Bill Will Help Protect Wildlife Movement and Migration Corridors
SANTA FE, N.M. (April 1, 2019) – New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Wildlife Corridors Act into law on Friday, making New Mexico the first state to adopt a comprehensive program to identify wildlife corridors and begin to address barriers to wildlife movement.
The legislation, introduced by Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque), directs the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) to jointly develop a Wildlife Corridors Action Plan to identify wildlife corridors, in conjunction with interested private landowners, tribes and local communities. The bill will allow state agencies and other relevant parties to identify key roads and other barriers impacting wildlife movement and migration and create a list of priority projects designed to improve or protect such corridors.
“Without carefully planned wildlife corridors, New Mexico roads are incredibly dangerous for animals and people alike,” Sen. Stewart said. “By using overpasses and underpasses, among other tools, we can keep animals off our roads and ensure drivers and their passengers get where they’re going safely.”
From 2002 to 2016, NMDOT reported 15,213 animal-vehicle collisions, with 1,637 in 2016 alone. More than 2,500 people were involved in these collisions, with 738 resulting in the serious injury or death of a motorist. Additionally, the toll on wildlife is staggering: it is estimated that about 1 million animals are killed by motorists nationwide every day, and death by motor vehicles is considered a serious threat to survival for 21 federally-listed threatened and endangered species across the country.
“Through this initiative, the experts at our state agencies are in a position to lead the nation in proactively addressing the needless death of wildlife on roads and highways,” said Phil Carter, Wildlife Policy Coordinator for Wildlands Network. “And even more importantly, the prescribed action plan will help ensure preservation of native wildlife that comprise our unique cultural and natural heritage.”
“This bill positions New Mexico to be a leader in protecting important wildlife migration corridors,” said Michael Dax, Defenders of Wildlife’s Southwest Representative for New Mexico. “As the impacts of climate change push wildlife from their historic ranges, wildlife are experiencing more and more vehicle conflicts. This legislation commits the state to take proactive steps to mitigate those kinds of collisions. We are also enthusiastic about the Wildlife Corridors Action Plan, which will serve as a clearing house for information about connectivity needs for an array of wildlife in our state, from elk to native fish.”
The importance of protecting wildlife corridors to sustain populations of native species is well grounded in a growing body of scientific research, and efforts to protect these corridors have recently become a priority for federal and state agencies alike. In 2007, the 16 states of the Western Governors’ Association unanimously approved the Wildlife Corridors Initiative, which has directed conservation efforts to protect crucial wildlife habitat in the American West. In February 2018, federal Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued a Secretarial Order directing Interior Department agencies to strategize, map and collaboratively plan for the benefit of ungulate migration corridors.
“The Wildlife Corridors Act is a great step for the state of New Mexico and the West in protecting both motorists and wildlife,” said Jeremy Romero, Coordinator of Wildlife Corridors for the National Wildlife Federation. “This bill ensures that big game can safely travel across the landscape and sportsmen and women can maintain their traditional way of life. By including specific provisions to collaborate with tribes and private landowners as well as resources for better understanding the movement of wildlife and on-the-ground connectivity projects, this bill is a common-sense solution to saving the lives of people and our state’s wildlife.”
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 from Wildlands Network, visit us at our website or follow us on Twitter.
National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has six million members and supporters across the country, and is one of the oldest and largest conservation organizations in the United States. We advocate for issues that ensure wildlife continue to survive and thrive in a changing world. NWF works to unite Americans from across the socioeconomic and political spectrum to support America’s public lands, water and wildlife.
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.