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Mapping Connectivity at the Borderlands

The borderlands of the U.S. and Mexico are often misrepresented as deserted wastelands filled with contraband, dubious characters, and unwelcoming industrial cities. The essence of the borderlands region is far more complex, enriched not only by the mingling of diverse cultures, but also, notably, an astonishing diversity of life resulting from the merging of arctic and tropical climates in a convoluted topography.

Given their awareness of the rich biodiversity in the borderlands, scientists, land-managers, conservation groups, and agencies strive to understand, map, protect, and restore the connections wildlife need to move from one country to the other—keeping ancient territories and migratory routes open.

In an attempt to unify and catalog the efforts of these groups, Wildlands Network has produced the first Borderlands Connectivity Report to introduce decision-makers to different aspects of connectivity in the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua, which lie immediately south of the U.S. border.

Borderlands Connectivity Report

The report shows that Mexico has engaged in some serious conservation endeavors, ranging from wildlife crossings on highways to core-area designations for critical connectivity landscapes along the international border. In addition to highlighting these and other specific actions to enhance connectivity, the  Borderlands Connectivity Report includes data from wildlife research in this region.

These data include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s latest jaguar connectivity model; areas of activity for pronghorn populations in Sonora; and notable records of individuals at or crossing the border, including bison in Chihuahua and a lone pronghorn sighted in a private, protected area of Sonora as he tried to reunite with his herd north of the existing vehicle barrier in the Animas Valley of southwest New Mexico.

Not every research effort yields information that can be put on a map, yet the data we were able to compile already highlights some of the areas that will be most impacted by new sections of border wall as planned.

Mapping for the Future

Corridors we’ve known about for many years (from anecdotal reports and landowners’ experience) are being documented now more than ever, coming to life in maps that help those unfamiliar with the region understand the flow of life at the border. We are reaching out to partners and researchers for more information we can use in the next iteration of this report, where we will also add relevant data for the U.S.

Our hope is that decision-makers from both countries who have the power to impact the borderlands will use this report as a resource to understand how wildlife corridors, especially those used by endangered wildlife, may persist beyond shortsighted policies. Only through understanding these live-linkages can people learn to appreciate the borderlands for the wonderful, biodiverse, and welcoming landscapes they really are.

Check out the maps below to see our recommendations for areas along the border in need of mitigation to reduce habitat fragmentation for target species. You can also see the raw GIS files analyzed in this report.

View Borderlands Connectivity Report

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