Toolkit

Ordering the Path to Wildlife Resilience

by | Jan 19, 2022

Bobcat finds a way under Bailey Bridge in Santa Clara County.

Bobcat finds a way under Bailey Bridge in Santa Clara County. Photo: Pathways for Wildlife.

For nearly all organisms, connectivity is key. From small voyages to long, creatures must travel to find food, water, a mate, or a suitable patch of soil to put down roots. They need to avoid predators, wildfire, flood, and other hazards. This means they need wild pathways — corridors of trees, streams, meadows, or other habitat that allows them to move through a landscape increasingly fragmented by human alteration. And as climate change upends formerly stable patterns, wildlife’s need for corridors must also shift, often in complex ways, in order for each species and ecosystem to remain resilient. 

To help land managers respond to the increasing challenges of preserving useful wildlife corridors, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies recently published a comprehensive collection of resources called the Connectivity and Climate Change Toolkit. 

“It is useful to have compilations like this; for any individual organization or agency to start from scratch is a lot of work,” says Grant Ballard, chief science officer with the conservation non-profit Point Blue. “Some of the things identified I hadn’t seen before, and some are things we created that they used.”

Local agencies recently set aside significant acreage in Santa Clara County's Coyote Valley, a critical wildlife corridor under immense development pressure from urbanized San Jose.

Local agencies recently set aside significant acreage in Santa Clara County’s Coyote Valley, a critical wildlife corridor under immense development pressure from urbanized San Jose.
Photo Courtesy: Lech Naumovich, SCVOSA.

While the need for wildlife corridors for everyday travel isn’t a new idea, planning for longer term shifts in the location and extent of habitats due to warming temperatures or increasing flooding is. “In light of climate change,” the report says, “connectivity is recognized for its potential to provide additional benefits for resiliency and adaptation strategies for fish and wildlife.”

The publication is broken up into categories such as Project Planning, Adaptation Strategies, and Considerations by Systems. Each category offers a summary of key resources, and a case study. From Forest Service guidance on road-stream crossing issues to software recommendations for how to plan fish-friendly culverts or predict connectivity, the toolkit has a diverse array of resources. 

“This is the first time I have seen anything like this geared toward public agencies,” Ballard says. “It shows the intention to take a long view and do the work — so that is encouraging.”

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About The Author

Jacoba Charles

is a naturalist and science writer. Her first article, at age eight, was about the behavior of ducks as observed from the roof of her family’s barn. It went unpublished. She later graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism (2007). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, and Modern Farmer, Bay Nature, Marin Magazine, Estuary News and various literary publications. Her botany blog can be found at flowersofmarin.com and her website is jacobacharles.com. She lives in Petaluma with her daughter and many pets.