Wild Places <br />Wild Places <br />The United States is blessed with a great variety of awe-inspiring landscapes from coast to coast. The National Wildlife Federation is working to protect these extraordinary places that are critical to the survival of America's wildlife.<br />
Arctic<br />Arctic <br />The Arctic is a region of extremes--extreme cold, extreme seasonal changes in daylight, and high winds. It sits at the top of world, covered in sea ice--a seemingly unwelcome place for life. Yet the Arctic is actually teeming with wildlife--from large mammals like walruses and polar bears to birds, fish, small plants and even tiny ocean organisms called plankton. Living alongside the diverse Arctic wildlife are indigenous peoples who have adapted to the Arctic's extreme conditions and call the region home. <br />
Bristol Bay<br />The Bristol Bay region in southwest Alaska--covering 40,000 square miles--is pristine wild country stretching across tundra and wetlands, crisscrossed with rivers that flow into the Bay. Up to forty million sockeye salmon return to this watershed each year, making it the world's largest run. In addition to sockeye, there are stunning runs of King salmon plus trophy rainbow trout and the full array of Arctic wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou and waterfowl. <br />Bristol Bay's pure waters, healthy habitat and breathtaking wilderness setting generate billions of dollars for the local economy by sustaining a thriving commercial and sport fishing industry, a vast variety of wildlife, and the centuries-old subsistence lifestyle of Alaska Natives.<br />
Chesapeake Bay<br />The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It runs north-south from the mouth of the Susquehanna River to the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the most productive estuaries in the world, with over 3,600 species of animals and plants. It provides vitally important habitat for wildlife, lots of recreational opportunities for people and it is an important fishery upon which both people and wildlife depend.<br />
Coastal Louisiana<br />About 40 percent of the coastal wetlands in the lower 48 states are found in Louisiana. These millions of acres of wetlands were built over thousands of years by Mississippi River floodwaters that deposited huge amounts of sediment at the river's delta. <br />Today, these wetlands range from interior forested wetlands to barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico and a wide array of interconnected habitats, including freshwater, brackish and salt marshes that are home to millions of birds and other wildlife. <br />
Everglades <br />The Everglades is a two million acre wetland ecosystem that reaches from central Florida, near Orlando, all the way south to Florida Bay. During the wet season, Lake Okeechobee overflows, releasing water into a very slow moving, shallow river dominated by sawgrass marsh--dubbed the "river of grass." The water flows southward, passing through diverse habitats, including cypress swamps, wet prairie and mangroves, until it reaches Everglades National Park and eventually Florida Bay.<br />Originally, the Greater Everglades Ecosystem had a large diversity of habitats connected by wetlands and water bodies. Since the 1800's, human actions have been altering the Everglades landscape. Water diversions and flood control projects cut water flows and connections between wetlands throughout the Everglades. Combined with agricultural and urban development, the size of the Everglades has decreased dramatically.<br />
Great Lakes<br />The Great Lakes--Michigan, Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario--form the largest surface freshwater system in the world. Together, they hold nearly one-fifth of the earth's surface freshwater. The Great Lakes have over 10,000 miles of shoreline and serve as a drain more than 200,000 square miles of land ranging from forested areas to agricultural lands, cities and suburbs.<br />The Great Lakes watershed includes some of North America's more fascinating wildlife such as the gray wolf, Canada lynx, moose and bald eagle. The lakes themselves are home to numerous fish, including lake whitefish, walleye, muskellunge and trout. Millions of migratory birds pass through the region during their spring and fall migrations.<br />
Northern Forest<br />The Northern Forest is one of the nation's great forest landscapes, well known for its charismatic wildlife, breath-taking autumn foliage, outdoor recreational opportunities and vast forested areas. <br />It stretches from Maine through northern New Hampshire and Vermont and into the Adirondacks and Tug Hill Plateau of northern New York. <br />The Northern Forest covers 26 million acres and is the largest continuous forest east of the Mississippi. <br /> <br />The Northern Forest is made up of a mixture of hardwood and boreal forests:<br />The hardwood forests (which include oak, sugar maple and beech trees) are found in the southern areas of the region. <br />The boreal forests (which include spruce and fir trees) extend north into Canada. <br />The diversity of ecosystems in this region provides habitat for many wildlife species, including moose, black bear, pine marten, Canada lynx, peregrine falcon and the bald eagle.<br />
Northern Forest and Platte River Wildlife<br />
Platte River <br />Each spring, the skies over Nebraska's Platte River fill with birdcalls. Ten million ducks and geese, half a million sandhill cranes, and many other birds--big and small--fly in to eat and rest during the long migration to their northern breeding grounds. This seasonal gathering of birds along the central Platte is one of the world's great wildlife spectacles. <br />The Platte River starts as two tributaries high in the Rocky Mountains, one of which flows down across Colorado (through the city of Denver), the other through Wyoming, to finally meet in Nebraska. In Nebraska, the river becomes wide and shallow, filled with sandbars that make excellent habitat for the many birds that live there or visit each year. Eventually the Platte empties into the Missouri River, which will meet up with the Mississippi. The Platte is one of many rivers that feed the mighty Mississippi.<br />People and the Platte River <br />The tributaries of the Platte River pass through all kinds of environments, some with virtually no people, such as Rocky Mountain wilderness and the high plains of Wyoming, and some with hundreds of thousands of people, such as Denver, Colorado. Platte River wells and surface water projects irrigate millions of acres of farm land and more than three million people get their drinking water largely from the Platte or nearby wells. Millions of dollars are spent each year by birdwatchers who come to witness the wonder of the spring migration in Nebraska and by river rafters and kayakers enjoying its spring flows in Colorado and Wyoming.<br />
Prairie Potholes<br />Sweeping across five Midwestern states and four Canadian provinces, North America's prairie potholes are an important habitat and natural resource of the Great Plains grasslands. <br />As ancient glaciers retreated over 10,000 years ago, millions of shallow depressions were left in the earth. These round (like a 'pot') depressions often fill with snowmelt and water in the spring, especially in wetter years, creating valuable seasonal wetlands that support rich plant and animal life. <br />Many millions of ducks and other waterfowl come to the prairie pothole region every year to feed and breed. <br />
Puget Sound <br />The Puget Sound is the second largest estuary in the United States. Its numerous glacier-carved channels and branches are fed by freshwater from over 10,000 rivers and streams that flow down from the Olympic and Cascade Mountains to the wetlands, salt marshes, and bays of the Sound. The Puget Sound's climate, extensive shoreline, nutrient-rich waters, and diverse habitats sustain a variety of wildlife. It is also a place of tremendous natural beauty, with its mountains, rugged coastline, and evergreen forests.<br />
Red Desert<br />The Red Desert of southern Wyoming is one of the last high-desert ecosystems in North America. Its varied landscape of buttes, dunes, sagebrush steppe, mountains and rocky pinnacles is home to some of the continents most hidden treasures:<br />The largest living dune system in the United States <br />The largest migratory herd of pronghorn in the lower 48 states <br />The world's largest herd of desert elk <br />And, at its heart, the Great Divide Basin--a large depression along the Continental Divide from which surface water does not flow out to either the Atlantic or the Pacific. <br />
Yellowstone<br />Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is America's first National Park. Located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, it is home to a large variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. <br />Yellowstone is sitting on a large volcanic field that, millions of years ago, had some of the world's largest known eruptions. That legacy makes it the site of the Earth's largest concentration of geysers, including Old Faithful, and some of the world's most extraordinary hot springs.<br />
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