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The Planet

The Planet
December 1998 Volume 5, Number 10

on the border

Cat Crossing

by John Byrne Barry

Two years ago, Warner Glenn, an Arizona rancher, photographed a jaguar in the Peloncillo Mountains near his land. It added one more piece of evidence that jaguars are roaming far north of their purported home range in Mexico's Sierra Madre mountains.

The jaguar had been coming and going from Mexico for at least a year before the photos were taken, and has been sighted since.

Making the journey north a safe one is a goal of the Sky Island Alliance, a regional group working with The Wildlands Project.

"We're working to protect large biological corridors for the movement of wide-ranging species, such as jaguars, Mexican wolves and bighorn sheep," says Andy Holdsworth, a Sky Alliance field coordinator in Tucson. "This undertaking embodies The Wildlands Project's broader vision of 're-wilding the landscape.'"

Such a protected corridor, even if only several miles wide at its narrowest, can increase the viability of a species because it allows passage from one wild pocket to another and prevents "islands" of dwindling populations.

The Wildlands Project, chaired by Dave Foreman, a former Sierra Club board director, includes Club members in the Rio Grande, Grand Canyon and Lone Star chapters. The proposed Sky Island/Greater Gila Nature Reserve Network would straddle the Continental Divide from the Sierra Madre Mountains in the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora into the Rocky Mountain plateau region of Arizona and New Mexico and, ultimately, connect with other such reserves stretching all the way into the Canadian Rockies.

The goal is simple - identify the paths these wild cats and wolves are already traveling or could most likely travel and develop strategies to protect them - either through agreements with landowners, outright purchase of private lands or appropriate management of public lands.

"Big cats generally avoid humans and prefer plenty of cover," says Holdsworth, "so it's not that hard to identify important corridors." Volunteers in Arizona and New Mexico are surveying likely corridors, especially along rivers. In many cases they monitor for animal tracks or scat. Mexican biologists are implementing the field surveys south of the border.

For more information: Contact Andy Holdsworth at (520) 327-1129;

Go on to the next article, "We're for Seepage"

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