Wildlife Corridors

On December 4, 2016 · 0 Comments - won't you be the first?

Wildlife corridors do exactly what they imply, they provide safe passage for animals. Devices like these became increasingly important as pristine wilderness succumbed to development or urbanization. Without them animal populations became isolated even if protected within parks. This impacted genetic diversity and the overall health of local species. Further problems occurred when animals tried to travel from one safe space to another. They trampled over farmers’ fields or suburban backyards. They died crossing busy roadways. The National Wildlife Federation estimated, for example, "on U.S. highways, a vehicle hits an animal at least every 26 seconds."

A wildlife corridor can correct those issues. Solutions exists at various levels, from vast regional or even transnational fixes, all the way down to the hyper-local. Twelve Mile Circle decided to focus on a few examples from around the globe.

Siju-Rewak Elephant Corridor


Elephants in Meghalaya, along the Siju Rewak Elephany Corridor
Elephants in Meghalaya, along the Siju Rewak Elephany Corridor.
Photo by Neelima v on Flickr (cc)

Indian elephants represented the largest population of three distinct subspecies of Asian elephants. However the population dropped drastically during the 20th Century. The last century began with about a hundred thousands animals. Yet it ended with maybe a quarter of that. Habitat loss, human pressures and population fragmentation further limited Indian elephants to perhaps 15% of their historical range. This made corridors vital to their survival.

If you look at a map depicting the distribution of the elephant today, you will see a shattered kingdom, a vastly reduced range broken into fragments, a few drops of colour splashed accidentally on a worn out South Asian fabric. This is the tragedy facing the Asian elephant today – existence in isolation.

The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI)’s National Elephant Corridor Project identified natural migration paths. The Siju-Rewak Corridor in the Garo Hills offered one case study. It fell within the state of Meghalaya, in the far northeastern corner of India where it bordered Bangladesh. Here the Someshwari (or Simsang) River cut through the Garo Hills, creating a rocky ravine too steep for elephants to cross except in four places. The Trust worked with local communities to set-aside necessary land at choke points so elephants could pass undisturbed. This connected a string of protected properties; Balpharkam National Park, Siju Wildlife Sanctuary, Rewak Reserve Forest and Nokrek National Park (map).


Amboseli-Chyulu Wildlife Corridor


Safari to Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Safari to Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Photo by future15pic on Flickr (cc)

A similar situation existed in eastern Africa. Kenya dealt with multiple dimensions to the problem. Wildlife on the plains required lots of room to roam. Tourism brought a huge economic benefit that depended on healthy, sustainable animals. Nobody would come for a safari experience if there weren’t any marquis species like giraffes, lions, zebras and elephants. Yet the people who lived there also needed land for their survival. Animals got pushed onto parks. The need for corridors became imperative.

As an example, the African Wildlife Federation created the Amboseli-Chyulu Wildlife Corridor. It connected Amboseli National Park, Chyulu Hills and Tsavo West National Park (map). The Federation also used monetary incentives. Local landowners earned payments "for every acre set aside for conservation and safeguarded against poaching, subdivision, and other activities that could degrade habitat."


Mata Atlantica



Brazil’s Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlantica) also faced similar pressures.

The Brazilian Atlantic Forest is one of the most biodiverse forests in the world. 70% of Brazil’s population now lives in the area that was once the Atlantic Forest. Only 7% of the forest remains and in Pontal do Paranapanema that number is down to 3%.

Efforts to create wildlife corridors sprang up in various parts of the nation. In support, non-profit groups such as the World Land Trust purchased acreage that they then donated for conservation purposes. Other groups such as WeForest investigated where animals migrated using GPS collars, then focus on creating corridors along those natural routes. One corridor connected Morro do Diabo State Park (map) and the Iguaçu National Park.


Local Roads


Wildlife Underpass
Wildlife Underpass. Photo by Kurt Bauschardt on Flickr (cc)

Not everything needed to take place on such a gigantic scale. Effective local solutions also existed in many places, for example, in the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. There on its southern edge sat Larch Sanctuary and the Whitemud Nature Reserve.

Nestled in the middle of Edmonton lies Larch Sanctuary, a section of the Whitemud creek ravine just upstream of its confluence with Blackmud creek. This 58 acre reserve is on the south side of 23rd Avenue, with housing developments at the top of the banks on either side, so it truly is a sanctuary. Despite being right inside a major city, Larch Sanctuary retains remarkable biodiversity.

This was the "only continuously-wooded, relatively-undeveloped stretch of land running through the City," It also contained Edmonton’s only ox bow lake, a topic of particular interest to 12MC. However animals needed a way to get to and from this protected space. They risked being hit on a busy divided highway, Anthony Henday Drive. Thus, the solution centered on constructing a specially constructed underpass (satellite view). Then animals could cross freely.

