Freedom to Roam – Wildlife Connectivity in Action from Data to Implementation and Assessment II

ROOM: Room 215 – San Miguel
As disturbance, urbanization, and land conversion increase globally, the need to maintain landscape connectivity that supports wildlife movements and population viability and sustains biotic diversity is critical. While climate change is not specifically addressed in this symposium, connectivity is often cited as a way to provide resilience to populations in the face of both land use and climate change. This symposium will provide wildlife professionals with information on techniques to model and assess connectivity and will cover an overview of best practices for ensuring that wildlife connectivity is maintained. Case studies of implemented connectivity projects around the country will be presented. Panel discussions after each half will allow audience members to ask questions of the experts as well.

1:10PM Tying Together the Legs of Connectivity Analysis – Roadkill, Camera Traps, Genetics, GIS, and Theory
  Fraser Shilling
Connectivity is an emergent property of ecosystems that relates to disturbance-sensitivity, habitat/resources requirements and availability, life-stages, seasonality, prey/predator relations, and intra/inter-specific pressure. Distinctions are made between functional, structural, and landscape connectivity as overlapping domains of ecological connectivity. Connectivity is often conflated with wildlife movement, including the use of the term “wildlife connectivity”. This property of ecosystems is commonly estimated in GIS using information about individual or groups of species habitat requirements and disturbance-tolerance. The peaks of connectivity are used to cartographically describe the “least-costly” path/corridor/linkages among hypothetical “core habitat areas” as part of a “best we can hope for” strategy. In the vast majority of cases (there are exceptions), these GIS models are not validated using occupancy or movement data of target species. In the majority of cases where validation takes place, or models are built based upon wildlife movement, they cannot accurately or comprehensively predict wildlife movement. At the same time, these linkage models are the basis for costly land acquisition/mitigation, including most recently in CA where $120 million will be dedicated to mitigating for highway impacts on wildlife movement and other attributes. I will discuss the recent history of connectivity analysis, its relationship to ecology and conservation, and who has benefited. I will present large-extent tests of multiple regional/state landscape linkage models that do or could form the basis for many millions of dollars in land acquisition. I show that these models do not reliably predict wildlife movement. I describe how camera traps, genetics, roadkill observations, and collared animal movement could and should be used as the basis for conservation actions to protect wildlife movement. Finally, I will recommend a new path forward that connects rare conservation dollars, more common conservation concern, and an expanded emphasis on species well-being, rather than a narrowed focus on hypothetical linkages.
1:30PM Developing and Implementing Linkage Conservation Plans
  Paul Beier
I have helped develop over 70 linkage conservation plans, each of which is intended to support animal movement between a pair of predominantly natural areas, and most of which are actively being implemented. A key element of successful plans is co-production, a mode of science production in which the scientist and end-user are equal partners in defining the problem, selecting focal species, agreeing on modeling procedures, specifying the format in which the design will be delivered, and evaluating compromises that inevitably occur when the design collides with political and economic realities. I recommend designing linkages to serve multiple (rather than one) focal species, illustrating the effects of model uncertainty as maps of modeled linkages under different assumptions, and modeling corridor dwellers (species that require more than one generation to move their genes between wildland blocks) differently from passage species (for which an individual can move between wildland blocks within a few weeks). All connectivity models for passage species share a common problem, namely how to estimate resistance to animal movement when we lack data on how the animal perceives the landscape during dispersal and mate-seeking (the behaviors corridors are intended to support). Recent evidence suggests that dispersing animals readily cross habitats that are moderately to strongly avoided within the home range; these new findings may provide implementers greater flexibility in making compromises to minimize costs or achieve other conservation goals.
1:50PM Evaluating The Effectiveness Of Corridors And Corridor Structures Using Genetic Data
  Lisette P. Waits
Genetic approaches can be very powerful for evaluating functional connectivity and the effectiveness of corridors and corridor structures. This talk will briefly review the main genetic approaches to evaluating corridor effectiveness including noninvasive genetic sampling to directly detect individual movement, assignment test approaches to detect migrants and offspring of migrants, and landscape genetic approaches that determine the permeability of different landscape elements. These methods will be illustrated using case studies from a variety of taxonomic groups. In particular, I will include case studies from bears in Canada and Florida, bats in Costa Rica, native rats in Australia, and tree frogs in Switzerland.
