Wildlife Corridors Open, Agriculture’s Door Closes?

By Mayzie Purviance

Conservation seems to be a highly discussed topic amongst various environmental and animal rights groups.  The general idea of conservation is widely agreed upon to impact the planet positively, but below the surface level, could certain aspects of conservation be detrimental to the agricultural industry?

On May 16, 2019, The Wildlife Corridor Conservation Act was introduced to the Senate by many key animal rights players and sponsored by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM).  On the same day, a similar bill was introduced in the House Committee for Natural Resources, Agriculture; Armed Services; Transportation and Infrastructure and sponsored by Representative Donald S. Beyer, Jr.  (D-VA).

In short, the Wildlife Corridor Conservation Act is set to establish National Wildlife Corridors to provide for the protection and restoration of certain native fish, wildlife, plant species and “for other purposes.”

Generally speaking, this bill doesn’t sound too evil.  Protect native wildlife and plants… what could be so bad about this?  Protect the Harvest, an ag advocacy group, proposed one simple yet burning question in response to this bill: What does “for other purposes,” mean?

“This seems to be left intentionally vague so that it may be manipulated and enforced at will,” Protect the Harvest said.

Protect the Harvest explained that the plan and nature of executing this act to claim corridors utilized many different avenues including statute, rulemaking under section 102 or via a land management plan developed or revised under section 202 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976.

Section 202 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 regards land use and planning.  Section 202 reads as follows: “The Secretary shall, with public involvement and consistent with the terms and conditions of this Act, develop, maintain, and, when appropriate, revise land use plans which provide by tracts or areas for the use of the public lands.  Land use plans shall be developed for the public lands regardless of whether such lands pre­viously have been classified, withdrawn, set aside, or otherwise designated for one or more uses.”

A key point brought up by Protect the Harvest is the lack of input farmers and ranchers have on the bill’s appointed council.

Section 303 of the bill states the National Wildlife Corridors will be composed of four councils which encompass the U.S.  These councils will include a director of a state fish and wildlife agency, a tribal government official, a Federal agency liaison, a maximum of three nongovernmental or scientific representatives and at least one farmer or rancher but no more than three volunteers who are private landowners.

Protect the Harvest said they are concerned with the inclusivity of nongovernmental officials.

“Often, these groups [nongovernmental officials] have ties to serious animal rights and environmental extremist groups who aim to change and eliminate our American traditions, specifically farming and ranching,” Protect the Harvest said.  “By offering up a larger voice to these individuals, we believe it is quite clear that this bill is not valuing the rights of the private landowners involved.”

Another troubling aspect of this bill is the designation of such corridors, which essentially seems to cover all lands.

The bill states that corridors will be established based on existing corridors; existing corridors designated by states and tribes; “the best available science of existing native species habitat and likely future native habitat species;” the natural movements of one or more native species (if necessary); and finally, corridors can be established on “land or water which requires restoration including land or water from which a species is currently absent and may be colonized or recolonized by a species naturally.”

Basically, the entire United States could be considered a corridor.

As far as management of the corridors goes, secretaries of the Wildlife Corridor Conservation Act have jurisdiction over implementation of strategies and activities which improve the adaptability of natives species in response to climate change and “other environmental factors;” the mitigation or removal of human infrastructure; and the mitigation of damage to the natural movements of native species through strategies such as “the maintenance, replacement, or removal of dams, bridges, culverts, and other hydrological obstructions.”

Water rights and funding are also questionable under the Wildlife Corridor Conservation Act.  Secretaries will have full control over what waterways are and aren’t considered a corridor while funding will primarily rely on donations.  Donations could potentially lead to influence from special interest groups.

The bill also states funding may be used by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to enhance the management and protection of National Wildlife Corridors by providing financial assistance to the Federal Government, Indian tribes, and nongovernmental, science and academic organizations.

Protect the Harvest was quick to point out that their organization exposed the agenda and activity of several nongovernmental organizations which seek to end the use of federal lands for agricultural usage.  Protect the Harvest also exposed said organizations for using federal funds to sue the government.

Finally, the landowner should be concerned about private property rights, according to Protect the Harvest.

“Private property rights seem of little to no concern, rocking the foundation this country was built upon,” Protect the Harvest said.  “The funding proposed and the distinct likelihood this is a purposeful way to allow powerful and corrupt non-governmental organizations a powerful seat at the table should be given a very critical eye.”


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