Corridor Conservation in the American West

Food, water, shelter, and the freedom to roam—these are the fundamental needs of wildlife. Pronghorn and elk migrate between summer and winter ranges; grizzly bears travel from berry patches in valleys to white bark pine groves atop mountains; young wolverines set out from their maternal home range to find a territory of their own. WCS-North America’s Corridor Conservation Initiative aims to protect this basic need for wildlife by securing and interlinking crucial habitats. The initiative coordinates field-based research, outreach, and policy.

Challenges

Expanding human developments—rural residential sprawl, fences, roads, and energy extraction—chop up the open spaces of the West into smaller and smaller fragments. Wildlife populations are losing ground, and we are losing wildlife. If we are to ensure that our protected areas do not become islands of habitat, wildlife conservation strategy must encompass efforts to conserve and restore corridors connecting these areas. The importance of connectivity between core wildlife areas is especially important in a rapidly changing world as many wild animal populations are forced to move across the landscape in search of optimal climate and habitat conditions.

Goals

  • Identify and assess threats—including climate change—to crucial wildlife corridors, in order to help conserve them.
  • Work with government transportation agencies to ensure safe passage of wildlife across busy highways, railroads, and other transportation infrastructure.
  • Assist private landowners with information and mechanisms to conserve priority wildlife corridors across their properties.
  • Develop a series of recommendations to the Western Governors’ Association to identify and protect wildlife corridors across the 19 Western states.

What WCS is Doing

Our Corridor Conservation Initiative works with businesses, the outdoors industry, and the conservation community to broaden business and grassroots support and increase public backing for wildlife corridor conservation across North America. WCS is also working with wildlife agencies and decision makers to encourage practices and policies that give wildlife the freedom to roam. This collaborative effort helps guide the development and implementation of sound, sensible policies and practices that balance the critical needs of wildlife with those of people.

The WCS Teton Field Office is working to create a permanently protected migration corridor for the pronghorn, our continent’s fastest land animal. This ambitious project would conserve the most extensive trail of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, and one that has been in use since the end of the last Ice Age.

From the Newsroom

Path of the Pronghorn: Leading to PassagesDecember 11, 2013

Scientists from WCS have worked for over a decade to protect pronghorn migrating along a 100-mile long path to and from Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. Jeff Burrell, WCS Northern Rockies Program Coordinator, knows that if this corridor is severed, pronghorn will be lost from the park.

Path of the Pronghorn Leading to New Passages November 2, 2011

As pronghorn set out on their long fall journey, new protections are underway to help them reach their destination. WCS conservationists Renee Seidler and Jon Beckmann describe the impressive migration, its formidable obstructions, and a few new ways around them.

The Wild West: A Pronghorn's Incredible Journey September 22, 2010

WCS embarks on a huge study to ensure safer journeys for pronghorn through their migratory corridor in the American West.

Preserving a Wild West for Posterity and for PronghornJuly 5, 2006

What will it take to conserve the Path of the Pronghorn, a trail that our continent’s fastest land animal has used since the end of the last Ice Age? In a landscape as famous for its mountains as for its oil fields, WCS scientist Dr. Joel Berger is determined to find out.

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