The Bureau of Land Management says it will prioritize habitat connectivity of public lands in Arizona and other states, to improve migration routes for wildlife.
The BLM administers over 12 million acres of public land in Arizona.
The agency has published a document that directs state offices to assess wildlife corridors on BLM lands and take steps to safeguard landscapes and migration routes that are crucial to native species.
Director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, the club’s organization for Arizona, Sandy Bahr said they’re happy to see the BLM take the initiative to help mitigate the effects of habitat fragmentation.
“This drives home the importance of those lands,” said Bahr, “and that there is a role in protecting those for habitat and for this habitat connectivity.”
The policy directs public land managers to work collaboratively with Tribal nations, state and local wildlife officials, conservation groups and scientific experts to conserve and restore habitats.
Bahr said the directive from the BLM encourages protection of the biodiversity for which Arizona is so well known.
The policy is a new consideration by the BLM – to protect and restore wildlife corridors and migration routes on public lands and not just monument lands, said Bahr.
She stressed the importance of these corridors, especially as climate change will present challenges to animals – including birds – in finding the natural resources they need to survive.
“Whether it’s to take advantage of rain and vegetation in a particular area, or if it’s just traditionally what the wildlife did,” said Bahr, “and then all the sudden, there was a road there. It’s really important to ensure the connections.”
Bahr said connectivity is important for many different species – not just the large mammals that usually come to mind.
The BLM says this guidance will not have any impact on private lands.