WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 23, 2019) — This afternoon, environmental and legislative leaders spoke in support of the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act of 2019 at a Congressional briefing hosted by Wildlands Network and collaborating organizations. If passed, the Act would restore habitat and protect America’s native wildlife by establishing a National Wildlife Corridors Program that facilitates the designation of wildlife corridors on federal lands and provides grants to maintain wildlife corridors on non-federal lands.
Leaders included Sir Robert Watson, the former immediate chair of IPBES, which released a report earlier this year detailing the risk of extinction for approximately one million species; E.O. Wilson, renowned Harvard biologist; Dr. Ron Sutherland, Chief Scientist at Wildlands Network; and Aran Johnson, wildlife biologist for the Southern Ute Reservation
“If America’s natural heritage of plants and animals is to be saved, this wildlife corridors bill must be supported and implemented,” said Sir Watson.
Wildlife corridors are critically important habitat areas that allow animals to move between areas of habitat, facilitating migration, range expansion, and mating. Protecting wildlife corridors also increases potential resiliency of animal populations in the face of changing landscapes and climate.
“The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act would provide the most important step of any single piece of legislation at the present time in enlarging the nations protected areas and thereby saving large swaths of America’s wildlife and other fauna and flora, especially in this critical time of climate change and shifting locations of the original environments in which a large part of biodiversity has existed,” said E.O. Wilson.
“It is just common sense that protecting and restoring the connections between natural areas is a powerful solution for preventing extinctions here in the United States,” said Dr. Sutherland.
The bill was originally introduced in May 2019 with Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) leading the charge in the Senate. The bill was co-sponsored in the Senate by Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D- NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives.
Sen. Udall and Reps. Beyer and Buchanan—who also spoke at the briefing—highlighted the need for bipartisan support of wildlife corridors protection as a response the looming extinction crisis.
“America’s wilderness has sustained our treasured native fish, wildlife and plant species for hundreds of years, but this vital part of our national heritage is in jeopardy,” said Sen. Udall. “The habitats and migration routes that our wildlife rely on to move and thrive are under increasing pressures, and our precious biodiversity along with it. In New Mexico, our millions of acres of public lands are home to thousands of iconic species—from the desert bighorns to whooping cranes to Gila trout—that could vanish if we fail to take bold action. These species are essential to our rich natural inheritance and agricultural and economic success, and are an important legacy to pass on to our children. By designating corridors that would connect these vital habitats to one another, we can ensure the survival of some of our most iconic species, from the monarch butterfly to the Louisiana black bear, and preserve our precious wildlife for future generations to come.”
“With roughly one in five animal and plant species in the U.S. at risk of extinction due to habitat loss and fragmentation, one of the simplest yet most effective things we can do is to provide them ample opportunity to move across lands and waters,” said Rep. Beyer. “The U.N. report on accelerating extinctions makes it clear that the window for action to protect the planet’s biodiversity is closing. We badly need to pass the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act.”
“Protecting wildlife and promoting biodiversity are of critical importance in light of a new study warning that one million species are facing extinction,” said Rep. Buchanan. It’s time for Congress to help restore threatened wildlife populations and safeguard our nation’s lands and waters. We don’t get a second chance once a species becomes extinct.”
Wildlife species in need of protected corridors include the pronghorn antelope, an important game species in the Southwest, whose survival depends upon the ability to migrate seasonally. Even small insects like the monarch butterfly need protected corridors to migrate up to 3,000 miles. It can take 3-4 generations to complete a full migration, and without protected places along the flyway for them to rest and reproduce, the species could be lost entirely.
Protection of wildlife corridors is a conservation goal with bipartisan support around the country. In the last decade, the Western Governors’ Association and the New England Governors and Canadian Premiers both adopted wildlife corridor protection measures. In 2018, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke issued Secretarial Order 3362, which would improve “habitat quality in Western big-game winter range and migration corridors.” In addition, both red and blue states such as New Hampshire, Wyoming, New Mexico and California have recently passed measures to protect wildlife corridors.
Wildlands Network created a fact sheet for the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act, as well as facts sheets for potential impacts of the bill on specific species, including grizzly bears, monarch butterflies, Florida panthers and pronghorns.
Photos and videos for media use can be viewed in this Google Drive folder.
Wildlands Network envisions a world where nature is unbroken, and where humans co-exist in harmony with the land and its wild inhabitants. Our mission is to reconnect, restore, and rewild North America so life in all its diversity can thrive. For more news, visit www.wildlandsnetwork.org or follow us on Twitter @wildlandsnetwrk.
Susan Holmes, Federal Policy Director, 202-329-1553, email@example.com