Ensuring that wildlife can move to thrive and survive
Wildlife moves to survive. They roam, fly, crawl and swim to find food and water, establish territories and ensure gene flow. A male grizzly bear’s home range can grow up to 600 square miles, Pacific salmon hatch in mountain streams and then migrate to the ocean for food before returning to their native stream to spawn, and the intrepid monarch can travel up to 3,000 miles, stopping to feed on milkweed and other nectar sources along the way.
The movement of wildlife involves many dangers. As birds, fish and other wildlife move across the landscape, they are vulnerable to weather events, predators, disease, and other natural threats. On top of that, wildlife find it difficult to navigate successfully around housing and infrastructure such as roads, energy development, and dams. If this were not enough, climate change has an impact on natural phenomena and changes, for example, the availability of resources and the timing of migration.
Addressing the biodiversity crisis will require transformative solutions that change the way we live and do business. Solutions must come from all sectors and must ensure that wildlife has the space they need to move. Their survival depends on it. To protect connectivity in the long term, we need to do two things: 1) conserve areas that facilitate travel and 2) reduce barriers to travel.I Congress has short-term opportunities to advance both goals.
Maintain areas that facilitate movement
Globally, as well as here in the United States, communities and governments are committing to protect 30 percent of terrestrial, freshwater and ocean habitats by 2030 (30×30). In May, the Biden administration pledged to achieve this when it announced its America the Beautiful campaign and the principles and recommendations it would follow. States are also beginning to make local commitments. 30×30 is an ambitious endeavor, which will only be successful if indigenous nations, local communities and other stakeholders are at the forefront of this work. This will require collaboration, local leadership and local solutions to conserve critical habitats and the lands that connect them in perpetuity.
Identifying, designating and developing management plans for areas of connectivity is an essential part of the equation. In June, the Florida legislature unanimously passed the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act “to create incentives for conservation and sustainable development while supporting and preserving the green infrastructure that is the foundation of the economy and Florida’s quality of life â. The new law provides $ 400 million to create a corridor that connects diverse habitats to benefit Florida’s wildlife. Florida joins eight other states (OR, CA, UT, CO, NM, VA, VT, and NH) that have adopted connectivity policies.
Members of Congress called for national programs to designate and support local and tribal-led conservation efforts to ensure landscapes remain permeable to wildlife. The Tribal Wildlife Corridors Act supports tribal chiefs seeking to designate wildlife corridors on tribal lands and directs federal agencies to work with tribes to develop conservation measures on adjacent federal lands. The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act creates a national network of wildlife corridors and provides for the designation and restoration of habitats that facilitate the movement of native species at risk due to habitat loss or fragmentation.
The 200 mile antelope migration route between Grand Teton National Park and the Green River Valley in Wyoming is the longest land migration in the Lower 48 – it’s called the Antelope Trail. In 2008, the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming designated an antelope migration corridor on land managed by the US Forest Service and committed to managing the migration corridor to facilitate the continued and successful movement of the antelope. Additional investments, including a viaduct to facilitate the migration of antelopes and conservation easements, followed. Federal corridor legislation coupled with state initiatives would pave the way for similar designations and the investments necessary for their success.
Reduce obstacles to traffic
In addition to retaining key areas that facilitate wildlife movement, we need to reduce or mitigate barriers that, if not addressed, will hinder movement. Barriers come in many forms and include physical infrastructure such as roads, poor quality water crossings or insufficient culverts and dams; housing estates and other peri-urban developments; and attractants, including livestock, beehives and unsecured waste, which can result in the death of wildlife in response to conflict.
The one to two million wildlife vehicle collisions that occur in the United States each year are estimated to result in millions of animal deaths, tens of thousands of human injuries, and more than $ 8 billion in damage and costs. intervention.ii Fortunately, steps can be taken to reduce such collisions, including underpasses, overpasses and directional fences; alert drivers of wildlife on the roads through signaling and wildlife detection systems; and work at local, state and regional levels to integrate the needs of wildlife into transportation planning. European countries began installing wildlife crossing structures in the 1950s to facilitate the movement of wildlife, and the use has grown. A partnership in Montana that includes the Confederate Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Montana Department of Transportation, and the Western Transportation Institute provides a particularly good example of a series of structures that facilitate wildlife connectivity on Highway 93, a corridor busy transport.
Barriers to movement can also take the form of settlements and human activities that overlap with areas important for wildlife movement. For example, in the Northern Rockies, grizzly bears traveling within their home ranges may encounter the contents of unsecured trash can, backyard chicken coops, and vulnerable livestock that can provide them with a food reward than they are. not supposed to have. Bears and other wildlife are often killed by wildlife managers in response to these types of conflicts. For years, the NRDC has supported research and solutions to resolve conflicts between grizzly bears and agriculture and advocates for more state and federal resources to ensure a safer landscape for people and wildlife.
Act on wildlife connectivity
Proven solutions exist to ensure that wild animals have the space they need to move. Now we need to implement them on a large scale. Here are three short-term actions Congress can take to meet the needs of wildlife and people:
- Support 30 by 30 dedicating federal resources to Indigenous nations and local communities to develop and implement solutions to protect 30 percent of land, freshwater and oceans by 2030.
- Pass the Tribal Wildlife Corridors Act and the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act prepare the ground for local corridor initiatives to be recognized and funded.
- Include funding in the federal infrastructure bill for wildlife crossing structures, safe fish passage and pollinator habitat to facilitate the movement of wildlife.
I. Ament, R., R. Callahan, M. McClure, M. Reuling, and G. Tabor. 2014. Wildlife Connectivity: Fundamental Principles for Conservation Action. Large Landscape Conservation Center: Bozeman, Montana.
ii. MP Huijser, P. McGowen, J. Fuller, A. Hardy, A. Kociolek, AP Clevenger, D. Smith and R. Ament. 2008. Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Reduction Study: Report to Congress. Federal Highway Administration: McLean, Virginia.