Changing Climate Heightens Need for Safeguarding Wildlife Corridors

Experts and policymakers discuss connectivity challenges and solutions

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Changing Climate Heightens Need for Safeguarding Wildlife Corridors
Five pronghorn stand on a hill in Wyoming.
Conservation of ancient pathways used by migratory ungulates—such as these pronghorn in Wyoming—can help protect the animals as well as the many benefits they provide to other wildlife and to human communities.
Karen Desjardin Getty Images

Protecting wildlife habitat and migration routes helps to sustain healthy wildlife populations, promote biodiverse ecosystems that are more resilient to climatic changes, and support local economies that rely on outdoor recreation. To encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration related to this vital work, The Pew Charitable Trusts joined federal, state, and tribal partners in hosting the Corridors, Connectivity and Crossings Conference in Tucson, Arizona, in May.  The three-day event featured scientists, practitioners, and policymakers leading technical trainings, sharing research, and discussing policy innovations based on the latest developments in wildlife migration and landscape connectivity conservation.

A large group of people sits or stands at round tables in a hotel conference room.
Between sessions, a portion of the more than 200 conference participants get acquainted and discuss wildlife migration.
Matt Clark

Wildlife and transportation leaders discussed the importance of working across disciplines to successfully conserve ecosystems while improving human well-being. Jennifer Toth, director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, kicked off the conference by discussing the critical role that the agency and other state transportation departments play in mitigating the impact of roads and highways on landscapes; she also highlighted the opportunity to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary Robert Bonnie stressed the importance of agricultural lands in landscape conservation planning, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau underscored his agency’s commitment to working with other stakeholders to conserve wildlife corridors.

At the conference, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau announced nearly $4 million in grants along with $9.2 million in matching contributions for 13 projects in nine states that will help secure key migration paths and restore critical wildlife habitats.
The Pew Charitable Trusts

Gloria Tom, director of the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife, stressed the important contributions of Native American tribes in research and conservation efforts of wildlife movement. Zach Lowe, executive director of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, delved into the importance of state wildlife agencies in coordinating activities and conservation actions for wildlife corridors.

Several people in comfortable hiking clothes walk down a hill covered in desert shrubs toward the arched opening of a wildlife tunnel beneath a highway.
Conference attendees approach an underpass on State Route 77 north of Tucson that allows wildlife to migrate safely between the Santa Catalina and Tortolita mountains.
Matt Clark

Other session topics ranged from a technical discussion on analyzing wildlife movement data to policy efforts at the federal and state levels. On the third day, attendees joined field trips to Arizona’s flagship wildlife underpass, the Arizona-Mexico border, and the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, home to grassland wildlife.

More than two dozen people in comfortable clothing stand on packed dirt below the arched concrete ceiling of a tunnel under State Route 77 north of Tucson.
Conference attendees assess the size of the State Route 77 wildlife underpass, which provides safe passage for animals including bobcats, desert tortoises, and mule deer.
The Pew Charitable Trusts

The conference co-hosts included The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Department of the Interior, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society, the U.S. Forest Service, and the USDA Farm Production and Conservation Business Center. Financial support was provided by Pew, the Department of the Interior, the Knobloch Family Foundation, the Wilburforce Foundation, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Videos of each conference session are available to view through the following links:
Day One:
Day Two:

Matt Skroch oversees The Pew Charitable Trusts’ work on wildlife migration corridors and crossings.

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How States Can Reduce Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions on Roads

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As drivers in much of the U.S. know, the risk of collisions with wildlife on rural roads is an ever-present danger, and one with often disastrous outcomes for people and animals alike. Fortunately, many states have reduced wildlife-vehicle collisions by as much as 90% through infrastructure improvements, including over- and underpasses specially designed for animals to cross roads without encountering traffic. These projects have also helped reconnect habitat essential to annual and seasonal wildlife migrations and movements.

Mule deer staring a fence in snow overpass
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A Model to Conserve Wildlife Migrations on Working Lands

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America’s wildlife is a national treasure. From mule deer to monarchs, the natural world supports human life, fosters a deep sense of connection to nature’s bounty and serves as the backbone of our $454 billion outdoor recreation economy—boosting tourism, generating gear purchases and supporting local jobs.

A line of brown female elk walk from left rear to right front along a deep path in snow with snow-flecked fir trees, blue sky, and puffy clouds in the background.
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Wildlife Migrations in the U.S. Sustain Ecosystems

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Each year, millions of mule deer, elk, pronghorn, and other large ungulates (hoofed mammals) traverse the vast landscape of the American West. In recent years, GPS technology, in the form of collars affixed to individual animals, has revolutionized scientists’ understanding of these migrations by enabling researchers to pinpoint when, where, and how wildlife moves at a grand scale.

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