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Wildlands and Wildlife Policy

Wildlands Network is dedicated to bringing the latest conservation research to legislators and other officials who affect public policy. With over a quarter-century of expertise in conservation biology, Wildlands staff in Washington, D.C., and across the U.S. and northern Mexico, are uniquely placed to influence policymakers with the best available science.

Capitol building with cherry blossoms in the foreground.
Photo: Architect of the Capitol

As a science-informed organization, we advocate for new, science-driven laws and policies to protect North American wildlife and their habitats. We also work with land managers to restore habitat connectivity and large carnivores, both of which are critical to maintaining healthy landscapes. In short, we merge science and policy to protect the diversity of life.

In the past two years, we have deepened our internal policy expertise, adding program directors in the Western and Pacific Wildways, both with degrees in conservation biology and environmental law.  Together with our executive director and our Washington D.C. policy director, we now pursue law and policy initiatives at the national, state and local levels.

Promoting National, State and Local Policy Solutions

Wildlands Network leverages its legal expertise through its Connectivity Policy Coalition (CPC), formed in 2008, to shape and inspire national wildlife corridor legislation, administrative policy, and state-based initiatives. We are the only conservation collaborative in the U.S. with a keen focus on habitat connectivity for wildlife.

Examples of recent efforts include:

  • Wildlands Network further leverages its resources through its law and policy advisory group, comprised of leading legal and conservation scholars who, informed by science, will build upon existing laws and regulations to better meet the conservation challenges of today. This law and policy think tank will work with our staff and the Connectivity Policy Coalition to help ensure its innovative approaches to protecting biodiversity become an on-the-ground reality in the coming years.
  • The National Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act. This widely supported, federal bill, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Don Beyer (D-VA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and in the U.S. Senate by Tom Udall (D-NM), in May 2019, will establish the National Wildlife Corridors System to “provide for the protection and restoration of native species and their habitat in the United States that have been diminished by habitat loss and fragmentation.” We are working with these Congressional champions and others to reintroduce the bill in 2020 with more bipartisan support.
  • State wildlife corridor legislation. In 2019, we spearheaded the adoption of wildlife corridor bills in New Mexico and Oregon that allow state agencies, tribes, and communities to work together to identify and protect wildlife corridors across the state. We are now developing model state legislation for other states and will pursue legislative initiatives with interested states in each of our Wildways and beyond.
  • State agency reform. Wildlands Network’s policy team, supported by our scientists and advocates and in collaboration with other on-the-ground conservation groups, is proactively engaging lawmakers, elected officials, and agency personnel to change the focus of our states’ approach to wildlife management to prioritize protection of core habitats, connectivity, and all trophic levels of species in their efforts to sustain our natural environments.
A coyote turns to look toward photographer, with lake in distance.
Photo: William C. Gladish

Public Lands Management

Through the hard work of our staff and the Connectivity Policy Coalition, Wildlands Network has prompted federal land management agencies to adopt new regulations to protect wildlife habitat and connectivity. But regulations are only words until they are put into action, which requires grassroots advocates to ensure that the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management safeguard local landscapes for wildlife.

To assist advocates in their efforts to influence the Forest Service, we have teamed with partner groups to produce, Planning for Connectivity: A Guide to Connecting and Conserving Wildlife Within and Beyond America’s National ForestsWe are creating a similar guide for BLM lands.

Protecting Imperiled Species

Wildlands Network is committed to protecting imperiled wildlife—particularly large carnivores and other keystone species. Our multi-pronged approach to protecting jaguars and Mexican gray wolves in the Mexico-U.S. borderlands and the endangered red wolf of the Southeast Coastal Plain emblemize the unique blend of science and activism we bring to wildlife conservation.

Bringing Scientists and Conservation Leaders to Washington, D.C.

Wildlands Network, in partnership with the Endangered Species Coalition, organizes speaking engagements for scientists and other conservation leaders on Capitol Hill so that our decision makers are informed about urgent wildlife issues.