RICHMOND, Va. (January 27, 2020) — Senator David W. Marsden and Delegate David L. Bulova have introduced landmark wildlife conservation legislation that will benefit both Virginia’s wildlife and residents, with the support of more than 50 regional and national conservation groups.
SB 1004 and HB 1695 will promote the protection of wildlife corridors across the state through the establishment of a Wildlife Corridor Action Plan. This plan will list priority projects to protect wildlife corridors and improve road safety in Virginia to help meet the conservation goals of the Commonwealth. It also asks the Virginia Department of Transportation consider the impact of roads on wildlife corridors in its projects.
This legislation comes at an important time, as wildlife-vehicle collisions are an increasingly costly and dangerous impediment to Virginia’s motorists. More than 60,000 deer-related crashes occur within the state each year, costing approximately $533 million in damages annually. Virginia ranks 12th in the United States for deer-related car crashes, experiencing 10,000 serious human injuries and 200 fatalities due to wildlife-vehicle collisions every year. Protecting wildlife corridors and improving habitat connectivity through the construction of wildlife crossings has led to a 98% reduction in wildlife-vehicle collisions in Virginia.
“Wildlife-vehicle collisions are costly and dangerous for Virginians,” said Delegate Bulova, sponsor of HB 1695. “With this legislation we can make the Commonwealth’s roads safer while ensuring that wildlife can move and adapt to a changing world, preserving our wildlife and landscapes for future generations.”
“We must act now to create corridors for wildlife movement and habitat before development makes it impossible to allow wildlife to allow for freedom of movement,” added Senator Marsden, sponsor of SB 1004. “This will increase safety of road crossings and lessen incidents of vehicle collisions with wildlife.”
Additionally, designated wildlife corridors present a key tool necessary to complement strategies outlined in the state’s conservation strategies such as ConserveVirginia, which has prioritized protecting Virginia land with the highest 10% of conservation value by 2028. Identifying and protecting wildlife corridors will complement this strategic approach by integrating wildlife connectivity into the protection of this land.
“The Commonwealth of Virginia has a timely opportunity invest in science-based solutions to protect its drivers and enhance habitat for native wildlife through the Wildlife Action Plan,” said Susan Holmes, Federal Policy Director at Wildlands Network. “Wildlife corridor legislation is not only crucial for protecting our nation’s most endangered species, it is essential to preserve Virginia’s unique biodiversity.”
Protecting wildlife corridors will also benefit Virginia’s economy. The outdoor recreation industry generates $1.2 billion in state and local tax revenue in Virginia each year, driven in part by activities dependent on healthy wildlife populations, such as fishing, birdwatching and hunting. Enhancing habitat for native wildlife through wildlife corridors will help sustain the state’s natural resources that are central to the 197,000 jobs and 6.5 billion dollars in wage and salaries generated by outdoor recreation in Virginia.
“Protecting pathways for both people and wildlife is paramount to a safe and healthy future for the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Delegate Ken Plum, Chairman of the Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee. “This new legislation reinforces Virginia position as a leader in caring for and preserving its natural landscapes and resources.”
Legislation to protect wildlife corridors is gaining momentum around the United States. Eight states have passed wildlife corridor protection bills including New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming. At the federal level, the Senate has included $250,000 for wildlife crossings in America’s Transportation and Infrastructure Act and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) has introduced bi-partisan legislation to protect wildlife corridors.
“Wild Virginia’s membership, throughout the Commonwealth, support this effort to help wildlife move safely and adapt to a changing world,” said Misty Boos, Executive Director of Wild Virginia.
Susan Holmes, Federal Policy Director, Wildlands Network, 202-329-1553, firstname.lastname@example.org
Misty Boos, Executive Director, Wild Virginia, 434-971-1553, 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. Visit wildlandsnetwork.org to learn more.