What is Wildlife Connectivity?
Wildlife Connectivity is the degree a landscape facilitates or impedes movement of wildlife. Ensuring strong wildlife connectivity on a landscape scale allows wildlife to adapt to changing climate conditions and maintain diverse genetics, which reduces disease and increases survivability.
What are Wildlife Corridors?
Wildlife corridors are pathways, routes or linkages that are key for wildlife movement and ecological processes. Wildlife corridors may be a seasonal migration route from winter to summer range, connect habitat critical for feeding or reproduction or be an aquatic linkage allowing fish and other aquatic species to move within rivers or riparian habitat.
What is the Upper Rio Grande Wildlife Connectivity Initiative?
The Upper Rio Grande is one of the most intact wildlife corridors in America and provides critical habitat to a diverse array of wildlife including Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn Antelope, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, Black Bear, Cougar, Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout, Otters, Beaver, Canadian Lynx, and Bald and Golden Eagles. Spanning northern New Mexico from Sandia Pueblo to Creede in Southern Colorado the Upper Rio Grande is one of the best-connected wildlife landscapes in the Lower-48 states and many of the local economies, communities and cultures rely heavily on the area’s wildlife. The area is comprised of a mosaic of federal, state, tribal, and private lands. Unfortunately, the area is also prone to fragmentation of habitat including fences, roads, residential and industrial development, natural resource extraction (oil and gas, mining and logging), fires, drought and changes in climate that may impact an animal’s ability to move on a landscape or maintain normal ecological processes.
The Upper Rio Grande Wildlife Connectivity Initiative seeks to foster collaboration and cross-jurisdictional coordination by bringing together federal and state agencies, tribes, conservation non-profits and community leaders, including spiritual and faith leaders, to learn about connectivity issues and support public policies, on the ground projects, and science and data focused on protecting and enhancing connectivity and overall ecosystem health.
EarthKeepers 360 recently spearheaded efforts to get 112 spiritual leaders from various faith communities to sign onto a letter to the U.S. Forest Service to protect wildlife corridors in the Upper Rio Grande. EarthKeepers 360 is also hosting regular wildlife connectivity and corridor field trips. Spiritual leaders will be guided on the ground in this incredible landscape experiencing firsthand the area’s biodiversity and wildlife while getting deeper understanding of challenges to wildlife connectivity. Opportunities will also include dialogue will local leaders to listen and learn about how the area’s diverse cultures view land, water and wildlife as well as we will identify proactive ways spiritual leaders and their communities can get involved in policy and planning at the federal, state and local level. Along these lines EarthKeepers 360 worked with leaders from Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors (HECHO) to pass local resolutions in support of wildlife corridors. EarthKeepers 360 also is leading trips for military veterans on this landscape to promote healing and reconnect them with the area’s land, water, and wildlife.