Putting science to use for wildlife
We have several priorities for wildlife connectivity: creating safe passage on roads, considering connectivity on federal lands, and planning for a changing climate.
From roads, to forests, to a changing climate
Once the scientific products and mapping tools are prepared, it is important that there is a willing audience ready to use them. Policies exist that urge our state and federal natural resource agencies to consider habitat connectivity.
Some of our 2013 priorities:
- Creating safe passage on our roads. Busy roads like
highways are one of the greatest barriers to wildlife connectivity. The
Washington Department of Transportation operates under Executive Order
1031, which says that the state must consider
biodiversity protection and connections. The agency includes connectivity in transportation planning, whether fixing existing roads or retrofitting existing roads that
pose safety issues for wildlife and motorists and are not due for an
upgrade for other reasons. We are working to understand the
opportunities and priorities statewide for creating safer passage for
motorists and wildlife on our state roadways, while working with
community partners to forward local solutions on I-90 and Highway 97. More details on this work
- Considering connectivity on our federal lands. Nearly 6 million acres of federal land in Washington is currently under a management plan revision process. The Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville National Forests and all Washington Bureau of Land Management lands are revising the policy document that provides direction as to how these lands are managed for decades to come. President Obama's American Great Outdoors Initiative instructed all federal agencies to "incorporate wildlife corridor conservation and restoration into federal agency plans, programs, and actions." (Action Item 8.3b). Ensuring that these plan revisions reference the science being produced and provide management direction on how to maintain and restore connectivity for wildlife is a huge opportunity to directly affect wildlife in our state.
- Planning for a changing climate.
Habitats will change and shift over time as the climate changes,
resulting in the need for wildlife to adapt and move with these
changes. Washington is preparing for these changes through a Climate
Adaptation Strategy that emphasizes the importance of maintaining
habitat connectivity. A national climate adaptation strategy for fish and wildlife currently states "The most robust approach for helping fish, wildlife, and plants adapt to climate change is conserving enough suitable habitat to sustain diverse and healthy populations. Many wildlife refuges and habitats could lose some of their original values, as the plants and animals they safeguard are forced to more hospitable climes. As a result, there’s a growing need to identify the best candidates for new conservation areas, and to provide corridors of habitat that allow species to migrate." A challenge this large cannot be addressed by any single organization, so we organize our annual WildLinks conference to bring together a community to address this issue.