We are in an unprecedented, exciting moment for landscape connectivity policy and practice. Never before in U.S. history have we seen such robust policy and funding commitments to reduce wildlife-vehicle conflict, reconnect habitat, and bolster climate resilience. The 2021-2022 federal and state legislative sessions marked a turning point in conservation, climate, and infrastructure policy that opens a new world of possibilities for conservation and transportation practitioners.
The recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act have unlocked billions of federal dollars for these priorities. They also created national incentives and mandates that have provided transformative momentum to the growing movement to create more resilient and connected landscapes and transportation systems. Furthermore, climate resilience, landscape-scale planning, and wildlife migration are cornerstones of the Biden administration’s ambitious conservation agenda. In order to take advantage of new federal funding and programs, state governments have passed a slew of habitat connectivity legislation in recent years, including wildlife crossings bills from seven states in 2022. Tribal agencies are also ramping up efforts to track wildlife movements, build wildlife crossings, and create climate adaptation plans that safeguard cultural and natural heritage at the landscape scale.
This presentation will explore federal, state, and tribal administrative and legislative policies that support landscape connectivity and promote the climate resilience of our infrastructure and ecosystems. While wildlife crossings confer climate adaptation benefits by reconnecting habitat, and confer climate resilience benefits for our infrastructure, few policies currently exist to strategically coordinate climate, conservation, and transportation investments. Synergizing expertise and efforts across these three previously siloed domains is critical to ensure that projects receiving new public dollars realize the full suite of potential benefits. Therefore, after outlining existing policy and funding programs, the panelist will explore future opportunities to better merge climate resilience, infrastructure, and habitat connectivity policies in order to advance transportation projects that are both climate-informed and wildlife-friendly. In accordance with the 2023 ICOET theme “Synergy at Scale: Partnering for a Healthy Landscape,” this presentation will specifically highlight policies that catalyze collaboration between diverse stakeholders and across jurisdictions to ensure functional ecological and transportation networks at nested scales.