On December 4, 2016 · 0 Comments - won't you be the first?

Newsworthy River Cutoffs

On December 1, 2016 · 3 Comments

Rivers can make great boundaries when they cooperate. Frequently they do not. These creatures of nature flow where they want to flow. Sometimes they erode deep furrows through solid rock, changing course only after eons pass. Other times they cross alluvial plains, shifting into multiple ephemeral streams awaiting the next flood. Problems will undoubtedly occur when people rely upon frequently-shifting rivers as boundaries. The shifts create winners and losers.

Two recent border situations came to my attention, handled in distinctly different ways by those involved.

The Red River



Reader Glenn seemed amused by the craziness of the border between Texas and its neighbors — Oklahoma and Arkansas — along the Red River, in an email he sent to 12MC a couple of months ago. The border rarely followed the river exactly, it reflected a version of the river that existed a long time ago. Many of the cutoffs on the "wrong" side of the river still retained names from a bygone day; Eagle Bend, Horseshoe Bend, Whitaker Bend and Hurricane Bend. Others seemed to represent the year of the flood that changed the underlying channel; such as 1908 Cutoff and Forty-One Cutoff.

Fixing the Border


Bend in Red River, Texas
Bend in Red River, Texas. Photo by brewbooks on Flickr (cc)

I might have left it at that, a simple observation of a messed-up situation. However, the decision to use the Red River beginning with the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 continues to reverberate today. This treaty between Spain and the United States addressed a host of boundary issues. A line along the Red River remained in place when México gained independence from Spain in 1821, when Texas gained independence in 1836 and when Texas joined the United States in 1846. The river had different intentions though and meandered as it pleased.

The Red River figured prominently in a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Oklahoma v. Texas, 260 U.S. 606 (1923). The Court noted that even though the river wandered, it remained within two "cut banks" broadly defined.

… we hold that the bank intended by the treaty provision is the water-washed and relatively permanent elevation or acclivity at the outer line of the river bed which separates the bed from the adjacent upland, whether valley or hill, and serves to confine the waters within the bed and to preserve the course of the river, and that the boundary intended is on and along the bank at the average or mean level attained by the waters in the periods when they reach and wash the bank without overflowing it.

The Court set the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma on the south side of the Red River. Surveyors then marked and set the boundary.

The Current Dispute

Except the river kept changing while the boundary, as determined by the Court in 1923, remained fixed. The latest dispute began within the last several years. It got much more complicated. While the line between Texas and Oklahoma began at the south bank, the Federal government held the portion from the middle of the river to the south bank in public trust for Native Americans. This formed a narrow strip, a 116 mile (190 kilometre) ribbon. Much of that strip is now on dry land. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management estimated that 90,000 acres actually belong in the public domain, and not to the people living there, farming it or grazing their cattle for the last century. Lawsuits continue to rage.


The River Meuse


Netherlands Belgium Border Adjustment
Netherlands / Belgium Border Adjustment
Underlying Map from OpenStreetMap

Reader Jasper sent me a heads up that Belgium shrank and the Netherlands grew on November 28, 2016. The two sides came to an amicable agreement and adjusted their border. Didier Reynders of Belgium and Bert Koenders of the Netherlands signed a treaty in Amsterdam, in the presence of their respective monarchs, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, and King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima. The announcement came in a Press Release with coverage in local media (Google Translation of an article in Flemish).

The areas in question fell along the banks of the River Meuse, forming a portion of the boundary between the two nations. They established their original border there in 1843. However, these neighbors decided to straighten their common river to improve navigation in stages between 1962 and 1980. This left a piece of the Netherlands and two pieces of Belgium on the "wrong" side of the river between Visé and Eijsden (map). Police could not access these spots easily and they became havens for illegal activities. This included a situation where a headless body washed ashore on one of the exclaves. Territorial complexities hampered the investigation.

In an unusual twist and in a supreme act of neighborly cooperation, the two nations simply agreed to swap their stranded parcels. It seemed the most logical option, and yet, it remained exceedingly rare in other border situations worldwide. Nobody wants to be the loser. Belgium simply gave up 14 hectares (35 acres) in the deal and called it good.

On December 1, 2016 · 3 Comments

Ramble On

On November 27, 2016 · 3 Comments

It’s the Thanksgiving weekend and I’m feeling a bit lazy. I think I’ll just ramble on for awhile instead of writing a real article. Those of you reading from countries without a similar holday may not understand much about Thanksgiving. In the United States it involves several days of overeating to the point of immobility, and sitting on a couch watching (American) football games all day. I’m not motivated to put the necessary research into writing something mentally stimulating. You might want to skip today and come back next time.

