Published: December 2010
Author(s): Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group
Animals move across landscapes to find food and other resources, migrate between seasonal habitats, find mates, and shift to new habitats in response to environmental changes. The ability to successfully move between habitats is essential for the long-term survival of many wildlife species, from large, migratory species such as elk (Cervus elaphus) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), to smaller animals like white-tailed jackrabbits (Lepus townsendii), Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), and western toads (Anaxyrus boreas). Landscape connectivity is also important for maintaining other natural processes such as nutrient cycling and seed dispersal. Maintaining and restoring connectivity is a key conservation strategy to preserve ecological processes and maintain the genetic and demographic health of wildlife populations. Connected landscapes will help wildlife weather future habitat changes resulting from natural disturbances such as fire, or from other factors including human population growth, development, and climate change.
The state of Washington, like other states, faces pressures that have compromised the connectivity of habitats and wildlife populations. The imprint of development, transportation, and agriculture on the landscape is prevalent and many wildlife habitats have been highly fragmented. And, despite being the smallest western state, Washington has the second highest human population. Sustaining wildlife habitat connectivity, while at the same time meeting the needs of people and communities, is an increasingly difficult challenge.