New maps show agricultural barriers to wildlife connectivity in our Sagelands Heritage Program
Conservation Northwest / Aug 28, 2020 / Connecting Habitat, Sagelands
Two maps of cropland throughout Washington’s Sagelands show how constricted this area is for wildlife moving through the landscape.
By Keiko Betcher, Communications and Outreach Associate
Washington’s arid shrub-steppe has a subtle beauty home to dozens of delicate species, some found nowhere else in the state. While mule deer and elk frequently move through this area, pygmy rabbits, sage grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, sagebrush lizards and pronghorn depend on healthy, connected sagebrush habitat for food and shelter. But human development, highways, and in some cases cropland fragment this landscape and prevent wildlife movement.
Our Sagelands Heritage Program works to maintain, restore and connect shrub-steppe landscapes from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley to south-central Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills for the good of both wildlife and people. The original program map shows the “Connected Backbone” of important habitat linkages that runs north-south east of the Cascade Mountains and key work areas in our Sagelands Heritage Program, as well as public and protected lands that wildlife use to move throughout the landscape.
While there may appear to be ample room for animals to move across the “Connected Backbone”, recent updates to the map showing areas used for agriculture tell a different story. This new data, shown both as a red, hatched layer and as a satellite image, show even more restrictions to where animals can move through, clearly demonstrating the need for improved habitat connectivity.
These updated maps give us a better sense of how to move forward with our program priorities of working with landowners and partners to secure linkages between habitat patches and core populations to maintain and restore habitat connectivity in Washington’s vital sagelands landscape.