animas, New Mexico

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