The opinion piece below, authored by two Center for Large Landscape Conservation staff members, originally appeared on Smerconish.com on November 24, 2021. Since then, the Center has created a “toolkit” to help interested applicants and their partners understand the Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program criteria and design projects that will make the most of this new federal funding.
More than 20 speakers and nearly 200 attendees made history last week as participants in the first-of-its-kind gathering to share knowledge for making transportation infrastructure more sustainable across Asia. As many countries in the region expand their networks of roads, rails, and other modes of transportation, such development can provide vast economic and social benefits but also present challenges to nature conservation and local communities. Therefore, on December 16-17, 2021, the 1st Asia Transportation Ecology Forum was held to explore how this development is already impacting ecosystems—affecting species from butterflies to elephants—and how science-based solutions can be applied to conserve Asia’s rich biodiversity.
An international group of more than 25 elephant biologists and infrastructure ecologists released a report today with an urgent message: All efforts to avoid key Asian elephant habitats and their migration corridors need to be made when developing linear infrastructure like roads, railways, and canals. If this is not possible, wildlife crossings are key to providing safe passage for this endangered species. The report comes in response to an explosion of new linear infrastructure across Asia that is increasingly blocking elephant movement and leading to deadly collisions.
A Montana group that has been recognizing conservation heroes for the past several decades is honoring Kylie Paul. Kylie joined the staff of the Center for Large Landscape Conservation as a road ecologist earlier this year to advance the development and implementation of wildlife-friendly transportation policies and projects. But she has been making a positive impact on wildlife and ecosystems for many years.
Marking an important step to safeguard both people and wildlife, the bipartisan infrastructure package that the U.S. Congress passed late Friday includes $350 million to construct wildlife road crossings. These structures reconnect important habitat and allow animals to pass safely over or under roadways, avoiding traffic. The legislation also makes projects to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions eligible for funding in other transportation programs. The provisions in this legislation will help safeguard biodiversity while stimulating the U.S. economy, mitigating climate impacts, and reducing highway fatalities.
Asia is home to many iconic wildlife species—such as Asian elephants, Bengal tigers, and Sumatran orangutans—along with some of the world’s richest biodiversity and most complex ecosystems. Yet, as Asia experiences unprecedented economic growth, the region’s natural heritage is threatened by the rapid expansion of linear infrastructure like roads, railways, and power lines. That’s why, over the last 14 months, the nonprofit Center for Large Landscape Conservation has helped USAID build a knowledge base to support Asian countries in planning wildlife-friendly linear infrastructure.
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.
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.