Highways to Conservation

July 29, 2010

The new book Safe Passages: Highways, Wildlife and Habitat Connectivity, edited by WCS-North America Program conservationists Jon Beckmann and Jodi Hilty, provides a roadmap for making wildlife-friendly thoroughfares to connect islands of habitat.

Getting from point A to point B isn’t what it used to be for a moose, a pronghorn, an elk or any number of North American wildlife. Roads now cover one percent of the total land area within the United States. And with more roads, often come even more roads, stretching further and further into once remote areas.

In their book “Safe Passages: Highways, Wildlife and Habitat Connectivity,” WCS scientists Jon Beckmann and Jodi Hilty detail the need and the know-how for constructing America's roadways with conservation in mind.

After all, a road doesn’t only affect the ground lying beneath it and the animals attempting to cross it, but the entire surrounding area and the species within it. New roads can divide wildlife populations into smaller, more vulnerable groups, and they often bring travelers, hunters, and development along with them. 

“From salamanders to salmon to grizzlies, the importance of habitat connectivity for wildlife cannot be overstated,” said Beckmann. “How we design our highways is of critical importance for countless species. This book provides the reader with an up-to-date and comprehensive understanding of the factors involved in that process. Additionally, the book provides hope that this vital area of conservation science is getting the consideration that it warrants.”

WCS has long been involved in researching the role that linear infrastructure—such as pipelines, railroads, power lines, and roadways—play in negatively impacting wildlife populations and in documenting the critical need for biological corridors. Migrating wildlife need these passages in their searches for food, mating opportunities, and available habitat.

Published by Island Press, Safe Passages illustrates case studies of how modern infrastructure projects can incorporate wildlife crossing structures, barrier design, fish culverts, and advances in highway planning.

“We are increasingly seeing innovative tools and approaches result in road design projects that successfully incorporate conservation priorities,” said Hilty. “This book can be an important resource as more individuals and organizations become mindful of the role roads play in wildlife mortality, habitat fragmentation and other pressures, and work to mitigate those impacts.”

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