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Why we need Canada

The story of the return of wolves and fishers to Washington has another side—their source. These animals didn't just come from outer space, nor were they part of a zoo's captive breeding program. They all came from Canada.

Reintroduced Olympics fisher, Hoh rainforest, 2009. Photo by David Moskowitz

It's tough to distinguish between a Canadian wolverine and an American one—they both go wherever they want. Nature knows no boundaries: We may be two countries, but to grizzly bears and boreal owls, there's just one ecosystem. In fact, the majority of BC's species are transboundary.

Throughout Washington's forests, fishers, once ubiquitous forest predators, have been absent since the 1930s, wiped out by decades of trapping and clearcut logging of their old-growth forest habitats. Wolves also had disappeared from the state in the early 1900s thanks to persecution and bounties.

Fishers and wolves, like any other naturally occurring animals, play key ecological roles in their environments. A recent study in Olympic National Park by Oregon State biologists showed that the lack of wolves led to a boom in elk populations, the over browsing of shrubs and tree saplings, and erosion so severe it has profoundly altered the streams and rivers in the Olympics. And fishers seem to be the only effective natural control of porcupines, an herbivore disliked by foresters for the damage they can cause to seedlings and young trees.

See the full article by Joe Scott, in the Spring 2009 Conservation Northwest Quarterly

Canada is source for many wildlife

Washington gray wolf, summer 2008. Photo USFS

Fisher, wolves, lynx, and moose are making a dramatic comeback in the Pacific Northwest, immigrating from north of the border in Canada. Grizzly bear recovery in Washington’s Cascades and Selkirks may also depend on the movement of bears into the state from interior BC. The rarest of North America’s endangered large mammals, mountain caribou, only exist in the US because they were transplanted into north Idaho from British Columbia.

The story of the return of wolves and fishers to Washington has another side—their source. These animals didn't just come from outer space, nor were they part of a zoo's captive breeding program. They all came from Canada.

Connectivity is key

Now, however, wildlife demographic trends may become more muddled as climate change related habitat influences, like fire and disease, become more widespread. Some snow-dependent animals including wolverine, lynx, and caribou may find that they need larger home ranges. Habitat connectivity within Canada to the Cascades and the Northern Rockies and between these mountain ranges in the US is critically important for sustaining a number of wildlife species.

In the coming decade, as US population growth and climate change continue, many species may find it necessary to move northward again. The US and Canada must come up with a cooperative strategy that allows wildlife the freedom to roam in response to climate related habitat changes and continued development pressures.

The loss of healthy ecosystems and biodiversity impacts "ecosystem services" such as clean air and clean water, as well as on our food, timber, and medicine. These ecosystem services provided by nature are threatened by human actions, such as unsustainable logging, pollution, and global warming.

Our shared wildlife and ecosystems can't be protected from only one side of the border. As we share our ecosystems with Canada we must also share our efforts to keep it safe and healthy. Conservation Northwest remains committed to keeping the partnerships between ourselves and our Canadian allies strong, and our mutual efforts successful for the sake of both our posterity. 

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