Wildlife corridors: What are they, why do they matter, and how do you help?

Print More

This Bighorn was seen just below the summit of Mt. Wheeler in New Mexico. Used with permission from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New_Mexico_Bighorn_Sheep.JPG

If you follow environmental news in New Mexico, chances are you’ve seen some of the great media coverage of what’s happening around wildlife corridors in the state. But what exactly is all the fuss? We’re going to give you a quick overview of the issue so that you can help get involved no matter what part of the state you live in: Wildlife matters to us all! 

Simply speaking, animals don’t recognize things like state boundaries, county lines, or different land designations from federal, state, and local jurisdictions; they just go where they need to for survival. Some people might be familiar with pictures of natural-looking overpasses for wildlife to cross over highways but wildlife corridors really represent large landscapes used for a variety of issues; migration, mating, foraging, etc. And it’s not just large mammals like deer or elk but almost every animal in some way utilizes the landscape, especially as more and more development encroaches on natural habitats.

It seems every day the Trump administration takes another step in the wrong direction. His administration has been working hard to roll back protections any place they can for wildlife and public lands, threatening places like our beloved Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and directing federal organizations to push bad administrative policy across the board. More on this later.

The good news is, there are LOTS of good things happening around wildlife corridors in New Mexico already. If you want to REALLY dive in, we suggest heading over to this amazing page from ConnectedCorridors.com where you can get the whole picture.

Wildlife holds intrinsic and economic value. It feeds millions of Americans each year, drives tourism in many places, and reminds us that wild places still exist. At a moral and legal level, identifying and conserving wildlife corridors are necessary to satisfy our trust obligation to both our wildlife resource and future generations. Wildlife corridors matter.

And check out this great event happening Wednesday, August 28th!

Wildlife Without Borders | The Lensic

Wildlife Without Borders tells the story of New Mexico’s iconic wildlife and the ways that they move and intersect our lands, our histories, and our cultures. Join us for stunning aerial footage and in-depth interviews from a diverse cast of wildlife advocates, tribal leaders, scientists, and policymakers.

This year, NM became the first state to pass COMPREHENSIVE legislation to protect wildlife when “Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Wildlife Corridors Act into law (in April), making New Mexico the first state to adopt a comprehensive program to identify wildlife corridors and begin to address barriers to wildlife movement.”

And since that signing, much has been done around the issue, from the national level down to county levels. Here’s another good link to a recent story about some of the work being done by state officials in conjunction with our federal delegation, highlighting the crucial cooperation of multiple state entities with shared interests in protecting landscape levels of land.Not to mention that many municipalities and counties around the state are taking their own initiatives to help protect our wildlife and their habitats. Most recently Taos County joined the growing list of supporters around the state.

Our neighbors to the north also recently made headway on the issue and we’re excited that New Mexico seems poised to follow shortly in helping to permanently protect landscape-scale places for our naturally occurring wildlife to continue to flourish. This was shared recently by our colleagues at ProgressNow Colorado:

As Colorado’s population booms, Gov. Jared Polis announced an executive order directing wildlife and transportation agencies to work together to protect critical big game migration corridors.

“A key component of Colorado’s recreation economy and our enjoyment in the outdoors as Coloradans is our relationship with wildlife,” said Polis. “As we welcome more and more people to our state, there is more pressure being placed on natural habitats and the wildlife that depend on them for survival.”

So we know it’s important to our state to protect wildlife corridors that already exist, and to identify places we can do better. There are currently efforts underway to comment on National Forest planning issues that directly affect these efforts, and we’re expecting announcements from at least one Bureau of Land Management area in Southeastern New Mexico anytime as well. We’ll be following this piece up with a more intensive look at the planning processes later, so please stay tuned. 

Before we go though, we need to remind you what’s at state. One issue that SHOULD have more attention from folks is the issue of how wildlife is impacted by the construction of the 18-foot bollard wall along our southern border with Mexico. Of course the immigration issue is a human one, but the deep and terrible impact that this physical barrier has on desert wildlife DOES impact our humanity as well. Trump and his administration has created a catastrophic scenario along the border, and it’s not a far leap to see how those directives there could impact other beloved open spaces in and around New Mexico. 

There are some groups actively working on this issue in the state, most notably the Southwest Environmental Center based in Las Cruces. Please check them out if you’re interested in helping out with that issue in particular (which you should be 😉 ) 

So how do you get involved? Your first stop should be at ConnectedCorridors.com. Add your thoughts to any of the forest planning links there, and stay tuned as we bring you more updates in the weeks and months to come!