Thursday, May 13, 2021

Guest Essay: Pennsylvania Conservation Corridors & Ecological Connectivity

By Deborah Woodard, Anthony Bastian and Sally Sims,
Pennsylvania Habitat Connectivity

Spring is finally here. If last year’s trend continues, more Pennsylvanians than ever will be visiting our state parks and open spaces. Many will travel considerable distances to hike, camp, fish and more. 

Regardless of where we live, we depend on a complex network of highway, county and local roads to access and enjoy the outdoors and nature. 

Transportation infrastructure and other patterns of human development have, in many cases, severed the connections that support healthy ecosystems, effectively creating islands of plant and wildlife habitat. 

Comparable to the human need for connectivity, ecological connectivity through terrestrial and aquatic corridors and crossings, both natural and manmade, provide pathways for wild creatures.

 This is especially true for those that depend on the ability to move through the landscape to find more abundant food, mates, and, increasingly, distance from human intrusion. 

In 2019 the United Nations report on loss of biodiversity was published. We know that the clock is ticking for many species including here in Pennsylvania. 

We are aware that we need to consider ecosystems rather than isolated, often unconnected, parcels to ensure a future for our state and region’s flora and fauna.  

Assisted by organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, Pennsylvania conservation NGOs, especially land trusts and watershed groups and the efforts of our state agencies, we have the potential to expand our toolbox to help us meet this challenge. 

The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) tracks ecological connectivity initiatives and legislation across the country. 

Here in Pennsylvania, a House Resolution that would authorize the study of existing and potential conservation corridors was first introduced last year by Rep. Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery). 

It has since been reintroduced to the Tourism and Recreational Development Committee as House Resolution 74 by Rep. Daley and Rep. Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerne). 

A similar resolution, Senate Resolution 70, has been introduced into the Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee by Sen. Katie Muth (D-Chester). 

House Resolution 74 and Senate Resolution 70 would authorize a study to determine and consolidate into a usable document what is currently being done in Pennsylvania to protect and promote ecological connectivity and our state's biodiversity. 

Recommendations can then be made that would help guide our agencies, NGOs and interested private landowners forward with more comprehensive, coordinated policy options recognizing ecological connectivity as a shared priority. 

The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators suggests--

-- Formal identification of wildlife corridors;

-- Interagency planning for preservation of identified corridors;

-- Consideration of wildlife corridors in infrastructure planning; and 

-- Agency partnerships and collaboration for public and landowner outreach and education to increase support for corridor and ecosystem preservation strategies. 

The number of states across the country that have formalized ecological connectivity legislation and policy is growing. 

With the introduction of House Resolution 74 and Senate Resolution 70 we recognize the need for planning to ensure the future of the magnificent diversity of plants and animals that, along with us, call Pennsylvania home. 

Click Here for a fact sheet on the resolutions.

Please contact your representatives and senators to urge their support of House Resolution 74 and Senate Resolution 70.

Deborah Woodard, Pennsylvania Habitat Connectivity, can be contacted by sending an email to:

Related Articles:

-- What Conservation Corridors & Habitat Connectivity Could Mean For PA Wildlife, Biodiversity

-- PA Environmental Council Podcast: Why We Need Wildlife Corridors

[Posted: May 14, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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