Friday, June 14, 2019

The World's Wildest Cities

Some surprisingly large wild spaces are thriving within metropolitan areas.

By Jason Overdorf (US News & World Report - June 2019)

As cities search for ways to combat sprawl, adopt smart technology and go green, officials are also looking to minimize habitat loss for native and endangered wildlife species. Since the 1970s, some surprisingly large wilderness areas have been set up within metropolitan areas – and sometimes within city limits – all over the globe. Call them the World's Wildest Cities.

"A large block of habitat is much more valuable than a bunch of small blocks. You get a greater diversity of animals. You have better connectivity to their resource needs – they need water and they need cover and places to be wild and free," says Scott Hamilton, natural resource manager for the city of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Here are nine cities that have ample amounts of green within their borders.

1. Chugach State Park, Anchorage, Alaska (495,199 acres)

Established in the 1970s, the mammoth Chugach State Park is located completely within the metropolitan area of Anchorage, Alaska. Some of the best trailheads and access points are 20 minutes from downtown, according to city officials, attracting more human traffic than any other wilderness area in the state. Yet it remains home to 45 mammal species including 1,000 moose, 120 brown and black bears, at least one wolf pack, and 2,000 Dall sheep, according to Travel Alaska. Moose and bears wander into town now and then, but nobody seems to mind.

2. McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Scottsdale, Arizona (30,580 acres)

The Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve started small in 1994, but it was always envisioned as the huge “people’s preserve” it is today, functioning as an important wildlife corridor for at least 25 mammal species, 35 species of reptiles and amphibians and 128 identified species of birds like prairie falcons, great horned owls and, of course, roadrunners. Featuring archeological sites and ancient petroglyphs as well as stunning natural scenery, it prompted city officials to realize “the desert was our ocean,” according to Rachel Sacco, longtime president and CEO of the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. Bow hunting is allowed in the preserve, but firearms are prohibited.

3. Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town, South Africa (54,610 acres)

Set up in 1998, South Africa’s Table Mountain National Park is entirely surrounded by the city of Cape Town. It’s not all unspoiled wilderness, and it sees some 4 million visitors a year, yet it’shome to several species of small and large antelope, the Cape Mountain Zebra, Chacma Baboons, the Cape Fox and many other fascinating animals – along with 8,200 different species of plants. The Cape Floral Kingdom lies within the park’s boundaries; the smallest and richest of the six floral kingdoms that occur on earth, it was named a Natural World Heritage Site in 2004. The climbs up Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head are popular, notes Fodors, but often more people die in a year on Table Mountain than on Mount Everest.

4. Pedra Branca State Park, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (30,626 acres)

Located in the western part of Rio de Janeiro, the Pedra Branca State Park touches 17 different city neighborhoods and occupies 10 percent of the total municipal area of the city, according to ScienceDirect. Created in 1974, it’s an important fragment of the Atlantic Forest – which runs along the Atlantic coast of Brazil – offering a home to the white-eared parakeet, the fruit bat and the brown-throated sloth, as well as other threatened species of birds, bats and reptiles.

5. Rouge National Urban Park, Toronto, Canada (19,521 acres)

Established in 2015, Rouge is Canada’s first National Urban Park. It spans parts of the cities of Markham and Pickering, but most of it lies in the Scarborough district of Toronto. An ecologically protected zone that includes farmland, wetlands and rivers, it’s home to 247 species of birds, 73 species of fish and 44 species of mammals, including deer, coyotes, beavers and mink. Now on the anvil is a project called The Meadoway that will connect the park to downtown Toronto via a 10-mile “amazing meadow full of all kinds of insects and butterflies," according to Richard Ubbens, director of parks for the city.

6. Losiny Ostrov National Park, Moscow, Russia (28,717 acres)

Nearly a third of Russia’s Losiny Ostrov National Park falls within the Moscow city limits, providing a home for moose, elk and wild boar, as well as rare species like the blue-footed owl and gray-headed woodpecker. The name means “Elk Island” in Russian, and the park was a popular hunting ground for the czars before it was turned over to the Forest Department in 1804. It became a national park in 1983. Nearly half the park’s area is closed to the public and another third is open only for restricted use to ensure that the habitat remains pristine. But that still leaves around 7,500 acres for recreational use.

7. Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai, India (25,659 acres)

An island of thick jungle amid the sweltering bustle of Mumbai, Sanjay Gandhi National Parkattracts more than 2 million visitors a year, largely due to the 2,400-year-old Kanheri caves – single cell monasteries built by Buddhist monks that feature elaborate carvings. But the park is also home to spotted deer, rhesus macaque monkeys, the Indian flying-fox and leopards – which occasionally attack people on the park’s fringes in their hunt for delicious stray dogs amid the garbage dumps.

8. Bukhansan National Park, Seoul, South Korea (19,749 acres)

Like similar parks in India and South Africa, Seoul’s Bukhansan National Park is completely surrounded by urban life. Set up in 1983, it encompasses the Bukhansanseong Fortress, built to protect the capital from foreign invaders in 132 AD, as well as three mountain peaks over 2,500-feet tall and more than 100 Buddhist temples and monk’s cells. Attracting around 5 million visitors a year, it’s not an unspoiled wilderness by any means, but it nevertheless provides a habitat for more than 1,300 species of flora and fauna, including the rare Great Spotted Woodpecker.

9. Margalla Hills National Park, Islamabad, Pakistan (17,386 acres)

Located in the capital city of Islamabad, the Margalla Hills National Park boasts hiking trails through the foothills of the Himalayas and provides a home for larks, spotted doves, Egyptian vultures and eagles, as well as the Russell’s viper and Indian cobra. Barking deer, golden jackals and leopards are also fairly common. In 2018 inaugurated the country’s longest hiking trailthrough the park, at around 27 miles, as part of a bid to attract more tourists.

Chugach State Park, Anchorage, Alaska (495,199 acres)
McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Scottsdale, Arizona (30,580 acres)
Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town, South Africa (54,610 acres)
Pedra Branca State Park, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (30,626 acres)
Rouge National Urban Park, Toronto, Canada (19,521 acres)
Losiny Ostrov National Park, Moscow, Russia (28,717 acres)
Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai, India (25,659 acres)
Bukhansan National Park, Seoul, South Korea (19,749 acres)
Margalla Hills National Park, Islamabad, Pakistan (17,386 acres)