SEATTLE -- As biodiversity continues its decline, a new report highlights key projects that are working to reconnect nature through “wildlife corridors.” The report, released by Environment Washington Research & Policy Center on Thursday, offers replicable examples of how human-made barriers can be modified to allow animals to safely traverse through natural corridors between habitats.
Entitled Reconnecting Nature: How Wildlife Corridors Can Help Save U.S. Species, the report comes on the heels of the Biden administration’s America the Beautiful preliminary report, which pointed to wildlife corridors as a conservation priority. Additionally, the new report follows the inclusion of $350 million in funding for wildlife crossings -- tunnels and overpasses -- in the infrastructure bill that recently passed the U.S Senate.
“For too long a labyrinth of roads, fences, dams and sprawl has penned animals into smaller and smaller habitats,” said Mandy Apa, Campaign Associate with Environment Washington Research and Policy Center. “While we can’t put that genie back in the bottle, we can get clever about how to connect these small habitat islands through corridors. Doing so can give wildlife the space they need to hunt, mate and migrate.”
Specifically, the report focuses on seven different types of wildlife corridor projects in the United States, including one in Washington State:
The removal of two dams along the Elwha River in Washington State, allowing salmon to once again spawn upstream and fill the ecological niche that they’ve occupied for many thousands of years.
A natural bridge designed for use by wildlife that will span over the 10-lane 101 freeway near Los Angeles. The project aims to reconnect a population of cougars in the Santa Monica mountains with habitat in the nearby Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains.
A project to protect the Pine Mountain Wildlands Corridor, which is a 125-mile forested ridge in Kentucky that links up wilderness from Tennessee to Virginia.
A bird sanctuary in the heart of Chicago on Lake Michigan’s shores provides stopover habitat for hundreds of bird species during their annual migrations.
An initiative to reunite grizzly bear populations in Montana and Wyoming with prime habitat in central Idaho by removing old logging roads, purchasing and protecting land, and reforesting.
A network of protected land that will connect habitat in Northern parts of New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire with wild areas in Maine and Canada. This will allow species to shift their ranges in response to climate change.
A joint project by the Wyoming Fish and Game Department and Wyoming Transportation Department to build a series of highway crossings throughout the state to safeguard big game animals like mule deer and endangered pronghorn during their annual migrations.
Along with the report, the group created an educational “virtual tour of wildlife corridors” for those looking to virtually experience the corridor projects highlighted in the report.
“Washington is facing some of the lowest salmon runs in history, caused in part by major barriers-- dams-- in their natural habitat. The Elwha Watershed Restoration is a perfect example of how removing these barriers and creating a more connected habitat can reinvigorate the biodiversity of our ecosystems, and save our wildlife from extinction," said Apa. "Our chinook salmon on the Lower Snake River are facing the same extinction crisis due to dams. If we are serious about saving them, wildlife corridors like the Elwha are the answer.”
Environment Washington Research & Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting our air, water, and open spaces. We work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment.
Environment Washington Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group are part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.