In an All Things Considered story in the series "Climate Connections," Ken Cole of the U.S. Geological Survey said "It looks from our modeling that Joshua Tree National Park and pretty much the southern half of the range would be too warm in the next 50 to 100 years to support Joshua trees anymore." Fifty to one hundred years? That's next to no time. It means that if we are going to take action to conserve resources threatened by advancing climate change, we need to act now. That's why I was so happy to see this article.
The National Park Service is being called upon to develop a detailed plan -and acquire associated funding- to address temperature-related ecosystem changes. NPS may even get funding from Congress to implement their plan, which would include identifying corridors for wildlife and plant movement. Corridors that could allow entire ecosystems to migrate north, or to higher elevations, to accommodate movement as the climate causes the location of ecosystems to shift. According to the article, a major climate bill passed by the House in June would allocate more than $500 million a year to natural resources adaptation under a proposed carbon-trading program. I'm so happy to see support for planning and protecting wildlife corridors.
The National Park Service isn't the only agency on board. In June of 2008, the Western Governors adopted the “Wildlife Corridors Initiative Report.” They established a council to identify key wildlife corridors and crucial wildlife habitats in the West, and conserve these lands—and the vast wildlife species that depend upon them—for future generations.
Groups like SC Wildlands and the Arizona Missing Linkages project have already started developing- and implementing- plans known as "Linkage Designs" that address these very issues by working collaboratively with local, state, and federal governments and countless other partners throughout California and Arizona to identify areas key to wildlife movement and create detailed plans for conserving them.
Wildlife habitat doesn't follow ownership boundaries delineated by people or land management agencies. A wild herd of elk may migrate across several different jurisdictions including state land, Forest Service land, Park Service land, land managed by timber companies or land conservancies, and even private land when moving from their winter foraging ground to their summer playground. The landscape is made up of a patchy matrix of ownership boundaries, fences, roads, and in some cases major obstacles to wildlife movement like busy highways, oil and gas drilling pads, solar energy farms, or new housing developments. The animals have to weave their way through this matrix at their own risk. They don't have the advantage of Google Earth or a GPS unit to let them know where the maze ends and the next patch of wildland begins. They get caught in fences, hit by cars, and in some cases, like that of the pronghorn antelope in the Prescott Valley, herds can become completely enclosed by encroaching development on all sides, the population destined to die off. We can help by conserving connected lands in the form of wildlife corridors to facilitate the movements of free-ranging wildlife now and in the future; to allow for migration, gene-flow, dispersal, and climate change. It's incredibly important that state and federal governments partner with eachother and with as many other groups as they can to identify and protect wildlife corridors. I hope that state and federal governments step up to support the work that needs to be done in designing and implementing the plans.