The Spine of the Continent

July 20, 2012 / by admin

When veteran scientists weep in front of you, the world tilts a bit more on its delicate axis. Dispassionate brainiacs, crying? But that’s what happened while I was researching my previous book, Evidence of Evolution. Several of the taxonomists I interviewed actually wept while telling me about their research. The plants and animals they study are disappearing; the very special places these scientists love are changing too fast.

It’s easy to feel hopeless when confronted by the kind of loss biodiversity is experiencing now. But all is not lost.

While trying to figure out how to help these people, I heard about an ambitious initiative to link landscapes along thousands of miles in the Rockies – perhaps the most iconic of American places.  Imagine a grassroots movement stretching from Mexico to Canada, powered by cutting-edge technology, fueled by idealism, and guided by blue-ribbon science.  By connecting landscapes we can help save biodiversity, and that is what is happening along The Spine of the Continent. In this inspiring story, the West can still be called, as Wallace Stegner called it, “the geography of hope.”  Order here.



“This is the biography of a big conservation idea – of 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 in 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

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.     
– Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edward Humes, author of Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash

Mary Ellen Hannibal has brought a critical issue to light, and her insightful book deserves a wide audience. The Spine of the Continent should mark an epoch in conservation history—the moment, perhaps, let us hope, when large-scale thinking is at last brought to bear on our most precious landscapes.    
–Thomas McNamee, author of The Grizzly Bear and The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat