Wild animals find safety within the borders of protected areas and in the ecosystems surrounding them. But what happens when barriers restrict broader movement between these landscapes?
We are excited to have Chris Johns, former editor-in-chief of National Geographic magazine, join us this summer to lead a four-day Masters Series course addressing conservation Beyond Yellowstone.
We caught up with instructor Chris Johns about the course and the need to look beyond the park boundaries when thinking about wildlife conservation.
What do you mean by “Beyond Yellowstone?”
Shortly after the park was created in 1872, it became apparent that for wild animals to thrive, they need to move in and out of the park boundaries.
For Yellowstone National Park to thrive for generations to come, we have to consider all that is occurring beyond the park borders.
Recent wildlife migration research has found that wildlife movement is even more extensive across a vast landscape than previously thought. To encourage wildlife movement we need to examine how we live with wildlife on public, private, and tribal land.
Tell us a little about the people you have met who inhabit the park borders, and what their role is in the Yellowstone ecosystem.
I have met a lot of inspiring people who live near Yellowstone National Park’s borders. These people are changing the narrative from one of human-wildlife conflict to one of co-existence.
This is particularly true for private landowners such as ranchers. In Montana’s Tom Miner Basin on the northern border of the park, for example, the Anderson family has made a commitment to living with wildlife, such as grizzly bears and wolves, as they graze livestock. They are developing tools for ranching with large predators on a “working wild landscape” that encourages wildlife.
The Andersons are collaborating with wildlife biologists such as Dr. Arthur Middleton to learn more wildlife behavior. Increasingly, scientists, such as Arthur, are bridge builders that listen to community concerns and help find solutions for living with wildlife.
What drew, and continues to draw, you to Yellowstone?
As a National Geographic photographer and editor, I have worked throughout the world and found that there is no place more special than Yellowstone.
This is the site of the world’s first national park. It is also the home of three of the most remarkable wildlife recoveries on the planet. Every time I’m in the park and see bison, grizzly bears, or wolves on the magnificent Yellowstone landscape it takes my breath away and makes me proud that we brought these three species back from the brink.
What do you want people to take away from this Master Series course?
The creation of the world’s first national park, Yellowstone, is a big, bold idea. As big as that idea is, it is not big enough to fulfill the needs of Yellowstone’s wildlife.
Many of the people who live on the park’s boundaries realize that and are committed to living with and appreciating wildlife as it moves across one of the most beautiful and unique landscapes on earth.