Every four years, thousands of representatives from government, civil society, Indigenous peoples, business, and academia come together at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Conservation Congress with the goal of setting conservation priorities and driving actions. In light of challenges to convening, the postponed 2020 Congress was held with both in-person and virtual participants from September 3 to 11, 2021, in Marseille, France. As an official non-governmental organization (NGO) Member of the Union, the Center for Large Landscape Conservation contributed in multiple ways at the Congress toward setting the international conservation agenda for the coming decade.

During the Forum of more than 170 events addressing critical challenges and solutions being implemented around the world, the Center co-organized a session titled ‘Corridors and Crossings: Mainstreaming ecological connectivity into existing and planned infrastructure.’ Discussions focused on solutions to protect ecosystems and wildlife populations, while delivering the benefits of roads, railways, and other infrastructure. Contributors included:

  • Kate Newman, Vice President of Sustainable Infrastructure and Public Sector Initiatives at WWF United States, introducing the problems that infrastructure poses to ecosystems and how to better build with nature;
  • Gary Tabor, President of the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, highlighting the threats of infrastructure and solutions for protecting ecological connectivity;
  • Yannick Autret, Research expert for transport, energy, and environment at the French Ministry of Ecological Transition, speaking to efforts to mainstream ecological connectivity into existing and planned infrastructure in France and throughout Europe;
  • Jodi Hilty, President and Chief Scientist at the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative, emphasizing the applications of the IUCN “Guidelines for Conserving Connectivity through Ecological Networks and Corridors”;
  • Gabriel Oppler,  Conservation Associate at the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, delivering main messages and next steps for the forthcoming IUCN Technical Report “Maximizing Ecological Connectivity in the Development of Roads, Railways, and Canals”;
  • Sandeep Tiwari, Program Manager for the IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group, providing insights into mitigating impacts of railways on elephants in India; and
  • Ancuta Fedorca, Researcher at the Carpathian Wildlife Foundation (Fundatia Carpati), underscoring the research and mitigation measures necessary to avoid fragmenting brown bear populations when developing roads in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania.
Center staff including Gabriel Oppler (top left) and Center President Gary Tabor (top right) co-organized and presented at a session titled ‘Corridors and Crossings: Mainstreaming ecological connectivity into existing and planned infrastructure.’

During the IUCN Members’ Assembly, the Center participated in determining the leadership and policies for the next four years of the Union’s operations, including elections of the new IUCN President, 28 Regional Councilors, and Chairs of the six IUCN Commissions. In addition to policy resolutions led by the Center regarding ecological connectivity and wildlife-friendly linear infrastructure, a resolution was adopted on area-based conservation targets encouraging the inclusion of “areas important for ecological connectivity, including migratory species” to achieve the conservation of at least 30% of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments by 2030.

Members also adopted the next IUCN Programme titled “Nature 2030: Union in Action” and the Marseille Manifesto committing the Union to “Countering the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic; halting the biodiversity crisis by committing to a transformative, effective, and ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework; and confronting the risks and impacts of the climate emergency.” Other events during the Congress included a diversity of participants convening for the Indigenous Peoples’ Summit, the Global Youth Summit, the CEO Summit and the Local Action Summit.

The Center congratulates IUCN for its achievement to hold the Congress under difficult circumstances and looks forward to continuing its contributions to the Union, including promoting the work of the IUCN WCPA’s Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group. Through this and other ongoing engagement, the Center will now redouble its efforts to highlight the importance of developing ecological networks for conservation with a focus on ecological corridors, protected and conserved areas, and mainstreaming connectivity as part of conservation efforts around the world.