Get Connected Through Public Policy

Get Connected Through Public Policy

While conservation biologists have known the importance of corridors and connectivity for decades, the concept has been slow to make its way into the political arena. However, this is changing and in the last several years corridor policy has advanced significantly.

H.R. 5101 Wildlife Corridors Act of 2010

On April 21, 2010, U.S. Representatives Rush Holt of New Jersey and Jared Polis of Colorado introduced the “Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act,” legislation with the goal of expanding the science and stewardship of America’s most important wildlife corridors. The bill aims to help protect wildlife corridors on public and private land, and contains three main goals.

First, the Corridors Act would create the Habitat and Corridors Information System, a national database for spatial wildlife corridor information, overseen by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The FWS would collect and share information on corridor and animal movement with state and federal agencies. This would standardize information and provide needed technical assistance to state and tribal agencies.

Second, the bill would create a Wildlife Corridors Stewardship and Protection Fund with the goal of dispersing grants, up to $1,000,000 annually, for corridor management and protection. The fund would provide matching funds for projects that directly advance corridor protection.

Finally, the bill would require the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Transportation to formally consider corridors in their management plans. This would help minimize and mitigate the negative impacts to corridors from energy development, water, transmission, transportation, and other land use projects by these departments.

Additionally, the bill updates the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Act of 1974 and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 by inserting the concept and language of wildlife corridors.

If this bill is passed into law, it will represent the most significant federal action ever taken on corridors. You can see the current status of the Corridors & Conservation Act here.

 

Western Governors’ Association

The Western Governor’s Association (WGA) is a non-partisan organization of the governors of 22 western states. The WGA serves as a political forum for governors to discuss pressing policy and governance issues in the West, with the purpose of creating a unified, more powerful political voice for western concerns in the federal system. Among the many topics addressed at the annual WGA meetings are issues relating to natural resources and the environment. In light of increasing scientific findings, the WGA began discussing wildlife corridors in 2006.

Why does it matter?

In early 2007, 22 western state leaders unanimously acknowledged the importance of wildlife corridors and launched the Wildlife Corridors Initiative to figure out how to identify key wildlife corridors in the West and to make recommendations for needed policy options and tools to help preserve those corridors.

The following year, the WGA published its findings in the 2008 Wildlife Corridors Report, which recommended that each state compile and assess all their applicable data and aggregate it in a database with other states. The report also recommended the development of standardized data collection for the missing corridor data.

In 2009, the WGA drafted a Memorandum of Understanding with the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Energy to coordinate the identification and uniform mapping of wildlife corridors in the West. The parties agreed that all stakeholders would benefit from improved state-federal-tribal collaboration and agreed to pursue the development of a state-based decision support system (DDS) in dealing with corridors in the face of myriad land use projects.

To tackle the formation of the DDS, the WGA formed the Western Governor’s Wildlife Council, a subcommittee focused on establishing the DDS in each state; setting up policies and mechanisms that require state and tribal agencies to consider wildlife corridors; establishing a pilot project to serve as a model; and looking for money from Congress and other sources. This work continues in the current work plan through June of 2011.

Additional Resources

Corridors & Conservation Act

Wildlife Corridors Initiative

2008 Wildlife Corridors Report

Memorandum of Understanding

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