This post is part of our Sustain the Wild series, aimed at highlighting the work Wildlands Network is doing to ensure healthy habitat for wildlife, long into the future. Learn more and support here.
Jenny Oren has served as a policy intern for Wildlands Network since May 2019 and has played an integral role in numerous projects, not least of which was the successful passing of momentous wildlife corridor legislation in Virginia earlier this year. Here she recounts highlights from her internship.
As a recent graduate of North Carolina State University where I studied conservation biology, it is important for me to work with and support organizations like Wildlands Network that take a multi-faceted approach to ensure that conservation goals are reached. Wildlands Network uses the best science available and fosters successful partnerships when engaging in policy efforts. Now, in light of COVID-19, it is more crucial than ever that we protect and restore biodiversity throughout the United States.
Through working with Wildlands Network, I was presented with the opportunity to make real and impactful change in my home state of Virginia by helping with the development process of Senate Bill 1004 and House Bill 1695, better known as Virginia’s Wildlife Corridor Action Plan. The bills required collaboration between state agencies such as the Virginia Department of Transportation to create a Wildlife Corridors Action Plan, which will identify wildlife corridors and existing or planned threats to wildlife movement while also recommending priority areas for wildlife corridor projects.
The bills were so well-received that Virginia State Senator David Marsden dubbed Senate Bill 1004 as the, “coolest bill ever” because of the bills’ ability to effectively restore wildlife corridors for Virginia’s most vulnerable species while also making roads safer for motorists.
Through the legislative process, I was given the opportunity to promote the bills through an op-ed, blog posts, and connecting with decision makers to build strong advocacy coalitions with a variety of interest groups to ensure its passage. The bill passed both chambers of the Virginia state legislature with bipartisan support, with both bills being signed into law by the governor on March 12, 2020, making Virginia among the first states to adopt a comprehensive program to identify wildlife corridors and begin to address barriers to wildlife movement.