Nature does not work without connection.
– Mary Ellen Hannibal, The Spine of the Continent, 2012
Wildlife populations need to be able to connect to one another to provide access to additional water, food, mates and space. Our current intense human urbanization presents barriers to the free movement of wildlife populations. The resulting competition for space, food and water has led to exclusion of some wildlife from areas of intense urbanization.
To increase habitat connectivity, culverts and overpasses have been built to facilitate the movement of wildlife. According to Nancy Siepel of CalTrans, a few of these locations include: Banff, Alberta, Canada; Highways 260 and 93 in AZ; Hwy 395 near Susanville, CA; and Hwy 76 in San Diego. Several other locations are in the planning stages or they have been completed.
The most ambitious plan seeks to provide a 5,000-mile wildlife corridor from now isolated Yellowstone National Park north to the Yukon. The noted naturalist E. O. Wilson has said that this type of project is “the most important conservation initiative in the world today.”
Animal populations in the Santa Cruz Mountains have significant dispersal barriers along Rte. 280, Hwy 92 and Hwy 17. Of all these barriers, Hwy 17 presents a challenge and an opportunity to mitigate dangerous wildlife crossings.
POST, along with other regional conservation partners, are researching the effectiveness of building wildlife crossings on Hwy 17. Providing safe passage for wildlife will improve their access to food and water, establishing their own territory, and locating greater numbers of viable mates to ensure genetically healthy populations, according to Tanya Diamond, Co-Principal, of Pathways for Wildlife, and Neal Sharma, Stewardship Project Manager, from the Peninsula Open Space Trust. Extensive animal dispersal fosters the health of wildlife populations and it usually leads to territories of sufficient size for each animal species.
With freer access to a large territory, wildlife will have an enhanced chance of individual survival. So too, greater connectivity of habitats will lead to greater ease of animal movements, improve gene flow, reduce inbreeding and result in healthier wildlife populations.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 80,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more