Have you ever wondered why a rich country like the United States has not established a system of conservation lands designed to prevent species from becoming endangered? What do you think it would take to build one?
A network of conservation lands is being explored under a program sponsored by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, called the Wildlife Habitat Policy Research Program. The program was designed to support implementation of the state wildlife action plans, required by Congress before states qualify for State Wildlife Grant funding. Our Nation’s Wildlife Habitats is a synthesis report on the research findings and their significance from the first four years of the program.
Research sponsored by the Wildlife Habitat Policy Research Program demonstrated that time is running out to create a viable network of conservation lands, but that we are already spending a significant portion of the funds needed to create such a network – if only the money were spent more strategically on priority lands.
A variety of existing approaches, like land acquisition and easements, will be necessary, along with new strategies. For example, a new approach to wetland mitigation could produce much better results for conservation by focusing investment where it will have the greatest ecological benefits.
Improved alignment of government programs could generate a much broader spectrum of benefits for wildlife. For example, when the Federal Emergency Management Administration addresses flooding problems, floodplain habitat can be protected and managed to allow floods to happen without endangering people and property. State fish and wildlife agencies cannot do this alone, nor can any single organization.
A major research theme of the Wildlife Habitat Policy Research Program is climate change adaptation. Many of the actions necessary to make ecosystems more resilient would make sense whether the climate changes as predicted or not.
Completing a Wildlife Habitat System for the Nation is a brief summary of the vision and recommendations by the program committee based on research sponsored by the program.