Heuer named Y2Y president
Since famously hiking from Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) to focus attention on the urgent need to protect areas for wide-roaming wildlife, his name has been virtually synonymous with the ambitious Y2Y Conservation Initiative.
And now Canmore’s Karsten Heuer has been named president of the Y2Y Conservation Initiative, beating out approximately 40 other applicants. He starts his new job in January.
“This is where I live, this is where I belong and part of that is because of the wildness I feel that still surrounds us,” Heuer said. “We have to work on a massive continental scale to keep all of that and that’s why I am so keen to contribute.”
Heuer, who recently left his 18-year career with Parks Canada to take on this job, began his career as a wildlife biologist studying the effects of human activities on large mammal movements in Banff National Park.
It was also around this time that he volunteered with a project that studied the movements of Pluie, a wide-ranging radio-collared wolf that ended up being shot by a rancher.
Pluie’s travels spanned over 100,000 square kilometres of Alberta, British Columbia, Montana and Idaho – an area 15 times larger than Banff National Park and 10 times larger than Yellowstone National Park.
The wide-ranging travel of Pluie not only illuminated Heuer’s belief in the need for large, connected landscapes, it also helped provide the scientific grounding for the Y2Y vision.
Inspired by the idea of connecting wildlife corridors, Heuer set off on his first major adventure in 1998 as a grizzly bear or wolverine might: by following one of the wildest routes through the Yellowstone to Yukon region on foot.
His 3,400-km journey gained media attention everywhere and was chronicled in his best-selling book, Walking the Big Wild – From Yellowstone to Yukon on the Grizzly Trail.
A great adventurer and dedicated conservationist, Heuer also went on to follow in the footsteps of the 120,000 Porcupine caribou herd across the Arctic tundra.
His goal was to raise awareness of the threats to calving grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. From his experience, he penned another book, Being Caribou – Five Months on Foot with an Arctic Herd.
Heuer said what he has come to learn is that the landscape has to be considered at a scale that wildlife shows us is important.
“Anything less is not going to allow wildlife to survive into future, not with climate change, forest fires, genetic inbreeding, disease outbreaks,” he said. “They need much more than national parks.”
Although working behind a desk will be foreign to Heuer, he believes it is a natural progression from his more adventurous days – especially as he approaches 44 and has had both hips replaced – and is ready to tackle his new job with passion and commitment.
“Although my life has always been somewhat committed to Y2Y since doing the hike, I haven’t been involved in the day-to-day business of the organization,” he said.
“I have a lot of ideas, but at this point I really do have to bring myself up to speed.”
Heuer said he would like to once again travel from Yellowstone to Yukon to reconnect personally with Y2Y’s partner organizations.
“I would like to do that as much as possible in person and that would mean a big trip all the way from Yellowstone to Yukon,” he said. “I just won’t walk this time.”
Sarah Palmer, chair of the Y2Y’s Alberta Society Board, said they are thrilled to welcome Heuer to the team.
“He brings a level of passion, commitment and first-hand knowledge and experience that will help us navigate through this next phase of Y2Y’s conservation journey,” she said.
Heuer succeeds Rob Buffler, who was the executive director of the Y2Y Conservation Initiative for the past nine years.
In order to post comments on our web site, you must validate your email address. An email was sent to you when you registered that included an activation link. If you have not yet done so, please click on the link to activate your account.
If you did not receive your activation email, please click here to have it resent.