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Landmark Legislation to Protect Wildlife Corridors Introduced in the Senate and House

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 6, 2018) — Marking the most significant step toward national wildlife conservation in decades, the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act was introduced today in the Senate by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and in the House of Representatives by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). If passed, the Act will 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 protect wildlife corridors on non-federal lands.

“Wildlands Network thanks Sen. Udall and Rep. Beyer for their commitment to protecting America’s wildlife,” said Susan Holmes, policy director for Wildlands Network, a nonprofit conservation organization working to establish a continental system of connected wildlife corridors. “From elk to grizzlies to the beautiful monarch butterfly, wildlife needs to move across the landscape to survive. Corridors increase wildlife movement between habitat areas by approximately 50 percent compared to areas not connected by corridors. In the face of climate change, protecting wildlife corridors will ensure America’s treasured wildlife will survive for generations to come.”

Wildlife corridors are critically important habitat areas that allow animals to roam freely from one area of habitat to another for migration, establishing new territories, and finding mates, food and shelter. Linking habitats with wildlife corridors also allows wildlife to adapt to the serious impacts of a changing climate.

“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.

Much of the danger faced by our most endangered species stems from habitat loss due to fragmentation, climate change, and other causes. The best available science recommends connecting habitats to ensure the genetic strength of both threatened populations and biodiversity as a whole. Based on this sound science, the bill is supported by nationally recognized scientists, including Harvard’s Dr. E.O. Wilson, and over 160 prominent conservation organizations nationwide.

“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,” renowned biologist E.O. Wilson said of the bill.

The Act grants authority to key federal agencies to designate National Wildlife Corridors on federal public land and creates a Wildlife Movement Grant Program to incentivize the protection of wildlife corridors on non-federal lands. It also establishes a publicly available Wildlife Connectivity Database to inform decision-making.  Through this coordinated approach, the bill would also improve wildlife-related recreational opportunities and has therefore garnered support from major outdoor brands like Patagonia, Osprey Packs and Petzl America.

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.

“America needs more tools to protect plants and animals,” stated Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “Wildlife corridors are a no-brainer. They’re a life-saving measure not only because they decrease collisions with cars, but also because they preserve biodiversity and habitats—providing us with clean air, replenishing our drinking water, and supplying a storehouse of potential new medicines.”

“Defenders commends Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Don Beyer for their leadership in protecting America’s diverse wildlife in the face of climate change and a mass extinction crisis.  The legislation they introduced today draws all Americans into the effort to ensure that wildlife can continue to move freely across our nation’s landscapes, as they must to survive,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife.

“The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act will provide a crucial lifeline for many of America’s native species,” stated Rob Ament, Senior Conservationist at the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, “so they can safely move across America’s landscapes to meet their daily, seasonal and lifetime needs.”

Increasingly, wildlife corridors are enjoying 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.  Earlier this year, 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.

Text of the bill can be read here.

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, Louisiana black bears, migratory birds, Florida panthers and pronghorns.

Photos and videos available to the media can be viewed in this Google Drive folder. Photos and videos are also available via email upon request.

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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.
 
The Endangered Species Coalition is a national network of hundreds of conservation, scientific, education, religious, sporting, outdoor recreation, business and community organizations working to protect our nation’s disappearing wildlife and last remaining wild places.
 
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit  Newsroom.Defenders.org  and follow us on Twitter  @DefendersNews.
 
The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation fosters a knowing stewardship of our world through biodiversity research and education initiatives that promote and inform worldwide preservation of our biological heritage. We believe that by enhancing our public understanding of biodiversity, we can foster a culture of stewardship in which people are inspired to conserve and protect the natural world.
 
Center for Large Landscape Conservation strategically connects ideas, individuals, and institutions to catalyze collaboration and amplify progress towards the imperative of our time: to conserve Earth’s resilient, vital large landscapes.

Contacts

Susan Holmes, Wildlands Network, 202-329-1553, susan@wildlandsnetwork.org
Leda Huta, Endangered Species Coalition, 202-320-6467, lhuta@endangered.org
Gwen Dobbs, Defenders of Wildlife, 202-772-0269, gdobbs@defenders.org
Chris Heltne, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, 919-613-8137, cheltne@eowilsonfoundation.org
Rob Ament, Center for Large Landscape Conservation, 406-586-8082, rament@largelandscapes.org

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