In December 2022, representatives from the Center for Large Landscape Conservation were present in Montreal, Canada when 188 countries made an historic commitment adopting the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). As a main outcome of Convention on Biological Diversity’s 15th Conference of the Parties, the GBF is now the most significant agreement to date for bolstering global cooperation to conserve and restore nature. Since then, the Center has been engaging in discussions and planning across its networks of experts and institutions to best coordinate actions to support lasting conservation gains on the ground. With the importance of connectivity and landscape- and seascape-scale approaches emphasized in the GBF, it is clear that the Center has a significant role to play in its implementation.
Millions of collisions occur between drivers and animals on U.S. roads annually. To address this dangerous, expensive, and growing problem, Congress created a national Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program. This new grant program will prevent accidents and connect habitat by investing in measures that allow wildlife to safely cross over or under roads and fish to pass through streams beneath roads. Earlier today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the program’s first round of competitive grants—nearly $112M for research, planning, design, and construction projects that aim to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve aquatic and terrestrial habitat connectivity.
This past month was a historic one for landscape conservation and connectivity in the United States. Each week in March of this year, the Biden administration rolled out a major new initiative to conserve and restore lands, waters, and wildlife across large regions of the country. The recent slew of announcements demonstrates that our movement to think and act on conservation at the landscape level has come of age.
More than a dozen climate, wildlife, and road ecology experts from across the country wrote a consensus statement urging government officials at all levels to consider climate change when planning and constructing structures that help fish and wildlife cross under and over highways. As the appetite increases for solutions that improve wildlife migration and movement while reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions, there is a heightened need and opportunity for designing infrastructure that is sited and designed in ways that accommodate the current and anticipated impacts of climate change.
While national parks may be the most familiar type of public lands, another type of federal sites make up roughly ten percent of the land area of the US. More than 2,400 U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sites—from the Meadowood Trail System in Virginia to the Imperial Sand Dunes in California—have been set aside for a wide range of uses, including grazing, mining, and energy development, along with scientific, cultural, historical, and recreational purposes. But the BLM is also charged with conserving habitat for the wide variety of fish and wildlife that live on lands and waters managed by the agency. Now, a new BLM policy addresses the growing public concern over habitat fragmentation and the ability of species to move for their daily and seasonal needs.
Center staff have now returned from their adventures in Montreal, attending the UN Biodiversity Conference. Ecological connectivity—the unimpeded movement of species and the flow of natural processes that sustain life on Earth—was an exciting topic of negotiations and discussions during what is officially referred to as the 15th Conference of the Parties (CoP-15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In the final days of the conference, the governments of 196 countries adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework on 18 December 2022. This milestone agreement will now serve as the strategic plan for implementation of the Convention over the period 2022-2030. To date, this is the most significant agreement for bolstering global cooperation to conserve and restore nature.
In 2022, states across the country have passed legislation to take advantage of historic, new federal funding for wildlife crossing structures. Over just the past six months, seven states have enacted laws that set aside the required state match to federal grants for infrastructure projects that reconnect habitat. Many of these state policies also facilitate coordination between transportation and natural resource agencies—as well as collaboration with diverse stakeholders—to identify projects that will most effectively reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve habitat connectivity.
Join the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) to learn about Building a Durable National Framework for Large Landscape Conservation at 10:30 am ET on Tuesday, March 29. This briefing focuses on policy and funding opportunities for conservation efforts that span county, state, tribal, and national borders. Decision-makers, practitioners, and anyone interested in supporting landscape-scale conservation are encouraged to attend.
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.
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.