Creating and Designing Wildlife Friendly Cities



Symposia will be available on-demand on their scheduled date, then again at the conclusion of the conference.

Urban wildlife face many unique challenges as cities expand and urban infrastructure grows. While cities are not usually built for wildlife in mind, many cities are making explicit efforts to make their city safe and hospitable for wildlife. These cities are creating, designing, and restoring green spaces with wildlife in mind, expanding urban forests, passing wildlife friendly ordinances, encouraging home owners to plant back yard habitats, engaging a diverse group of urban wildlife enthusiasts, and more generally incorporating wildlife conservation into broader sustainability or environmental plans. This symposium will highlight an array of cities, organizations, and collaborative projects working to make their cities more safe and friendly for wildlife. The symposium will be divided into two themes: 1) Policy, Advocacy, and Organization and 2) Research, Design, and Action, and will end with a 40-minute audience-driven Q&A discussion with the speakers about next steps in urban wildlife policy and engagement.

Bird-Friendly Building Legislation Is Ready to Fledge in New York City
Kaitlyn Parkins; Molly Adams; Susan B. Elbin
Every year in New York City an estimated 90,000 to 230,000 birds die from collisions with glass. Across the U.S. the number of deaths approaches 1 billion each year and is the second-largest direct cause of bird mortality. While retrofitting individual buildings is a worthwhile endeavor, it is important to consider a far-reaching solution. Policy reform requiring the use of bird-friendly materials in the facades of buildings must be enacted to ensure broad-scale mitigation and death reduction. For more than two decades New York City Audubon has worked to reduce bird-building collisions through research, education, and advocacy, with a more recent focus on enacting policy changes at the state and local level. Challenges to this mission include coordinating data collection, developing effective public education, activating a grassroots advocacy campaign, and gaining support from architects, contractors, building owners, and legislators. Our work, along with that of many partners, led to recent passage of the nation’s most comprehensive bird-friendly building legislation to date by the New York City Council— starting January 2021, all new and substantially altered buildings built in New York City will be required to use bird-friendly materials. In this talk we discuss the long term scientific research, community science, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and strategic partnerships that were the critical components of a successful campaign to pass Int.1482, now Local Law 15/2020. Lessons learned in NYC can provide insight and guidance for those working to address this issue nationwide.
Texas Bird Friendly Cities Program
Richard Heilbrun
People crave nature wherever they are, whether they are regular National Park customers or urban residents. Urban communities recognize the value in providing easy access to nature to enhance quality of life, promote nature tourism, preserve biological diversity, provide outdoor recreation, improve academic test scores, provide clean air, clean water, and improve the medical health of their residents. Texas Audubon and Texas Park & Wildlife recently launched Bird City Texas, a program that promotes, incentivizes, and rewards good land stewardship and engaging residents in nature education. Bird City Texas gives statewide recognition to cities and towns that meet at least 25 criteria from 3 different categories: Land and habitat stewardship, community engagement and education, and removing threats to birds. This presentation will provide an overview of the program, an overview of the partnership between cosponsors, and how it purposefully aligns with and differs from bird city programs in other states. The presentation will also focus on lessons learned and challenges we had in designing the criteria and rolling out the program, including how we addressed political maneuvering by some of our applicants. The presentation will include an exploration of how we handled the “feral cat issue” and early results from our first 4 Bird City communities.
Lessons Learned from Chicago Wilderness and Chicago’s Conservation Efforts
Seth Magle
Urban regions continue to expand rapidly, representing both potential threats to biodiversity, and opportunities to innovate new forms of wildlife management and conservation in the heart of human-modified landscapes. Chicago, Illinois is an instructive example of efforts towards wildlife and nature conservation in a major metropolitan area. The Chicago region is characterized by a ring of surrounding forest preserves and nature areas comprising over 500,000 protected acres, managed both for recreation and for the purpose of maintaining biodiversity. Chicago Wilderness, a consortium of over 200 nature-based organizations, was founded in 1996 and coordinates research, outreach, and management efforts across this 38-county area. Major initiatives of this coalition include the Green Vision for connectivity and biodiversity recovery, and Mighty Acorns which works to connect Chicago’s youth to nature. I will review the history and scope of Chicago Wilderness and its Wildlife Committee, and also touch on the efforts of other Chicago-based alliances that work to conserve wildlife and habitats, including the Mayor’s Nature and Wildlife Committee, and the River Ecology and Governance Board. Chicago can provide valuable insights to other growing metropolitan areas interested in human-wildlife coexistence.
Starving for Darkness – How Artificial Light at Night Impacts Wildlife
Jane Slade
This seminar discusses the impact of exterior lighting and light pollution upon wildlife, addressing complex ecological issues such as interdependency, biodiversity, circadian rhythms, feeding, pollination, and migration. Light pollution and its impact will be discussed with regard to the following plants and animals: Fireflies, Bees, Monarch Butterflies, Dung Beetles, Bats, Whales, Birds, Zooplankton, and Trees. While humans may experience the impacts of light pollution such as the loss of the night’s sky and the disruption of circadian rhythms, the interruption of the natural daylight cycle impacts wildlife far more critically. For wildlife, the cycle of darkness and a connection to the map of the stars is necessary for survival. From microscopic organisms such as Zooplankton, to some of the largest organisms such as Whales, wildlife utilizes light to navigate through the world. Artificial light disorients, distracts, and fixates animals. For plants, light shifts the concept of time and season, altering flowering patterns and pollination. The intricate balance of life on Earth depends on the presence of darkness, yet the growing proliferation of LEDs is a direct threat to this balance. Light, more than any other environmental factor, entrains behaviors of both flora and fauna. Up until the industrial revolution, light was the most reliable and precise factor of time on Earth, tuning behaviors such as reproduction and migration. While exterior light is important to human activity, lighting design must also take into account the welfare of all living things. Design practices, innovations, controls, and awareness can all help to thwart the issue of light pollution and its impact upon the ecosystems of the Earth. Case studies of both harmful and helpful lighting designs will be discussed. Lastly, the topic of standardized lighting levels and issues around finding consensus and establishing lighting regulation will be discussed.
