With some impacts of climate change already evident, and others projected, wildlife will need a means to move across the landscape to cope with the changes. With that in mind, two Democratic congressmen have introduced legislation to identify and protect wildlife corridors across the country.
Drafted by U.S. Representatives Rush Holt of New Jersey and Jared Polis of Colorado, the "Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act" is intended to help officials identify and protect wildlife corridors that cross both public and private lands.
The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act comes on the heels of a Presidential Memorandum released April 16 that defines a 21st century strategy for preserving America’s Great Outdoors that also recognizes the importance of wildlife corridors and connectivity.
“It is vitally important that we identify and maintain habitat connectivity and migration corridors for fish and wildlife in response to the effects of climate change and other landscape level impacts on these critical resources. This bill will facilitate meaningful cooperative endeavors to this end between states, federal agencies, tribes, industry, and private landowners,” said Gary Taylor, legislative director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act would create a national wildlife corridors information program within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to collect and disseminate information among states and federal agencies about essential wildlife movement areas. It would also establish a Wildlife Corridors Stewardship and Protection Fund to provide grants to federal agencies, states, local governments, nonprofits, and corporations for the management and protection of essential wildlife corridors. Finally, it would require the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Transportation to consider the preservation of these movement areas in their management plans. This legislation incorporates and builds on the wildlife habitat and corridors provisions of the Climate Change Safeguards for Natural Resources Conservation Act (H.R. 2192), sponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva, and ultimately incorporated into the House-passed climate bill (H.R. 2454).
“The lives of the American people always have been interwoven with the movement of wildlife. Today, wildlife corridors are vital to the outdoor traditions that are a central part of our national character,” Rep. Holt said. “As we celebrate Earth Day this week, we recognize that protecting our planet entails protecting all of its inhabitants. Passing this legislation and preserving wildlife corridors would honor the ideals of Earth Day.”
“Wildlife corridors connect natural areas and allow animals to move, migrate, and adapt in a warmer, more crowded world,” said Jeffrey Parrish, executive director of the Freedom to Roam Coalition, which represents a broad group of businesses, non-profits, and government agencies. “Corridors also connect people to the outdoors, and ensure that all our citizens can hunt and fish, watch wildlife, and recreate while still developing our nation's economy and addressing our energy challenges sustainably.”
Support for the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act includes the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, National Wildlife Federation, Freedom to Roam, the Society for Conservation Biology, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund, the Wildlife Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association, Defenders of Wildlife, the Wildlife Society, Wildlands Network, Sierra Club, the Humane Society, Conservation Northwest, American Wildlands, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, New Jersey Conservation, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Center for Large Landscape Conservation, and the Western Environmental Law Center.