2:10PM ESRI’s Green Infrastructure Initiative
  Ryan Perkl
Esri’s Green Infrastructure Initiative is a collection of authoritative geospatial resources, newly generated data, online applications, and downloadable models with the aim of empowering local organizations engaged in Green Infrastructure (GI) work, all while initiating a national vision of GI planning. Following a methodology outlined by the Green Infrastructure Center Inc., Esri researchers created a national database of intact habitat cores for the lower 48 United States using the 2011 National Land Cover Dataset. This process resulted in the generation of over 550,000 unique cores of at least 100 acres in size. Each core was then overlaid with a diverse assortment of physiographic, ecologic, and hydrographic layers to populate each core with attributes, over 50 in total, related to the landscape characteristics found within. These data were also compiled to compute nine core quality indices depicting the perceived ecological value of each core when compared to all others. A national connectivity dataset was also created. These data consist of a network of least cost paths (LCP), over 1.4 million in total, between all neighboring cores. The LCP network was used to calculate a Betweenness Centrality (BC) attribute for each core, providing a metric denoting each core’s importance in connecting the network. These data, supplemented with additional information, can provide a unifying blueprint for coordinating GI planning across national and local scales. By identifying our nation’s natural assets, and providing context related to their importance, we aim to equip decision makers with the information necessary to fill data gaps, inform land planning, guide land protection efforts, and illuminate potential areas for landscape restoration.
2:30PM Wildlife Connectivity Planning in Arizona
  Julie Mikolajczyk
Arizona Game and Fish Department (in partnership with many other local, state, and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations) has been engaged in planning for restoring, maintaining, or improving wildlife habitat connectivity and permeability for more than a decade. In this presentation I will cover a brief history of these efforts, from gathering stakeholder and partner input to refinement of priority areas of concern using focal species modeling. I will also cover recent work based on graph theoretical methods using a custom landscape integrity base and scenario-based evaluation of land-use change impacts on the fragmentation of Arizona’s habitats. I will summarize the wins and “challenges” we’ve faced along the way and I will present some of the pros and cons of the various datasets we have created as well as the current challenges we have in translating these data into on-the-ground management decisions. I’ll conclude with our proposed path forward to encourage more widespread adoption of AGFD’s connectivity work into planning processes.
2:50PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM Case Study: Implementation of Tijeras Canyon Corridor in NM
  Kurt Menke
This talk will cover the implementation of wildlife corridors in Tijeras Canyon, New Mexico. Tijeras Canyon is located immediately east of the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The canyon bisects two mountain ranges; the Sandia Mountains to the north and the Manzano Mountains to the south. Both ranges are part of the Cibola National Forest, and each range contains its own wilderness area. In the Sandia Mountains north of Tijeras Canyon is the 37,877 acre Sandia Mountain Wilderness. South of Tijeras Canyon in the Manzano Mountains lies the 36,970 Manzano Mountain Wilderness. There are two major parallel high speed, high volume highways running through Tijeras Canyon, I-40 and New Mexico Highway 333. Tijeras Creek is a perennial stream that meanders between and adjacent to the two highways. Where the creek runs between the two roads it acts as an ecological trap for wildlife in this arid region. Implementation of corridor protections was led by a citizen group, the Tijeras Canyon Safe Passage Coalition in 2003. It was a unique situation also requiring buy in from the Carnue Land Grant. Final construction was completed in 2008. Now ten years since construction ended, the talk will overview the wildlife connectivity issues, implementation challenges, and lessons learne
3:40PM Sustaining Ungulate Migrations: New Tools to Identify and Conserve Corridors Across Multiple-Use Landscapes
  Jerod Merkle; Matthew J. Kauffman
Animal migration has fascinated humans for centuries. The journeys these animals undertake allow large populations to prosper even when at certain times of the year their seasonal ranges can be inhospitable. For large ungulates, recent research is changing how we view migration. Where corridors were once viewed as a simple link between two disparate seasonal ranges, these corridors are increasingly considered critical habitat themselves. Indeed, recent studies indicate that the timing of migratory movements along corridors during spring is a key determinant of the fitness benefits (i.e., fat gain) of migration. In this talk, we: 1) describe the foraging benefits of migration, 2) outline how to categorize and map migration corridors so they are useful to managers, and 3) describe how migration corridors have been integrated into Wyoming’s vital habitat designation program. Ungulate migrations require vast landscapes, and in many cases animals must cross numerous fences and roads and navigate rapidly changing multiple-use lands. Thus, this ecological process is difficult to manage and conserve. Using examples from mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and elk (Cervus canadensis) in Wyoming, we outline how to identify and prioritize individual- and population-level migration corridors using dynamic Brownian bridge movement models. We then describe our migration assessment program – a detailed analytical and mapping process which identifies and prioritizes lands/fences/roads of high management and conservation interest. We conclude with a description of some successful on-the-ground conservation projects sportsmen, agencies, and NGOs have been developing to sustain migration corridors in Wyoming.
