Wildlife Safe Corridors

Saving the lives of humans and wild animals. Imagination in Wisconsin a wildlife corridor across interstate 53 in the north woods. Herds of White-tailed deer cross over the interstate, not only safely, but the corridor allows more movement in and around human settlements. Think of all the money saved by preventing accidents between vehicles and wild animals. Watch the following film.

Sen. Udall and Rep. Beyer Revive Wildlife Corridors Bill to Make Movement Easier and Safer for Wildlife by Lindsey Botts

There are over 4 million miles ofhighways, roads, and other transportation arteries throughout the US and manyof them cut through the heart of vital habitat for endangered and threatenedspecies. While key to our mobility, they are often designed withoutconsideration for wildlife movement.

The impacts of these paved paths can be devastating for wildlife. On a basic level, isolated islands of biodiversity are formed that fragment wildlife populations, divide habitats, and degrade ecosystems. At its extreme, human development cuts off entire migration routes and blocks any chance of adapting to changing ecosystems.

Earlier this month, Sen. Tom Udall(D-N.M.) and U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) introduced a bill that would makemovement safer and easier for wildlife. The impetus for the bill was the recentUNreport that found at least 1 million species are in danger ofextinction due to accelerated human activity.

TheWildlife Corridors Conservation Act of 2019, as it’sknown, would help stem the tide of declining species and habitats by connectingecosystems with over crosses, underpasses, and culverts. They would create asystem of corridors that connect and extend habitats so that animals can move overlarge areas, whether it be for daily foraging, seasonal migration, or finding amate.

“Widespread habitat destruction isleaving scores of animal and plant species both homeless and helpless. We mustact now to conserve wildlife corridors that would save species and mitigateagainst the mass extinction crisis we are rapidly hurtling toward,” said Sen.Udall in a pressrelease. “In New Mexico, our millionsof acres of public lands are home to thousands of iconic species that couldvanish if we fail to take action that enable species to survive.”

There are approximately 1 – 2 millionwildlife vehicle collisions annually. A Federal Highways Administration studyfound road mortality is one of the leading threats to at least 21 endangeredand threaten species. And according to the same study, accidents costAmericans approximately eight billion dollars a year.While the damage is mostly monetary for people, wildlife often end up squishedroadkill.

The idea for a unifying wildlife corridors framework is hardly new. Rep. Beyer sponsor a wildlife corridors bill back in 2016 and, most recently, a similar bill was sponsor by both Sen. Udall and Rep. Beyer in December 2018. Both proposals stalled in the House after being submitted to subcommittees.

Nevertheless, research on places likeBanff National Park have shown that building wildlife corridors can be a powerfultool for protecting biodiversity. Onestudy found that the installation of wildlife crossings alongstretches of the Trans-Canada Highway reduced collisions on average by 80% overa 24-year period.

Such success has spurred some states towarm up to the idea of animal crossings. The Western Governors Association and severalNew England states, along with south eastern Canadian provinces, have already draftedagreements that recognize the importance of increasing wildlife connectivity. Andat least seven states have proposed legislation that would require Fish andWildlife departments to identify, study, or install wildlife corridors. In manyof them, linking habitats would protect some of our most iconic species likebig horn sheep, pronghorn, grizzly bears, wolves, and the Florida panther.

“With roughly one in five animal andplant species in the U.S. at risk of extinction due to habitat loss andfragmentation, one of the simplest yet most effective things we can do is toprovide them ample opportunity to move across lands and waters,” said Rep.Beyer. “The U.N. report on accelerating extinctions makes it clear that thewindow for action to protect the planet’s biodiversity is closing.”

Wildlife corridors are especially usefulfor connecting national parks, which act as refuges, but are being pushed totheir limits as climates change and development erodes what habitat is left. Assuch, the once vast areas degrade, reducing their ability to sustain the myriadof species and plants that depend on them.

In practice, the bill would grant authority to key federal agencies including the Department of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Interior, and Transportation to designate wildlife corridors on federal lands. And they would work with state, tribal, and voluntary private stakeholders to identify, build, and manage the corridors on non-federal land. Regional Wildlife Movement Councils will identify and rank non-federal projects and use money from the Wildlife Grant Program to incentivize land owners willing to participate. The goal would be to connect federal and non-federal lands to create an entire system that will traverse the entire country.

Despite the bill’s support amongconservation groups and bipartisan sponsors (one republican, Vern Buchanan(R-FL), cosponsored it), it’s unclear whether it’ll pass the House,let alone a Republican lead Senate. In all likelihood, more momentum is neededacross the aisle before there’s any further movement. Yet the bill’s sponsorsremain resolute.

“The science is clear: human activityis destroying and disrupting the habitats of wildlife around the world. If wedon’t change course, entire ecosystems will be lost and entire species will bewiped out forever. It’s already happening,” said Sen. Wyden (D-OR), a cosponsor,in a statement. “The United States needs to do its part in taking bettercare of our planet and protecting the one million plant and animal species nowfacing extinction before it’s too late.”

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