The Adirondacks to Greens Linkage Overview
A Corridor for Wildlife Between the Adirondack and Green Mountains If you live in Rutland or southern Addison Counties, you live in a wildlife corridor. Very simply, a wildlife corridor is an area of land used by wildlife to travel from one large block of habitat to another. This corridor connects the Green Mountains to the Adirondacks, and our wildlife depend on this link! In fact, wildlife across the northeast, from New York to Nova Scotia, are currently connected via an elaborate habitat network that allows for genetic diversity and keeps populations strong. The network enables wide-‐ranging mammals like black bear, moose, bobcat, and fisher to travel as far as they need to find shelter, food, and mates. Much of Rutland County contributes to this wildlife corridor that connects the Adirondack and Green Mountains, with a number of smaller “stepping stones” in-‐between (Figure 1). North of Rutland County, Lake Champlain is wide, and the extensive agricultural lands provide little cover for large mammals. Farther south, development makes wildlife passage difficult. The wildlife corridor extends through Washington County in New York, breaking into two segments as it enters Rutland County in Vermont (see Figure 1). This corridor marks areas between the two ranges where forests are most continuous and wildlife can roam across the entire distance. While most animals do not cover the entire distance between the two mountain ranges, maintaining a continuous network of habitat from one to the other allows for breeding between animal populations and lets individuals range as far as they need, both of which are crucial factors that contribute to the long-‐term health of wildlife. Overall, Vermont is at the crossroads of an extensive wildlife network that links locations as far away as northern Maine and Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula and the Adirondacks in northern New York. Rutland County plays a critical role in linking habitat for wildlife across the northern forest, both within Vermont and beyond. Mapping the Wildlife Corridor In 2008, the Staying Connected Initiative (SCI) used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) modeling to predict areas most important for maintaining and enhancing habitat connectivity for wide-‐ranging wildlife between the Green Mountains and Adirondack Mountains. The corridor that was identified consists of forested “stepping stone” blocks of habitat (Figure 2) that link together to form a network of vital wildlife-‐sustaining habitat, providing the opportunity for the movement, migration, and dispersal of wide-‐ranging wildlife between the Green and Adirondack Mountains. The connection between “stepping stones” within this network is crucial for healthy and resilient wildlife populations. Figure 1: Adirondacks to Green Mountains Habitat Linkage for wide-‐ranging wildlife. SCI distilled the modeling results into different types of priority areas for maintaining the wildlife corridor. Larger habitat “stepping stones” are found within Habitat Linkage Lands (Figure 2). These areas contain large “anchor” blocks of forested habitat that form the backbone of the habitat network, connecting the Green and Adirondack Mountains. These lands mostly consist of private forest lands, along with some conserved forested areas. Land use management that keeps forests as forests is important in these areas. Nested within Habitat Linkage Lands are Critical Connecting Lands (Figure 2), which connect adjacent “stepping stone” forest blocks. Here, road corridors, development, and/or fragmented forest cover separate forested habitat. These areas are places where the footprint of human land use is greater (agricultural areas, small forested areas, and development), and the connectivity of the wildlife corridor is most likely to be jeopardized. Limited connections here can easily be disrupted, which could in turn have effects far beyond Rutland County, negatively impacting wildlife throughout the entire northeast. Landscape features that support connectivity (e.g. riparian habitat along streams and rivers, linear strips of forest cover in otherwise developed areas and hedgerows, woodlots/small forest blocks) are especially important in these areas. Ideally, wise land use decisions will maintain and/or restore these features within the Critical Connecting Lands. Important Road Crossings: SCI also identified (through the use of GIS models and roadside wildlife tracking) wildlife road crossing areas that are critical for maintaining a habitat linkage between the Green Mountains and Adirondacks. The most important of these crossings are within the Critical Connecting Lands. Overall, twelve important road crossing segments were identified in Vermont (Figure 2). Each crossing represents a location where maintaining the ability of large wildlife to cross the road in a manner that is safe for wildlife and motorists is critical for maintaining habitat connectivity between the Green Mountains and Adirondacks. Figure 2: Important features in the Adirondacks to Greens Linkage. Working Locally to Protect the Corridor The maps in Figures 1 and 2 represent a starting point for identifying areas that are most important for habitat connectivity in the Adirondack to Greens linkage. The Staying Connected Initiative is committed to assisting municipalities with interpreting these maps on a township level to protect connectivity in ways that are consistent with local interests and values.