May 1, 2012
Wildlife and Development
Be an advocate for wildlife and habitat protection
The loss of habitat, habitat fragmentation, and the direct impacts on wildlife that arise when humans develop land are crucial issues that affect individual wild animals as well as entire populations.
It’s important to incorporate the protection of habitat and wild animals into the land use planning process. This isn’t just the responsibility of developers and planning officials – it is ours as well, as citizens.
Participate in the process
Advocates for wildlife and habitat protection should become familiar with existing comprehensive plans and get involved in local planning processes.
Good planning can employ a variety of strategies, resources, and design features to lessen the impact of development on wildlife:
- Consensus planning
- Public education.
- Developer incentives.
- Conservation easements.
- Conservation subdivision design.
- Transfer of development rights.
- Changes in road standards, buffer.
- Mitigation banking (primarily offsite to create larger habitats that are next to one another).
- Municipality or county fee waivers in exchange for making an equal contribution for conservation or wildlife purposes.
- Current use taxation programs, which target wildlife habitat.
The more you know about these, the better you will be able to advocate on behalf of wildlife during the development process.
Get to know your community plan
Successfully integrating concern for wildlife into development decisions begins with community plans (sometimes called “master plans” or “comprehensive plans”). Become familiar with these and get involved when new plans are written or old plans revised.
Citizens are often invited to be part of planning efforts and can use that opportunity to promote wildlife as an asset to be protected and encourage habitat conservation when land is developed. To get the most for the animals, be willing to participate in an open process from which all involved can benefit rather than merely trying to be a roadblock to developers.
Get to know the developer’s project
When a developer proposes a project, the specifics are expected to fit the general requirements of the local plan. But that plan can incorporate provisions that can help wildlife with a little extra care and thought. One example: removing trees and other vegetation at times of the year when the impact to nesting birds and mammals will be minimized.
Some developers have even allowed advocates to assist in the search for and removal of especially vulnerable animals (box turtles are a good example). It’s possible for a partnership between state wildlife agencies, advocates, and developers to allow for a removal and recovery plan that is biologically sound.
Don’t leave it in the hands of others
People will continue to alter the landscape and affect the wildlife with which we share the land. People who care about wild animals can’t leave decisions solely to the development community and government land-use decision-makers. Participate in the planning process and work cooperatively with other stakeholders to ensure that wildlife needs are recognized and accommodated when your community determines how, where, when, and what to build.