In May of 2023, the PA House voted Yes on House Resolution 87, which would allow for a study to be conducted of wildlife corridors in the state of Pennsylvania. For two years HAP worked to get this legislation across the finish line in what is a huge win for PA wildlife–and human residents alike. HAP educated house representatives and the public on the importance of the resolution, sending correspondence, meeting with elected officials, creating and disseminating educational literature, and even making a trip to the state capital of Harrisburg.
We are proud to have the great relationships we do with Pennsylvania’s leaders in government and deeply appreciate their commitment to protecting animals and the environment. We would also like to say a special “Thank you” to Representative Jason Ortitay, the lead republican on the resolution, and HAP’s 2023 Legislator of the Year honoree.
State Representative Jason Ortitay with HAP President and Founder, Dr. Brian Bonsteel, and HAP Executive Director, Natalie Ahwesh
What are Wildlife Corridors?
Wildlife corridors are a broad term for several different strategies for connecting habitats – allowing wildlife to safely move and migrate between habitats, decreasing vehicle-wildlife collisions and keeping wildlife populations healthy – including favorite Pennsylvania species like deer, turkey and grouse.
Corridors can include:
- Road over- or under- passes
- Strips of woodland between fields that connect segments of forests to allow species to roam and migrate
- Stream culverts designed to allow amphibians and fish to pass under a road to disperse or mate
- Fish ladders that let fish navigate upstream on a dammed river
- Wetland strips between parking lots to connect ponds
- Planting milkweed along a utility right-of-way to aid monarch migration
What does HR87 Do?
- Authorizes a study by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) on pulling together the current status, management, and benefits of conservation corridors in PA
- Can be completed within the LBFC existing budget
- Includes gaps and opportunities for conservation corridors in the state, specific locations where corridors are needed in the Commonwealth, and what cross-agency cooperation is necessary
- Is an evaluation step, following the approach of other states
- Will have non-regulatory findings — no private landowner is required to do anything different
- Looks at the economic impact analysis of conservation corridors
“Wildlife-vehicle collisions not only result in costly vehicle repairs, but also injuries and even death to humans and wildlife, […]. We should make every effort to reduce these incidents and conservation corridors are one way to do so. I’m hopeful this study will offer ideas to better use this technique.”
Benefits of Wildlife Corridors in the Commonwealth
Wildlife Crossings Increase Safety
Pennsylvania consistently ranks in the top 3 for wildlife-vehicle collisions:
- 166,000 animal collision claims were filed from July 2020 to June 2021.
- PA drivers have a 1 in 54 chance of colliding with an animal while driving.
- Pennsylvania’s wildlife, corridors also save lives and help avoid costly collisions.
Good for Business
The Commonwealth has many tourist destination areas like the PA Wilds, the Poconos, or Laurel Highlands that attract many people all year round.
- These unique landscapes, when connected by wildlife corridors, maintain their characters and attractiveness to tourists and hikers alike.
- Seeing the landscapes as a connected whole, is good for local economies as well as its wildlife.
Wildlife crossings have new dedicated federal funding as of 2022. The passed bi-partisan hard infrastructure law includes $350 million to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions!
- Even more federal dollars are available to states that are prepared with plans to utilize this funding.
- The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act has provisions that cover environmental mitigation to restore and maintain habitat connectivity and enhance public safety.
- Environmental mitigation is cheap when built-in.
- PennDOT would have the ability to consider this data well in advance of a transportation project’s implementation.
Thank you to every Action Team member, HAP supporter, and especially to Rep. Jason Ortitay, the Republican lead on the bill, for their unwavering dedication and collective effort in making a positive impact in our community.