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Feds, States Join to Safeguard Western Wildlife Corridors
PARK CITY, Utah, June 15, 2009 (ENS) - When new electrical transmission lines are built, migratory animals can be disrupted. Today, Western governors and Cabinet secretaries signed an agreement to work together on protecting wildlife corridors essential to the survival of migratory animals such as pronghorn, caribou, mule deer, and elk.

Signed at the Western Governors' Association annual meeting, the agreement aims to improve state wildlife data systems for use as renewable and fossil energy resources are planned and transmission lines and highways are considered.

Signing the partnership agreement were Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana, incoming Chairman of the Western Governors' Association; Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter of Idaho, incoming Vice Chairman; Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar; Secretary of Energy Steven Chu; and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

"By making wildlife protection an integrated part of our clean energy effort, we will tap the West's renewable energy resources more quickly and in a more responsible way," Secretary Salazar said. "This agreement will accelerate renewable energy projects and new transmission lines and the jobs those projects will create."

Pronghorn antelope in Wyoming (Photo by OldManTravels)

The state data systems also are expected to yield information on how wildlife adapt to climate change.

"It is important that we take steps to protect our country's wildlife corridors as we plan infrastructure for a new energy future and updated transportation systems," said Secretary Vilsack. "This memorandum of understanding will also improve our ability to collect information about the impact of climate change on wildlife, giving us better information as we work to meet our long-term sustainability goals."

"By making wildlife protection an integrated part of our clean energy effort, we will tap the West's renewable energy resources more quickly and in a more responsible way," Secretary Chu said. This agreement will accelerate renewable energy projects and new transmission lines and the jobs those projects will create."

Conservationists greeted the agreement with approval.

"Since images have been drawn on cave walls, the first form of artistic expression, wildlife migrations have been a source of inspiration. Nothing connects people to nature more than wild animals on the move," said Gary Tabor, director of the Center for Large Landscape Conservation. "If we lose these spectacles of migration, we lose a bit of ourselves in the process."

"Wildlife migration spectacles are among the Earth's most stunning, yet imperiled, phenomenon and it is critical that we protect important wildlife migration corridors to assure the long term sustainability of treasured wildlife populations," said Keith Aune, senior conservation scientist for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"In 2007, the WGA began this effort to better protect wildlife corridors and key habitats, and we continue to make substantial progress with the help of the Western Governors' Wildlife Council, which we established this past year," Governor Schweitzer said.

"We urge the secretaries to have their agencies work closely with our council in developing these systems to help minimize impacts to the wildlife that are such a vital part of our Western heritage, landscape and economy," he said.

The Wildlife Council is working to identify and protect wildlife movement areas to maintain the unique natural resources that the region's $13 billion hunting and wildlife watching economies depend on.

"The Western Governors' Wildlife Council has taken an important step forward today by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with federal agencies to protect wildlife corridors and crucial habitat in the West," said Monique DiGiorgio, conservation strategist for the Western Environmental Law Center. "The stage is now set to develop effective state-based decision support systems."

"One way to maximize our effectiveness is to test-run this important planning tool on pilot wildlife corridors in order to understand how to protect these treasured landscapes on the ground," said DiGiorgio.

The agreement also supports implementation of the federal Recreational Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Plan, developed by the Department of Interior Sporting Conservation Council in 2008.

"Western wildlife, especially big game, is good business," said Bart Semcer, a Washington, DC representative with Sierra Club. "These animals and their habitat will be impacted by increased drought, wildfires, and other symptoms of climate change. They deserve the increased attention and investment of state and federal agencies so our outdoor heritage can continue to thrive in a warmer world."

"It is just this kind of federal and state interagency cooperation that is needed if we are to maximize adaptation chances for North American big game species," said Lowell Baier, president of the Boone & Crockett Club. "This is terrific example of cooperative conservation."

Next month, the Western Governors' Wildlife Council will begin to implement the agreement signed today with the federal agencies.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.



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