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Wild Links, wolverines, and X-Men

Posted by Erin Moore at Dec 16, 2012 07:15 PM |

Wild Links. It sounds like a crazy miniature golf course or a small forest cat letting down its hair. And while the resemblance to golf isn't far off (a lot of "networking" goes on at the annual wildlife connectivity conference) and lynx do in a sense let down their "snowshoe hares," Wild Links is so much more. The people there are the X-Men (and X-Women) forging a future for wildlife.

Wild Links, wolverines, and X-Men

"The people at Wild Links are the science equivalent of the X-Men (and women) who are going to save the world’s wildlife from habitat fragmentation.”

Wild Links. It sounds like a crazy game of miniature golf, or a Canada lynx letting down its hair. And while the resemblance to golf isn't far off (a lot of "networking" goes on at the annual wildlife conference) and lynx do in a sense let down their snowshoe hares— Wild Links is much more.

The yearly briefing brings together scientists, conservationists, and others working for habitat and wildlife from grizzly bears to wolverines. At Wild Links they trade notes and build expertise to protect wildlife, essential for wildlife survival in a time of climate change.

Jen Watkins and Joe Scott of Conservation Northwest are the inspirational figures behind the conference and have together hosted every Wild Links. The sixth, and most recent, Wild Links held in October at the North Cascades Institute, built off past years', to better connected habitat across the border of BC and Washington in the Cascadia ecosystem.

Joe Scott warms up the crowd at Wild Links.
Joe Scott warms up the crowd at Wild Links.

Joe Scott, International programs director, set the tone for the 2012 Wild Links, saluting the “subversive eggheads.”

"With so many subversive eggheads in the room we have the power to affect change from the ground up with science as a guide. This group is the science equivalent of the X-Men (and women) who are going to save the world’s wildlife from habitat fragmentation.”

“Scientists like to see our science applied and Wild Links is invaluable, a time for working together and exchanging useful information.” —Gary Koehler, lynx biologist

The 2012 Wild Links spawned the idea of a one-year Cascadia Partner Forum (as part of North Pacific and Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperatives). Attendees also confirmed objectives for the transboundary Cascades Carnivore collaboration, including prioritizing what is needed most as we move forward to protect grizzly bears, wolverines, fisher, wolves, and lynx.

Wild Links visionary Jen Watkins tells another tale. "In a healthy system, every player knows their niche [VIDEO], their unique role that contributes to the greater function of the whole. We realized that on the lands where Conservation Northwest works—North Cascades, Columbia Highlands, and transboundary British Columbia—the critters seemed much more tuned to their niches than the people working to conserve wildlife and habitats.”

In their niche, participants at NCI
In their niche, participants at NCI

"That's where Wild Links comes in," says Jen. "Through it, we bring together foundations, non-profit organizations, scientists, and land managers to help fill the knowledge gap for wildlife and habitat." 

Over the years, Wild Links has grown. "It's humbling to see the work ongoing to protect the wildlife and habitats we care so deeply about," says Jen. "I'm inspired to see people coming together to become more collaborative, efficient, and effective.”

“We have not only strengthened our niche, but we now better understand the ecosystems," she said. "Sometimes it just takes a few days a year to get there."

Look for more to come from Wild Links.

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