California is the state with the highest biodiversity and largest human population in the US. The characteristics and pace of human modification of the landscape have resulted in extensive habitat loss and fragmentation; a pattern which continues. California is also home to a sizable, diverse, and capable community of conservation practitioners who have collectively been responsible for many accomplishments to protect biodiversity and ecological integrity through policy and on-the-ground efforts – and there is much more that needs to be done.
Given the interrelated pressures on ecological integrity and the well-being of human communities, conservation work is taking an increasingly intersectional and cross-disciplinary approach as we endeavor to address the impacts of land use patterns, including but not limited to linear infrastructure. Currently, there is a perhaps once in a generation opportunity to leverage considerable public funding for conservation, including projects focused on connectivity. There is great momentum for collaborative, landscape-scale conservation – including efforts to plan and implement wildlife crossing infrastructure. In addition to established conservation actions, we are seeing creative partnerships and innovative project approaches take shape, with associated needs for funding to make such work possible.
The Wildlife Conservation Network’s (WCN) California Wildlife Program was launched in 2021 to support connectivity conservation throughout California. While one of the program’s objectives is to restore genetic connectivity for vulnerable puma populations, the long-term goal is to protect and restore functional connectivity for a diversity of wildlife by maintaining opportunities for terrestrial carnivore dispersal, ungulate migration, and range shifts in response to climate change. The California Wildlife Program operates as a funder, supporting a diverse portfolio of projects across scales and approaches in order to cross-pollinate and advance collective efforts for connectivity conservation. Our model entails close and candid collaborations to identify and support work that is intended to be transformative and catalytic, especially when difficult to fund through other sources and the outcomes will lead to support for additional conservation actions. In this presentation, we will discuss examples of work being funded by WCN’s California Wildlife Program, how the pieces fit together for broader impact, and how essential working relationships are to the viability of our collective efforts.