4:00PM Case Study: Implementing Wildlife Crossings in Arizona
  Scott C. Sprague; Jeffrey W. Gagnon; Chad D. Loberger; Kari S. Ogren; Susan L. Boe
Wildlife overpasses are an essential tool for promoting wildlife connectivity across the linear barriers imposed by transportation infrastructure. Whether these barriers partition otherwise contiguous habitat or sever critical connections between habitat blocks, the resulting fragmentation can substantially reduce the viability of local wildlife populations. A wildlife permeability mitigation network including three overpasses was implemented along U.S. Highway 93 (US 93) in northwest Arizona where the road traverses a large block of desert bighorn sheep habitat. A similar network was implemented in southern Arizona along State Route 77 (SR 77) where the highway traverses a wildlife corridor of Sonoran desert flats connecting the Santa Catalina and Tortolita mountain ranges. Although the mitigation components are similar, their siting processes differed to accommodate distinct goals of permeability across the two landscapes. Empirical movement data from GPS collars resulted in the US 93 overpasses being spread out across the traversing road segment. Corridor modeling and municipal planning resulted in siting of the SR 77 overpass and underpass at a pinch point in the corridor. Evaluation of mitigation components for the two projects is similar. Structure usage and passage rates are monitored, target species interactions with the roadway corridor are tracked, and collision mortality data is collected. Although existing data suggests that each network has successfully promoted connectivity across its respective highway barrier, additional information is needed to evaluate whether the designated corridor between the Santa Catalina Mountains and Tortolita Mountains is sufficient to maintain wildlife connectivity between the two habitat blocks. Data from ongoing camera trapping efforts within the corridor can provide insight. However, full assessment of the corridor will not be possible until the surrounding matrix is developed, leaving only the corridor to facilitate wildlife movement.
4:20PM Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey
  Gretchen Fowles; Brian Zarate; MacKenzie Hall; Karina DiLeo
We have formed a working group to develop a statewide strategic plan for terrestrial wildlife called Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ). The end products, a statewide map depicting key ecological cores and corridors and a guidance document, help project partners prioritize and implement habitat protection, habitat restoration, and mitigation of road barriers. These tools are intended to facilitate collaboration to reduce conflicts, save money, increase driver safety, and ultimately improve the prospects for the long-term sustainability of New Jersey’s terrestrial wildlife. For example, CHANJ mapping highlights road barriers and provides auto-generated baseline assessments and templates for additional boots-on-the-ground research. Newly amended state Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules include language to drive improvement of culverts and bridges for wildlife movement. Public availability of CHANJ resources allows for transparency of valuable spaces for animals and a project tracking database will be used to refine and inform future versions of the models.
4:40PM Panel Discussion

Organizers: Melissa Merrick, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; Julie Mikolajczyk, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Phoenix, AZ
Supported by: TWS Southwest Section Geospatial Advisory Group, TWS Southwest Section, TWS Biometrics Working Group

Location: Albuquerque Convention Center Date: September 27, 2017 Time: 1:10 pm - 5:00 pm