Padilla, Zinke, Beyer Announce Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Habitat Connectivity and Migration Corridors

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife, announced bipartisan legislation to support state, tribal, and local efforts to strengthen wildlife habitat connectivity and migration corridors. Representatives Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.-01) and Don Beyer (D-Va.-08) are leading companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Wildlife migrate both daily and seasonally to survive, but the habitats animals rely on are increasingly fragmented by housing, roads, fences, energy facilities, and other human-made barriers. Ecosystem changes, invasive species, climate change, and extreme weather also fragment home ranges and migration routes, resulting in population declines and biodiversity loss.

To help address these challenges, the Wildlife Movement Through Partnerships Act would establish and support several programs to support the movement and migration of wildlife.

Many Californians became familiar with the dangers of wildlife barriers after the heartbreaking passing of P-22, the iconic mountain lion of Griffith Park known for wandering around the Hollywood Hills. His passing has spurred a movement that led to the construction of the historic Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing in Agoura Hills, California. A mountain lion was recently killed on the 101 Freeway not far from where the wildlife crossing is being built. This legislation would build on that momentum to further connect and protect landscapes that wildlife need to move freely across federal, state, tribal, and private lands to survive.

“Wildlife across the country face additional barriers to their migration, threatening the vibrant biodiversity of our nation and putting human lives at risk,” said Senator Padilla. “From the sprawling urban wilderness of Griffith Park to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to the Atlantic Flyway, protecting wildlife corridors is a crucial bipartisan priority, and I am glad to work across the aisle to better conserve, restore, and enhance habitat connectivity and migration routes across the nation.”

“Wildlife follow the path that has been bred and programmed into them over generations with no understanding of the distinctions between private and public or federal and state land. That’s why collaboration and partnerships are so important when managing migratory species such as Pronghorn, big horn, and Mule Deer,” said Representative Zinke. “It has been five years since I signed S.O. 3362 and a lot of quality conservation work has been done to promote big game habitat in that time, and now is the time to solidify the intent and purpose of the program to promote public-private partnerships in conservation and focus on migratory big game. I thank Representative Beyer and Senator Padilla for joining me in this critical effort.”

“With one in five migratory species facing the threat of extinction, recognizing connectivity corridors can help us understand biodiversity loss and better protect the migration patterns of iconic American species, like the Pronghorn,” said Representative Beyer. “Our Wildlife Movement Through Partnerships Act would provide the necessary grants and technical assistance to enhance wildlife connectivity and enable the collection and analysis of data on wildlife movement areas. Additionally, this bill would support the U.S. Geological Service mapping efforts that track wildlife movement to accurately identify active corridors and migration patterns. I thank my colleagues and conservation leaders who worked with us to craft this important bill and urge my colleagues to support it as we seek to protect our wildlife diversity by ensuring that species can move freely across landscapes and access vital resources.”

“Wildlife corridors and connectivity projects are critical for California’s incredible biodiversity and for wildlife across West. They’re also great for people and public safety,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham. “It’s an effort that everyone can get behind and support. We are so appreciative of the senator’s leadership and the partnerships across the aisle to get meaningful outcomes.”

“Successful migration conservation requires collaboration between local, state, Tribal and federal governments, private landowners, and the NGO community,” said Becky Humphries, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This bill would authorize existing federal programs that support locally driven, collaborative conservation projects to restore and conserve the most important areas wildlife need to migrate and move to fulfill their lifecycle needs. TRCP thanks Senator Padilla and Representatives Zinke and Beyer for introducing this critically important, bipartisan and bicameral legislation.”

Specifically, the Wildlife Movement Through Partnerships Act would protect wildlife movement and habitat connectivity through actions including:

  • Establishing the “Wildlife Movement and Migration Corridor Program” at the Department of the Interior and administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to conserve, restore, or enhance habitat, migration routes, and connectivity, with a 50 percent set-aside for big game movement areas;
  • Establishing the State and Tribal Migration Research Program to provide funds directly to state fish and wildlife agencies and tribes to advance applied research that addresses data gaps and improves understanding of terrestrial connectivity, wildlife movement routes, and migration routes;
  • Allowing for funds from the Fish and Wildlife Service’s existing “Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program” to be used to support terrestrial connectivity, wildlife movement, and migration route conservation; and
  • Directing the U.S. Geological Survey corridor mapping team to provide technical assistance to states and tribes and collaborate with federal and state agencies and tribes to build on existing efforts to map movement areas, with a 50 percent set-aside for big game areas.

The bill is endorsed by more than 50 organizations, including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the National Wildlife Federation, the Wildlands Conservancy, Boone & Crockett Club, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, National Parks Conservation Association, Mule Deer Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the Wild Sheep Foundation.

A full list of endorsing organizations is available here and a list of supporter quotes is available here.

Last year, Padilla convened a hearing entitled “Challenges and Opportunities to Facilitate Wildlife Movement and Improve Migration Corridors,” to hear from experts on how to facilitate wildlife migration across public, tribal, and private lands. During the hearing, Padilla called for a bipartisan bill supporting voluntary conservation efforts throughout the country, including increased federal funding for state and local research and data gathering, or on-the-ground projects that restore wildlife corridors. Padilla also supported an unprecedented $350 million investment to the Department of Transportation from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to implement a first-of-its-kind pilot program to make roads safer, prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions, and improve habitat connectivity.

A one-pager on the bill is available here.


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