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Group champions 'living landscapes'

'Fifty of the world's wildest and most valuable places'

The Ndoki-Likouala landscape area comprises a vast stretch of lowland forest, rich in mahoganies and large mammals, including many of the largest primates.  

By Gary Strieker
CNN Environmental Correspondent

(CNN) -- There's a major new conservation project in place, intended to find more effective ways to protect some of the planet's most important wild landscapes.

They include Ndoki-Likouala in the Republic of Congo, the greater Yellowstone area in the United States and Mamiraua-Amana in Brazil.

All are largely intact ecosystems with a full complement of wildlife, including what are called "landscape species," like elephants, bison and big cats -- wide-ranging animals that deeply influence their surroundings, biologically and culturally.

These critical wild areas are the focus of a new conservation initiative called "Living Landscapes," being developed by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"Our ability to do this has been advanced by a visionary gift from Robert Wilson, a $20 million challenge grant to try to address conservation in 50 of the world's wildest and most valuable places," says Steven Sanderson, CEO of the New York-based group.

Many of the living landscapes already contain protected areas, but all of them are places of potential conflict between wildlife and humans. Migrations often take animals outside existing parks and reserves to logging, mining or agricultural areas.

Upper Falls on the Yellowstone River in the Yellowstone National Park, a "living landscapes" area of interest in the United States.  

In the living landscapes initiative, conservationists will focus their work in areas outside parks and reserves, building alliances with local people, governments and the private sector to find a workable balance between the needs of wildlife and humans.

The objective is to reach long-term, sustainable ways for people and wildlife to coexist, and to save these last wild Edens on the planet.


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