Marking a significant step for wildlife conservation, the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act along with $400 million for projects to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, passed the United States House of Representatives as part of H.R. 3684, the INVEST in America Act. These important provisions will safeguard biodiversity while helping stimulate the U.S. economy, mitigate climate impacts, and reduce highway fatalities.
Colorado residents and millions of annual visitors alike enjoy the state’s dramatic landscapes, abundant recreation opportunities, and iconic wildlife. So it’s not surprising that Colorado recently became the latest state to pass legislation to safeguard habitat connectivity and wildlife corridors, which are essential for healthy ecosystems. Protecting the ability of wildlife to move freely across the landscape is a win-win-win: it allows animals to meet their needs, enhances driver safety, and supports recreation opportunities for hunters, anglers, and wildlife viewers.
Wildlife-vehicle collisions take a toll on our environment and society in many ways. They endanger wildlife populations, cause human injuries and deaths, and cost US taxpayers billions of dollars a year. Well-designed wildlife road-crossing structures are a proven solution but are not without challenges. Two reports recently published by the US Forest Service—with contributions from Center for Large Landscape Conservation staff—address these challenges while providing useful information on costs, benefits, and planning of crossing structures.
State fish and wildlife managers recognize that keeping landscapes connected is an important conservation tool. Yet there is growing evidence that the impacts of climate change are already altering the needs and behaviors of animals, creating new patterns of movement throughout the landscape. Staff from the Center recently contributed to a new toolkit offering guidance on protecting wildlife movement and corridor habitat in the face of a changing climate.
The Biden administration has proposed a bold conservation agenda to address biodiversity, environmental justice, and climate change. Through an executive order and a subsequent report, the administration proposes an unprecedented and visionary response to the current environmental crises. However, this guidance does not detail how the principles, priorities, and objectives outlined in the report will be implemented. The Center for Large Landscape Conservation and partners have provided a potential roadmap for how to achieve these ambitious goals.
Read the statement from Gary Tabor, president of the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, on the Biden administration’s “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful" report, which recommends a national, 10-year, locally led campaign to restore the nation’s lands and waters.
Road ecologist Elizabeth Fairbank looks out across a seemingly endless expanse of the Mojave Desert in southern Nevada. The roadside location feels remote on this quiet February morning, but a bird’s eye view would reveal a slightly different story: the desert is crisscrossed with a web of roads and highways that did not exist a few decades ago. Fairbank is on a site visit to the heart of Desert Tortoise habitat, hoping to help save the species before it’s too late.
The earth is made up of many large landscapes and seascapes that support animal life. But parks and other protected areas alone are not enough to sustain healthy wildlife populations in the face of a changing climate and increasing human development. Fragmented habitat isolates and weakens animal populations and puts them at greater risk of extinction. It is more essential now than ever that we preserve or restore corridors—or connections between natural areas—before it’s too late.
As we deal with the economic and health fallout of COVID-19, and look to rebuild our economy and future, the smartest recovery plans will include measures to conserve wildlife habitat connectivity. Projects designed to connect habitat—such as wildlife crossing structures that span roads and highways—not only create healthier and safer landscapes and communities; they also create local jobs, bolster domestic manufacturing, provide a boost to the outdoor recreation industry, and stimulate ecological restoration economies.
Every 26 seconds—or less—a driver hits an animal, making highways one of the greatest barriers to wildlife movement in the United States. In addition to killing 1-2 million large animals every year, these collisions cause 200 human fatalities and more than 26,000 injuries, at a cost to Americans of more than $8 billion annually.