Turkey Trot

A slightly more athletic Thanksgiving activity formed in recent years, a "traditional" running race known as the Turkey Trot. Races tended to start early on Thanksgiving morning before culinary indulgences could sideline potential participants. They covered short distances, like maybe 5 kilometres or 5 miles. That way people could pretend they were behaving in a healthy manner when, in fact, they were simply getting ready to stuff themselves silly in a few hours.


Arlington Turkey Trot 2014
My local Turkey Trot a couple years ago. I didn’t take any photos this year.

Our local neighborhood began its Turkey Trot about a decade ago. My wife took great pride in signing me up the last couple years. I think she enjoyed tormenting me. There I stood on the start line once again this year at precisely 8:00 am, ready to hit the pavement with 3,000 of my closest friends. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I finished in first place for my age bracket. That should never happen. I’m not that fast. Then I noticed that she’d accidentally signed me up as a woman. For a few brief moments I claimed to be the fastest middle-aged woman in town. Once corrected however, I fell down to fourth place for my age bracket. That still sounded impressive although it also included participants dressed as pilgrims, or with plastic turkeys on their heads, or in full Santa Clause outfits, or walking dogs. My effort wasn’t all that notable in that context. Then I spent the rest of the day eating, as expected and customary.


Mainly Marathons



That reminded me. I’ve just started planning for the next marathon race series. Longtime readers probably remembered several previous trips. I don’t run those distances, I simply drive my favorite runner from state-to-state for each event in sequence and count counties. We’re looking at the Heartland Series for 2017. That event will arrive before I know it even though it won’t happen until late May. Races will be held in Bryan, Ohio; Niles, Michigan; Portage, Indiana; Fulton, Illinois; Clinton, Iowa; Sparta, Wisconsin and Albert Lea, Minnesota. Seven races, seven days, seven states, beginning May 28, 2017. We probably won’t do the last two races. I can only take a week off from work and it would put us too far from home to get back in time.

Anyone knowing about interesting things to see along the way can let me know in the comments. I’d also love to meet anyone who wants to race one or more races (they do have shorter options all the way down to 5K). I’ve noticed there doesn’t seem to be much of an intersection between the 12MC audience and this activity, though. Nobody took me up on similar offers in previous years, and that’s fine too. I’ll put it out there just in case.


Music Break



Since I’ve called this article Ramble On, feel free to take a break and listen to Ramble On.


Finish West Virginia



When last I left West Virginia, only six counties remained on my county counting list before I could finish the state. I spent a few moments sketching out what it would take. The result, above, demonstrated that I should be able to complete West Virginia during a long weekend. Inauguration Day falls on a Friday in 2017. I’m thinking that might be an ideal time to get away from the Washington, DC area if the weather cooperates. It will happen sometime in the next few months if it doesn’t happen then.


Blog Spam

Blog spam largely disappeared when Google changed its algorithms to penalize websites referenced by spam links. However, it seemed to make a bit of a resurgence in the last couple of months. That meant I could start tweeting the best examples again on the 12MC Twitter account: "I such a lot indisputably will make sure to don’t put out of your mind this website and give it a look on a relentless basis."


The Political Graveyard


Michigan Civil War Era Graves - Pic 13
Grave of US Senator Zachariah Chandler –
Elmwood Cemetery – Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Michael Noirot on Flickr (cc)

I’ve enjoyed a slightly morbid site called The Political Graveyard lately. Want to know the final resting place of practically any politician in the history of the United States? The Political Graveyard probably catalogued it. As an example, for my recent article on Winfield Scott (who ran as the Whig candidate for President in addition to his long military career), could have noted his burial at the United States Military Academy Cemetery (map). I’m not sure what that would have added although I still found it addictive.

How about somebody completely obscure. I selected Zachariah Chandler (1813-1879) somewhat randomly. He served as mayor of Detroit, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and U.S. Senator, amongst other offices. He "Died, from a brain hemorrhage, in his room at the Grand Pacific Hotel, Chicago, Cook County, Ill., November 1, 1879 (age 65 years, 326 days). Interment at Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit, Mich." (map). See what I mean by addictive? It served no practical purpose. Maybe that’s why I liked it.


Stuff from Readers

Reader Joe sent a couple of interesting article links. One in particular might apply to the 12MC audience: The Sun Has Set on Barrow, Alaska for the Final Time… Ever. Barrow, the northernmost town in Alaska went dark on November 18. The sun will rise again on January 22. However, its name will change to Utqiaġvik on December 1. They’ve ditched their English name for an Inupiat Eskimo name to better align with their culture. Native speakers pronounced it something like "Oot KHAH’-ghah veek." It reminded me of the recent change of the Wade Hampton Census Area to Kusilvak in another area of Alaska a few months ago.

Reader Rowland wondered what the U.S. map would look like if states were redrawn with equal populations. I’m still pondering that one. What would be the best way to do that? Would we also have to change boundaries, I wondered, after every decennial census?

On November 27, 2016 · 3 Comments
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