For half a century, the Greater Hells Canyon Council has been working hard on behalf of the spectacular wildlands and wildlife in our mission area. As we approached our 50th year, we looked back with pride at our conservation legacy. We also looked forward to the next fifty years—years certain to be affected by global warming, biodiversity loss, and social transitions—and asked: how and where can we have the greatest impact in our mission area? What do we need most from these lands and waters? What does this place need from us?
Our Wild Connections campaign is grounded in these big questions. We know our world is changing; with that in mind, this campaign will take the initiative on behalf of our spectacular region’s long-term resilience. While hold-the-line eco-defense work remains crucial, the Greater Hells Canyon Region also needs innovative conservation strategies brought forward by partnership and collaboration. Both wild systems and human communities are more resilient when they are well-connected.
The area we’ve chosen to focus on for this campaign—the breaks of the lower Grande Ronde River, between the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness and Hells Canyon—is a landscape rich with connections local, ecoregional and global. Salmon and steelhead travel from the Pacific ocean to spawn here. Steep draws connect the largest remaining Pacific Northwest bunchgrass prairie to the deepest river canyon in North America. A hundred and fourteen species of neotropical birds flit from rimrock to springbox as they move north and south along the flyways of the interior West. And people have long been connected to this place, too: the Nez Perce wintered in these canyons, and they and their ancestors have hunted and lived along these creeks and rivers for at least 10,000 years. This country is big, rugged, and largely undeveloped: rich with refugia and history and adaptive possibility.
Map by Imus Geographics.
Our Wild Connections campaign will celebrate and enhance this inherent connectivity. We will work with our scientist partners to identify the most crucial corridors for wildlife movement and migration—both at present and in the face of climate change—and with collaborators old and new we will protect and restore those key linkages. We will treasure wild diversity at all scales, from cottonwood to black bear to spotted frog. And we will respect this place’s cultural heritage, too, recognizing that healthy human communities support the land they depend upon, and vice versa. We are excited to see how this campaign can also help us to address inequalities in our communities, such as unequal access to wild places.
Our region of focus is a patchwork of BLM, National Forest, private timber and agricultural land, Tribal and Nature Conservancy lands. Many of these land managers have conservation values or duties, but our Wild Connections campaign will try to put the pieces together into a unified, collective conservation vision for the area as a whole. We will listen, learn, and share our time and resources—and our love of this landscape—with partners old and new.
We are certain to see changes to the Greater Hells Canyon Region in the next fifty years. We’re already seeing effects of climate change and biodiversity loss. These challenge are bigger than dams, more dire than logging, more permanent than fire. One organization’s work in one region can’t arrest these global trends, but we can all do our part—together—to make sure that the spectacular landscape we call home—with its steep canyons and free-flowing creeks, its intact forests and grasslands, its salamanders, its prairie falcons, its land-dependent and land-loving people—is not only a treasure house of what we’ve managed to keep, but also a resilient refuge for an uncertain future.