PHILADELPHIA -- As biodiversity in Pennsylvania and around the globe continues to decline, a new report highlights key projects that are working to reconnect nature through “wildlife corridors.” The report from PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center offers examples of how human-made barriers that hinder species migration and travel can be modified to allow animals to safely traverse through natural corridors between habitats, and could be replicated here in Pennsylvania. The report comes as a bipartisan measure to connect habitat awaits action in the Pennsylvania legislature. At the federal level, the recent passage of the “INVEST in America Act” (HR 3684) by Congress would provide the funds to build overpasses and tunnels so that wildlife can cross roads. The case studies in this report could be replicated in Pennsylvania
“For too long a labyrinth of roads, fences and sprawl has penned Pennsylvania’s wildlife into smaller and smaller habitats, here in Pennsylvania and across the globe” said Stephanie Wein, Conservation Advocate for PennEnvironment. “While we can’t put that genie back in the bottle, we can get clever about how to connect these small habitat islands through corridors to help Pennsylvania’s songbirds, butterflies and game animals traverse these barriers.”
Corridors are also particularly germain to Pennsylvania: As part of the Atlantic Flyway, the Commonwealth provides stopover habitat for millions of migratory birds. Pennsylvania also ranks third in the nation for vehicle-wildlife collisions, and creating corridors can help keep animals off our roadways and away from our cars and trucks.
“The disruption and fragmentation of natural wildlife habitats remain among the greatest threats to biodiversity and conservation efforts, both here in Pennsylvania and globally,” said Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), who sponsored the federal Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act and voted for the INVEST in America Act. “As animal extinction continues to accelerate at alarming rates, our focus must remain on establishing a network of wildlife crossings to improve habitat connectivity.”
“We must protect wildlife from modern challenges such as climate change, wildfires, habitat changes and the many issues that threaten sustainable, biodiverse ecosystems,” said Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “Supporting habitat connectivity in our wildlife corridors is an important mission for our department and we are grateful to Environment America for its work in fighting for this critical cause.”
Specifically, the report focuses on seven different types of wildlife corridor projects in the United States, from bridges that allow mammals and megafauna to traverse over busy freeways to bird sanctuaries in the heart of big cities along crucial flyways. The report also focused on the growing need for wildlife corridors to help species migrate in a world of changing habitat due to climate change, as home ranges for numerous species moves northward.. Along with the report, the group created an educational “virtual tour of wildlife corridors” for those looking to virtually experience corridor projects highlighted in the report.
“Wildlife need secure corridors to migrate and move about the landscape,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “Identifying and conserving important corridors and crossings will help our wildlife thrive and enhance public safety by reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions.”
The report also follows on the heels of the introduction of the bipartisan House Resolution 74 in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which would direct the state’s Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study and issue a report on how conservation corridors could best be managed in the Commonwealth.
“We know that there are many wildlife corridors in Pennsylvania. The report would provide information on their location, owner and condition to enable improved planning and connectivity at a time when there is increasing interest,” said Representative Mary Jo Daley (PA HD-148).
“From our elk to our butterflies and everything in between, Pennsylvania is blessed with amazing wildlife, and it’s our job to help protect it,” Wein said. “With more than one million global species at risk of extinction in the upcoming decades, we need every tool in the toolbox to protect the natural world around us. Wildlife corridors can be a boon to our amazing species and offer a conservation tool that we must embrace and implement, quickly.”
Kittatinny Ridge, which crosses Pennsylvania diagonally from Mercersburg in Franklin County to Stroudsburg in the Poconos, is a Globally Important Bird Area. It is home to many local wildlife species in addition to being a primary migration corridor, used by hundreds of thousands of hawks, eagles, falcons, hummingbirds, and butterflies each year on migration paths that can stretch from Central America and the Caribbean to the Arctic Circle. It is a priority for increasing habitat connectivity through wildlife corridors.
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