After a journey that took him from Florida to northern Quebec, an explorer and conservationist has identified 16 habitats that he says must be protected if eastern North America's wildlife is to survive and thrive.
John Davis, co-founder of conservation organization Wildlands Network, traveled from the Florida Keys to Canada's Gaspé Peninsula, a 7,600-mile (12,230 kilometers) trek that he undertook without the aid of any modern conveyances. Davis bicycled, paddled and walked the entire way.
Based on his observations during the nearly yearlong journey, Davis has come up with what he calls the Essential Sixteen: regions home to key species that are facing steep threats.
"We need to address the impacts of highway and private land development that are blocking wide-ranging animals from following their traditional movement pathways, reducing their ability to find mates and food or respond to climate change," Davis said in a statement.
In addition, Davis and his organization are calling for a corridor to connect the eastern United States' remaining wild places.
The areas on Davis' list of 16 essential spots are:
- Caloosahatchee Crossing, Florida — one of the last strongholds of the panther in the eastern United States
- Conecuh to Eglin Longleaf Complex, Florida and Alabama — an expanse of longleaf pines ranging from Conecuh National Forest to Eglin Air Force Base
- Ocmulgee and Altamaha rivers, Georgia
- ACE Basin to Francis Marion National Forest, South Carolina
- Green Swamp and Cape Fear Arch, North and South Carolina
- Linville Gorge to Roan Mountain, North Carolina and Tennessee
- Pine Mountain, southeast Kentucky
- Arc of Appalachia, southern Ohio
- West Virginia Highlands
- Pine Creek watershed, Ridge and Valley Province, Pennsylvania
- Shawangunk to Catskills Greenway, southern New York
- Southern Lake Champlain Valley and Vermont Valley, New York and Vermont
- Northern Green Mountains/Suttons link, northern Vermont and southern Quebec
- Northeast Kingdom to Moosehead: northeastern Vermont, northern New Hampshire and western and northern Maine
- Three Borders area of Maine, Quebec and New Brunswick
- Gaspesie Park to Forillon Park, Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec
Davis plans to trek through the North American west, a trip that will take him from Mexico to Canada, in 2013.