by Susan Holmes and Katie Davis, of Wildlands Network
Today we’re celebrating an historic achievement in the work to protect wild nature in the United States. This morning, Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA-8th) introduced the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act in Congress—a legislative breakthrough decades in the making. See our News Release.
The scientific community has long recognized that protection of isolated areas in the United States, like national parks, monuments and wildlife refuges, is not enough to prevent the decline of native wildlife. Scientists tell us that 1 in 5 species in the U.S. is at risk of extinction—hardwired natural behaviors like migration and the search for food and mates require movement across large landscapes. Protected islands of biodiversity, while important in their own right, do not address the increasingly fragmented landscapes that confront wildlife when they start to roam as nature intended, and as climate change requires.
So, it should come as no surprise that we’re not the only ones celebrating this bill. Today, in response to the introduction in Congress, none other than the great E.O. Wilson had this to say: “The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act would provide the most important step of any single piece of legislation at the present time in…saving large swaths of America’s wildlife and other fauna and flora.”
Wilson and other leading conservation scientists signed a letter to Congress urging passage of the bill to “help conserve the interconnectedness of habitats of thousands of our nation’s native species, boosting their resilience to climate change and maintaining the health of our country’s diverse natural heritage.”
What would the act do that has everyone so excited?
First, and most importantly, it would establish the National Wildlife Corridors System, an administrative designation that would provide for the protection and restoration of native fish, wildlife and plant species. Species have different reasons for moving across the landscape, but one thing is certain, wildlife will roam. By protecting landscape-scale corridors, all wildlife get a better chance at long-term survival and recovery.
Second, it requires coordination between federal agencies, states, local governments, NGOs and private landowners. Protecting large landscapes requires everyone to work together and this bill ensures that would happen.
Third, it creates a dedicated funding source, the Wildlife Corridors Stewardship and Protection Fund, to support the management and work required for this groundbreaking program to be successful.
And finally, it would create the National Native Species Habitats and Corridors Database – a resource that would be used by scientists, land managers and the public to make sure the best available science is collected and used. We believe everyone should have a chance to participate in the fight to protect our wildlife.
We’re proud to have worked on this impressive legislation with Rep. Beyer, without whose leadership and support this wouldn’t have been possible. We encourage you to call Rep. Beyer and thank him for his leadership in introducing this bill (You can reach his office at (202) 225-4376).
But our work is just beginning. We have a long fight ahead to get this through Congress and onto the President’s desk. We can’t do it alone – you can help us today by donating to support this effort and our other critical work to protect wildlife corridors.
You can find out more about the bill here.