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.
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.
The Infrastructure and Ecology Network Europe (IENE) recently held its postponed International Conference LIFE LINES – Linear Infrastructure Networks with Ecological Solutions, bringing together experts in transportation, infrastructure, and ecology, including staff from the Center. The event focused on advancing initiatives that increase awareness, collaboration, and action for more sustainable linear infrastructure—such as roads, railways, and canals—that safeguards nature.
As people throughout the United States—and across the globe—contend with a major pandemic, we also continue to face another grave threat: climate change. One only needs to pick up a newspaper or turn on the television to learn of the most recent natural disaster to devastate a community, from forest fires and extreme drought to hurricanes and floods.
Most motorists would agree that roads and animals can be a dangerous mix. Crashes involving wildlife are often deadly for animals and, in some cases, may also cause serious injury or death to humans. Efforts to reduce the risk of animal-vehicle collisions most often focus on human safety, but what if transportation officials and conservation scientists worked together to address dangers to both people and wildlife?