Migration Corridors

The Pitchfork Ranch lies beneath a migration flyway in which birds make their way south in the winter. Noted in brown, the map below illustrates the remarkable number of migration corridors. Many of these passageways have been splintered as development fractured the continent’s landscape. This pressure is especially destructive for wildlife in the Intermountain West where the influx of cold weather escapees, second home buyers and now Covid-19 migrants pressure strapped ranchers to cash out. I read once where the sale of seven cows used get a rancher a new pickup, now it takes 37 or more. With most cattle ranchers over 60, the incentive to sell can be formidable.

Conservation easements are an important tactic for preventing privately owned lands to further shatter these ago-old pathways, necessary for the survival of many species. Government and conservation groups can’t afford to purchase these critical habitats, but can garner the funds to see that conservation easement help protect key reaches of land from further development and the corridor fracturing that accompanies it. These easements can connect public and private land for wildlife corridors as well as persuade landowners to resist wildlife-harmful “sell-out” options, thereby maintaining the corridors necessary not only for their survival, but ours as well.

The near irreversible tragedy of corridor destruction is at its worse with the beyond stupid, Trump wall construction shown here. “Wildlife corridors, the archaeology and history, that’s all being blasted to oblivion or destroyed already,” said Bill McDonald, 68, a fifth-generation cattleman and former lifelong Republican who voted for Mr. Biden. “Tragedy is the word I use to describe it.”

Yes, tragedy aptly summarizes this photograph, yet there is a complex backdrop that implicates an authoritarian ideology overwhelming common sense. There has never been a time since the founding of the republic like this. Thank you to Karla Sartor for posting the photograph and quote from the New York Times.

Map: Dan Majka, The Nature Conservancy. For further details, click J.D. Tack, et al., “Beyond Protected Areas,” Biological Conservation, (2019).