Western Connectivity

Interactions between people and wildlife have become more complicated as we've moved further into the West. Human development such as roads, railroads, and fences have created even more points of contact between our species and those around us, disrupting their normal behaviors and patterns. 

What is "Western Connectivity?"

Bull elk surrounded by mountains

Connectivity is a landscape level ecological characteristic that leads to a proper functioning and more resilient ecosystem. Connectivity enables wildlife to track changes in seasonal conditions, exploit forage quality and quantity across the landscape, return to or locate new breeding grounds, respond to stochastic events (i.e., fire, drought, snow, flooding) and, adapt to human development.

Corridors are essential to landscape connectivity, and wildlife use them on a daily basis to find food and water and on a seasonal basis to migrate or disperse to other areas. Landscape connectivity is threatened when habitat in corridors or seasonal ranges is lost due to conversion or other human development. In addition, linear features such as roads, fences and railroads fragment the landscape and incrementally reduce the ability for wildlife to move.

The National Wildlife Federation realizes that the best way to increase landscape connectivity is to work with all stakeholders across the landscape. Increasing connectivity on large scales requires working across land jurisdictions because wildlife is unconcerned with man-made borders. We use scientific approaches to identify migration corridors impediments to movement. Tools of the trade include remote cameras, GPS tracking devices, modelling approaches, and monitoring.

Pronghorn and fence
Fostering long-term relationships is essential, and we partner with state and federal agencies, landowners, universities and other conservation organizations to find on-the-ground solutions that support wildlife and people. See our recent report for Ranchers Stewardship Alliance that prioritizes habitat to sustain migratory pathways and winter range for big game in Northcentral Montana.

NWF is working with partners to reconnect and restore the pronghorns’ ancient routes and, with The Nature Conservancy, has created a media-rich, interactive StoryMap, On the Move, to highlight this iconic and timeless migration that is increasingly threatened by roads, fences, railroads and habitat conversion.


For more information about the National Wildlife Federation's wildlife connectivity and migration work, please contact Simon Buzzard at buzzards@nwf.org

Scientific Papers: Read more about this area of work.

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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