Sky Island Alliance has become recognized and trusted as a leader in collaborative conservation planning. Combining scientific research and engagement of people is our first step in protecting wildlife and wild places. We use science to actively study, document, monitor, wildlife, to inform public policy, to start collaborative partnerships, and ultimately to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat. In the process, we build public support and create strong working relationships with key leaders, landowners, agencies, organizations, and communities.
Mapping Wildlife Linkages
By understanding the behavior and preferences of different species, we can map their optimal routes between mountain ranges, highways or human development. Once we understand where and how animals move across the region, and what types of infrastructure like culverts, underpasses and bridges they will use to travel safety across roads, we can then begin to successfully protect and connect wildlife pathways, or linkages. We engage graduate students and volunteers to create new maps and analyses. These maps, verified by on-the-ground knowledge and science, inform the best places to invest conservation resources – from habitat conservation and restoration, to improving transportation infrastructure for wildlife. These maps can also answer questions about the future:
- Where are the most important wildlife linkages in the Sky Island region?
- How will wildlife linkages shift due to climate change?
- Where do need improved wildlife crossings the most?
- How does border infrastructure affect wildlife movement?
We share our data and knowledge of the landscape to inform regional wildlife linkages assessments. We participate as a member of the Arizona Wildlife Linkages Workgroup, the Pima County Wildlife Connectivity Assessment Workgroup and the Western Wildway Network.
Helping Animals Cross the Road
We work with the Arizona Department of Transportation to improve the ability for wildlife to move safely across roads and highways, and collaborate on solving problems when the movement needs of wildlife, water, and human transportation collide. In Pima County, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) Plan, approved by voters in 2006, includes $45 million to protect and enhance wildlife linkages. The RTA prioritizes construction projects that provide wildlife crossing improvements to roadways and highways. Sky Island Alliance serves on the RTA Wildlife Linkages Subcommittee to review and recommend wildlife projects for funding. As a result, wildlife crossings have been constructed in critical areas, including overpasses and underpasses on State Route 77 near Catalina State Park, and State Route 86 near Kitt Peak.