Buchanan Promotes Bill to Protect Wildlife in Fla, Elsewhere
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) hosted a briefing with U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) on their bipartisan bill to help prevent habitat loss for America’s fish, wildlife and plant species – a leading cause of species decline and extinction.
The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act would authorize the Interior secretary to designate National Wildlife Corridors on federal lands and establish an annual $50 million grant program for states, localities and private land owners to increase connectivity for native species.
It is of particular importance in Florida, where the manatee, Florida Panther, alligator and other species face a shrinking habitat. As an example, Buchanan’s bill could designate and protect the manatee’s seasonal migration routes by addressing habitat loss and degradation through removing obstructions, improving water quality and mitigating human disturbances.
Wildlife corridors are areas of habitat that connect one or more existing wildlife habitats, allowing the native species to safely move between established protected areas.
The establishment of wildlife corridors would boost biodiversity, protect ecosystems and help safeguard America’s most iconic species from extinction crisis.
“Protecting wildlife and promoting biodiversity are of critical importance in light of a new study warning that one million species are facing extinction,” Buchanan at the briefing last week. “It’s time for Congress to help restore threatened wildlife populations and safeguard our nation’s lands and waters. We don’t get a second chance once a species becomes extinct.”
Buchanan’s bill would protect many iconic species of Florida wildlife, including the manatee, panther and alligator. The Florida panther is one of the best examples of an animal that could benefit from the establishment of a federal wildlife corridor. The panther currently is concentrated in Southern Florida, but establishing a corridor would allow the animals to travel to existing protected areas like the Apalachicola National Forest.
The briefing was hosted in conjunction with animal organizations including the Wildlands Network, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, Endangered Species Coalition, National Wildlife Federation and Defenders of Wildlife. Buchanan, Beyer and Udall were joined on the panel by experts in biodiversity: Sir Robert Watson the past chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), Aran Johnson a wildlife biologist with the Southern Ute Reservation and Ron Sutherland the chief scientist at the Wildlands Network.
A recent UN report on biodiversity conducted by IPBES, showed that one million species of wildlife and plants are now threatened with extinction across the globe. One of the most effective ways to ensure the resiliency of species is connecting existing habitats and allowing for the migration of wildlife through these corridors.
Wildlife corridors can also aid in the protection of humans as wildlife vehicle collisions result in an estimated 26,000 human injuries and 200 deaths each year and a total economic impact of over $8 billion. Establishing these corridors to mitigate the danger of existing infrastructure can help avoid collisions like these by giving animals protected pathways.
The bill was introduced in the U.S. House by Beyer and Buchanan in May, and has earned support from a wide range of leaders from the scientific community and outdoor recreation industry, along with a broad coalition of more than 200 conservation organizations.
The bill is pending in the House Natural Resources Committee, and Buchanan said he was “optimistic” it would be considered by the full House before the end of the year.
It has also been endorsed by renowned biologist E.O. Wilson, stating that Buchanan’s bill, “would provide the most important step of any single piece of legislation at the present time in enlarging the nation’s protected areas and thereby saving large swaths of America’s wildlife and other fauna and flora, especially in this critical time of climate change and shifting locations of the original environments in which a large part of biodiversity has existed.”
Wildlife corridors have been implemented in some U.S. states and throughout the world and research shows that they ultimately reduce the risk of extinction for many species -- but current law lacks requirements and incentives for federal land and water managers to address habitat connectivity needs. This legislation offers funding and sets up a framework to manage a national system of corridors, improving interagency coordination, and enhancing data collection and information sharing across jurisdictions to improve land management decisions throughout the United States.