Report:

Reconnecting Nature

How wildlife corridors can help save species
Released by: Environment Illinois Research and Education Center

We need more nature. More nature means abundant wildlife in our world, from butterflies floating by to coyotes howling at night to whale tails breaching the surface just visible from shore.

Nature works better when it’s connected. But in the U.S., our wild spaces have been fragmented into many pieces by roads, fences and other products of human development that block the movement of animals. And as we designate new wild spaces, they are often isolated from other areas of habitat. This can push whole ecosystems out of balance, cut off genetic flow between populations, leave animals short of key resources, interrupt migration cycles and leave species more susceptible to other challenges like disease, wildfires and climate change.

While we cannot fully restore ecosystems where roads and cities lie, we must think creatively about how best to restore some semblance of complete ecosystems. A key solution to habitat fragmentation is to create wildlife corridors, projects that reconnect separated habitats, keeping in mind a species’ need for adequate space, food, water, shelter and mates.

Corridors can be made up of single projects or networks of small-scale infrastructure, including but not limited to wildlife crossings; conservation easements and land management plans to provide areas of core habitat along which animals can move; and large-scale networks of refuges along
migratory paths.

This report provides seven examples of proposed or existing wildlife corridors. It explains what they are, how they work and the ways in which species can recover or even thrive as a result of a concerted effort to reconnect fractured habitats.

The U.S. has multiple laws and policies aimed at protecting species, including the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Migratory Birds Treaty Act. As part of a broader exploration of strategies to complement the existing framework of wildlife protection laws, federal, state and local governments should embrace wildlife corridors as a means of protecting our country’s amazing wildlife.