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Connecting habitat for wildlife

Conservation Northwest connects habitat for safe wildlife movement from the Washington Coast to the BC Rockies.

Manastash mule deer. Photo: Alan Bauer
Manastash mule deer. Photo: Alan Bauer

Animals are on the move in the Northwest. They make daily movements for food, seasonal migrations as conditions change, and generational movements claiming new ground to call home.

Providing a connected network of habitats to allow for the safe movement of wildlife is simply termed habitat connectivity.

"Connectivity": Interconnected habitat that allows for the movement of wildlife

Habitat connectivity becomes even more important as the climate changes and animals move to adapt to a changing environment. Conservation Northwest has successfully connected habitat from the Washington Coast to the British Columbia Rockies, including connecting the north and central Cascades. 

Part of what we are doing is documenting that movement through our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project.

Investing in key connectivity areas

We're already well on our way to improving wildlife corridors from the Coast to the Rockies.

A blueprint for connected habitat

Information about where the animals are, how they move, and what specific habitats they use helps us know best what areas need connecting for Northwest wildlife and what options exist for maintaining and restoring connections. To best safeguard animals and habitat, we need those science tools, including fieldwork, mapping, and modeling.

"The story of our age is nature going to pieces. Nature won't work in pieces, not even those we've made special efforts to safeguard. The future of wildlife is tied to its freedom to roam." -Doug Chadwick, The Wolverine Way

An ongoing connectivity working group for Washington's wildlife and habitat is hard at work developing the best available scientific analyses and tools to understand habitat connectivity in our state and neighboring habitats in British Columbia, Idaho, and Oregon. They have created a statewide scale analysis and are looking now at climate change and arid parts of Washington. This work helps us know best what wildlife and which habitats most need connectivity for conservation.

Working across borders

Wildlife do not recognize political borders, and therefore coordination with our neighbors is critical. Each year we reach across borders to bring people together in our annual Wild Links conference that focuses on a specific timely landscape or issue important to wildlife. We also engage in the Western Governors Associations (WGA's) Wildlife Council to help form a mapping tool that identifies important crucial habitats and connections for wildlife.

Putting science to use

Once the scientific products and mapping tools are prepared, it is important to put them to use and that there is a willing audience ready to use them. Policies exist that provide direction to our state and federal natural resource agencies to consider habitat connectivity for wildlife.

Some of our 2015-17 priorities:

  • Creating safe passage on our roads
  • Considering connectivity on our federal lands
  • Planning for a changing climate


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