Salt Lake City, Utah (Mar. 12, 2020)- The Utah State Legislature took a crucial step to ensure the future of Utah’s wildlife and the safety of motorists by passing HCR 13, the Concurrent Resolution Supporting the Protection and Restoration of Wildlife Corridors. The resolution, sponsored by Representative Mike Schultz (R-12) and Senator Hinkins (R-27), underscores the Legislature’s support of existing and future efforts by state agencies—namely the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah Department of Transportation—to mitigate and minimize threats to wildlife movement and the safety of drivers across Utah.
“Utah is growing at a rapid rate,” said Gabby Saunders, Campaign Communication Specialist for the Salt Lake City-based nonprofit Wildlands Network. “It is crucial that city and local governments take into account the migration movements of Utah’s wildlife to ensure populations of elk, deer, moose and other species can traverse Utah’s landscapes safely to access resources necessary for survival.”
The resolution passed the Utah House of Representatives with vote of 69-0-6 and the Utah Senate with a vote of 28-0-1. The legislation has received broad bipartisan support from across the state, and has the backing of multiple stakeholder groups with a shared goal of supporting wildlife conservation.
“As an avid sportsman and outdoor enthusiast, I have really appreciated working with Gabby Saunders and Wildlands Network on this issue,” stated Representative Schultz, the resolution’s chief sponsor. “Utah has a proud heritage of being known—and looked to—as one of the premier states in wildlife management and conservation. I believe this resolution will help continue that legacy and be greatly beneficial for the long- term stability of the big game herds and fish populations here in Utah.”
Senator Hinkins added, “Not only does this protect our wildlife populations but makes our highways much safer for our citizens.”
In addition to helping reduce current threats of wildlife-vehicle collision, the resolution also encourages state agencies and state universities to further study migration corridors and actions that could help protect wildlife, as well as acknowledges the role of local governments and commissions in helping to protect and restore wildlife habitat connectivity.
“Since pioneer settlement, millions of acres of former wildlife habitat have been converted to human use,” said Kirk Robinson, Executive Director of Western Wildlife Conservancy. “Consequently, in order to ensure that native species of wildlife survive and flourish far into the future, it is vitally important for us to protect and restore wildlife movement corridors connecting a mosaic of core habitats across the landscape.”
The resolution is the most recent action taken by western state governments to highlight the need to do more to protect wildlife corridors and prevent unnecessary human and wildlife death caused by wildlife-vehicle collisions. In 2019, the Western Governors Association issued a resolution calling on federal agencies to support local initiatives to protect wildlife corridors and work more closely with state agencies on this issue. In the past year, Wyoming, Oregon and New Mexico have also enacted new laws and policies to study and protect wildlife corridors.
“A commitment to creating wildlife corridors with good prior planning and outreach to engage communities and stakeholders is smart policy,” explained Steve Erickson, the Utah Audubon Council’s policy advocate. “This will save wildlife and human lives, and help avoid and minimize potential conflicts.”
Andy Rasmussen, the Utah Director for Trout Unlimited added: “Migration corridors are extremely important to Utah’s fisheries. Ensuring that fish can move throughout a river system is one of the most important factors contributing to the long-term resiliency of our fisheries. Protecting intact migration corridors and investing in infrastructure modernization will ensure that our fisheries today will be enjoyed by future generations.”
The resolution is also positioned to bolster Utah’s outdoor recreation industry, which is central to the state’s economy. Efforts to protect wildlife corridors result in an overall improvement in the health of wildlife and landscapes which support activities such as hunting, fishing and wildlife watching.
“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is strongly invested in conserving wildlife migration corridors in Utah and the West,” said Bill Christensen, a representative for Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. “We’re happy to join the broad coalition supporting HCR 13 and thank the Sponsor Representative Schultz.”
Gabby Saunders, Campaign Communication Specialist, Wildlands Network, 801-638-6010 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Christensen, Representative, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, email@example.com
Andy Rasmussen, Utah Director, Trout Unlimited, Andrew.Rasmussen@tu.org
Mike Schultz, Utah House of Representatives, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Hinkins, Utah State Senate, email@example.com
Steve Erickson, Policy Advocate, Utah Audubon Council, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kirk Robison, Executive Director, Western Wildlife Conservancy, email@example.com
About Wildlands Network
Since 1991, Wildlands Network has been committed to reconnecting, restoring and rewilding North America for the benefit of all species. Our work is founded in science, driven by fieldwork and furthered through strategic policy and partnerships. We envision a North America where nature is undivided, and where people coexist in harmony with our native plants and animals.
About Trout Unlimited
Trout Unlimited is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of freshwater streams, rivers, and associated riparian and upland habitats for trout, salmon, and other aquatic species.
About Western Wildlife Conservancy
The mission of Western Wildlife Conservancy is to conserve wildlife native to the Intermountain West through education and advocacy.
About Utah Audubon Council
Utah Audubon Council represents the four Audubon chapters in Utah and their members on matters of public policy.
About Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a nonprofit hunting conservation organization. Our mission is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.