Characteristics of urban canid road crossing sites and implications for urban design
Morgan J. Farmer; Timothy Van Deelen; David Drake
Within urban landscapes, vehicle mortality is a major cause of death for many wildlife species, and wildlife-vehicle collisions are a safety concern for humans. As such, identifying characteristics of roads and surrounding habitat that wildlife may select for when crossing roads is essential for effective mitigation of wildlife-vehicle collisions. Our objectives were to determine whether coyotes and red foxes selectively cross roads at specific locations and times, and if so, to identify specific road and roadside habitat characteristics that coyotes and red foxes select for road crossings. Within Madison, Wisconsin, we captured coyotes and red foxes between November and March 2017-2019 using cable restraints. After chemical immobilization, we fit each captured individual with a radio collar (LiteTrack Iridium 360 for coyotes, LiteTrack Iridium 130-150 for red foxes; Lotek, Ontario, Canada). We also used data from coyotes and foxes previously captured and monitored in Madison from January 2015 to April 2016. We programmed each collar to collect location fixes at one-hour intervals between 9 pm and 4 am for coyotes and 1 am and 4 am for red foxes. Based on the GPS locations, we identified every road crossing made by each individual and recorded the date and time of the crossing, in addition to the individual’s sex, number of lanes, speed limit, traffic volume, and roadside habitat type. We mapped each road crossing location and used hotspot analysis to identify hotspots of road crossings within Madison, and then we used a step selection function to identify specific road characteristics related to coyote and red fox road crossing sites. In total, we have collected data from seventeen coyotes and fifteen red foxes and recorded approximately 14,000 locations. Identifying characteristics of roads that wildlife select for road crossing sites can inform wildlife-vehicle collision mitigation efforts as well as wildlife-friendly urban planning.
Scaling Up Small-Scale Urban Green Infrastructure to Function as Wildlife Habitat
LaJuan Tucker
Functional green spaces: The Bring Conservation Home program in the St. Louis metropolitan area
Sacha K. Heath
Residential yards in the USA have for decades been dominated by manicured lawns, invasive and non-native plants, and pesticide and fertilizer inputs—with demonstrated negative effects on biodiversity. St. Louis Audubon Society’s Bring Conservation Home program (BCH) is a large-scale urban garden initiative which has enrolled over 1,100 volunteer residential landowners to improve the urban landscape for wildlife. BCH supports a full-time consultant who visits and certifies each yard based on its habitat-based suitability for wildlife. With an emphasis on pollinators and birds, certification levels align with the amount of native vegetation cover, invasive plant cover and removal, and other types of habitat provisioning such as water and vertical plant diversity. We are collaborating with BCH to assess the effectiveness of this program in creating functional habitat for several taxa, and to evaluate the role of residential gardens in reducing some of the impacts of urbanization on biodiversity. To date, 395 residents have volunteered to participate in the research. With yard locations and landcover data we have quantified four different measures of urbanization within a 500 m radius of each yard: proportion of impervious surface, housing and population density, and nighttime light radiance. We calculated a composite variable of urbanization, with PC1 explaining 78% of the variability in the urbanization measures, and loaded uniformly and positively by each. We stratified yards by extent of composite urbanization and selected 21 spatial clusters of three yards with different BCH certification levels (none, silver, or gold/platinum). With these 63 landowners, we will implement a bioacoustics study aimed at estimating yard occupancy of vocalizing birds, bats, and frogs. Yard residents will place AudioMoth recording devices pre-programmed to sample different frequencies during civil twilight, dawn, dusk, and night hours. After retrieval, a validated machine-learning community-science approach will be used to identify and analyze recorded sounds.
Insights from the Urban Wildlife Information Network’s Urban Designers and Ecologists Joint Summit
Cria Kay
The Urban Wildlife Information Network (UWIN) is a collaboration of urban ecologists who use standardized methods to uncover the ecological processes shaping life in cities for wildlife and people alike. One of the goals of the network is to work across disciplinary divides to help create data-driven urban planning, policy, and design that can enable human-wildlife coexistence. To facilitate this mission, UWIN hosted a first-of-its-kind summit to bring the scientists of the network together with urban planners, designers, and land managers from across the US and Canada. This summit focused on how cross-industry collaboration can generate new insights, tools, and practices for building wildlife-friendly cities. This presentation will review insights that came from the four-day UWIN Summit. Barriers, including differences in incentives, language and terminology, and temporal constraints, prevent cross-industry work between urban ecologists and urban planners and designers. Further, existing infrastructure, values and biases, and a lack of funding and resources make wildlife-friendly policy and design all the more difficult to implement. Attendees of the UWIN Summit identified the structures and norms that have thus far limited the capacity of cross-industry collaborations, while identifying solutions to overcoming these barriers. Concrete design and planning recommendations were collaboratively established to create policy and design elements that are multi-functional and beneficial for both the human and wildlife species that live in urban landscapes. The presentation will conclude with an overview of tools and resources that are needed to move cross-industry collaboration forward. This Summit and the resulting recommendations are just a first step in the Urban Wildlife Information Network’s work to make cities part of a solution to the global biodiversity crisis facing our world.
WEDNESDAY 3:00PM – 4:00PM Panel Discussion

Organizers: Travis Gallo, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA; Sunny Corrao, New York City Parks, New York, NY
Supported by: Urban Wildlife Working Group

Location: Virtual Date: September 29, 2020 Time: -