As climate change encroaches, animals and plants around the globe are having their habitats pulled out from under them. At the same time, human development has made islands out of even our largest nature reserves, stranding the biodiversity that lives within them. The Spine of the Continent introduces readers to the most ambitious conservation effort ever undertaken: to create linked protected areas extending from the Yukon to Mexico, the entire length of North America.
This movement is the brainchild of Michael Soule, the founder of conservation biology and the peer of E.O. Wilson and Paul Ehrlich, who endorse his effort as necessary to saving nature on our continent. With blue-ribbon scientific foundations, the Spine is yet a grassroots, cooperative effort among conservation activists – NGOs large and small – and regular citizens. The Spine of the Continent is not only about making physical connections so that nature will persist; it is about making connections between people and the land we call home. In this fascinating, exciting, and important book, Mary Ellen Hannibal travels the length of the Spine, sharing stories and anecdotes about the passionate, idiosyncratic people she meets along the way – and the critters they love.
"This is the biography of a big conservation idea – connected wild lands and nature-friendly landscapes the length of the Rockies – and of the scientific and conservation pioneers making it actually happen. Mary Ellen Hannibal gives us an engrossing and inspiring story. The Spine of the Continent comes to life through those who are making it happen. This is a page-turner of science, action, and hope."
– Thomas E. Lovejoy, Biodiversity Chair, the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment
"The bad news is that human impacts are tearing nature apart at the seams. The good news is that conservation biology has quantified why we have to heal these wounds in our life-support systems, and how to do it. Scientists, NGOs, and regular people are joining in a geographical, social, and political effort to sustain wilderness along the Rocky Mountains – the most significant stretch of wilderness left on the continent. If we are to get any kind of handle on the extinction crisis that is decimating biodiversity, it will be by protecting the habitats that sustain it, along the Spine of the Continent. This is an engaging and entertaining book, and it is an important one."
– Paul R. Ehrlich, Bing Professor of Population Studies, Stanford University and author of The Dominant Animal
"A fine overview of wide-angle environmentalism. Hannibal explores the ambitious Spine of the Continent Initiative, a massive project to protect wildlife and land by connecting expanses of acreage across North America."
– Kirkus Reviews
"The Spine of the Continent initiative may be the most daring and important conservation effort of our era, knitting the islands of natural beauty we've preserved (or ignored) during the last century into a connected, functioning ecosystem to sustain us all. Mary Ellen Hannibal delivers a compelling and personal narrative about science, nature, the extinction crisis – and the men and women determined to restore America's most epic landscapes."
– Edward Humes, author of Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash
"A thoroughly satisfying gem, readers will find themselves in the company of America's best minds (Jared Diamond, Michael Soule) and heroes (Sherri Tippie), as Hannibal travels through landscapes chronicling the efforts underway to keep North America habitable for the plants and animals that first lived here and the people who now call it home. This is what scientific writing should be: fascinating and true."
– Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review, 07/09/2012