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House Passes Landmark Wildlife Protection Legislation In Infrastructure Package

Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act, inspired by famed biologist E.O. Wilson, would authorize creation of national wildlife corridor system to protect biodiversity

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) hailed the passage of the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act, which was included in the text of in H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, broad infrastructure legislation which passed in the House of Representatives today. The landmark wildlife protection bill would authorize federal agencies to designate National Wildlife Corridors on federal lands to boost biodiversity, protect ecosystems, and help safeguard iconic species amid a rising wave of habitat loss and extinctions.

“With time running out to protect key iconic species, the House just took decisive action by passing the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act,” said Rep. Beyer. “Years ago, during my first term, I had the opportunity to meet with one of my heroes, the legendary Dr. E.O. Wilson; his argument for protecting biodiversity and his proposed solutions for doing so were the seed of this legislation. As he pointed out, simply providing wildlife the opportunity to move across lands and waters is one of the most effective ways to help preserve the many species in the U.S. at risk of extinction due to habitat loss and fragmentation. I thank my colleagues for supporting this landmark legislation, including Republican co-lead Rep. Vern Buchanan, Senator Udall, Chairman Grijalva and his staff who advanced the bill in the Natural Resources Committee, and Speaker Pelosi whose support enabled it to come to the floor. This is a great day for wildlife protection.”

“The loss of wildlife habitat is a national and global crisis, and establishing wildlife migration corridors is one of the most effective tools we have to preserve species while reducing the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions. As we face down a sixth mass extinction and climate change, these provisions are a major step toward better protecting wildlife and ultimately ourselves. I will continue to work with my partners on both sides of the aisle in the House to get this over the finish line,” said Senator Udall.

Beyer first introduced the bill in 2016 following conversations with biologist E.O. Wilson, who coined the term “biodiversity,” and who continues to advocate for international efforts to protect threatened species; Senate sponsor Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and House co-lead Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) made the bill bicameral and bipartisan.

“One of the foreseeable environmental crises of the future is the extinction of our native fauna and flora by careless human activity. Passing the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act as part of the stimulus package is an effective way to avoid this tragic event.” said biologist Dr. E.O. Wilson.

“Protecting wildlife corridors and crossings is a common sense way to stimulate our economy and support rural jobs while safeguarding biodiversity,” said Susan Holmes, Policy Director for the Wildlands Network, a non-profit conservation organization working to establish a continental system of wildlife corridors. “We thank Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL)and for their leadership to protect America’s wildlife. From elk to grizzlies to the beautiful monarch butterfly, wildlife needs to move across the landscape to survive. In the face of climate change, protecting wildlife corridors will ensure America’s treasured wildlife will survive for generations to come.”

The legislation previously was advanced by the House Natural Resources Committee last year, and has earned support from a bipartisan House coalition, prominent Senators, the scientific community, the outdoor recreation industry, and a broad coalition of conservation organizations.

The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act ensures native wildlife, including fish, animals, and plans, can continue to migrate, adapt, and thrive in the face of increasing threats to the populations and habits by:

  • Granting authority to key federal agencies to designate National Wildlife Corridors on federal lands, which would support the resilience and adaptability of native fish, wildlife, and plant species on public lands
  • These corridors would mitigate harm to wildlife and threats to public safety by implementing strategies to reduce public and wildlife conflict
  • Establishing a Wildlife Movement Grant Program to fund conservation efforts and improvement projects on state and Tribal lands, and those of voluntary private landowners, in order to encourage natural wildlife movement
  • Establishing Regional Wildlife Movement Councils composed of state agencies, voluntary private landowners, Tribes, and other stakeholders to identify priority areas on non-federal lands to protect essential resources and maintain biological movements, which would be funded by the grant program 
  • Establishing a National Coordination Committee to develop a national plan for wildlife movement, recommend guidelines and fund priority projects for the Wildlife Movement Grant Program, and improve coordination between National Wildlife Corridors on federal lands and conservation and conservation plans of states, tribes, and voluntary landowners identified by the Regional Wildlife Movement Councils.
  • Establishing the Wildlife Corridors Stewardship and Protection Fund composed of donations that will financially assist the management and protection of National Wildlife Corridors on federal lands
  • Creating a collaboratively developed Wildlife Connectivity Database to inform wildlife connectivity decisions across the United States using evidence-based approaches.
  • Establishing a Tribal Wildlife Corridor initiative to encourage Tribes to utilize and expand wildlife corridors on Tribal lands

The text of the bill is available here with a summary here.