Key messages about the wildlife corridor charette report, and about wildlife corridors in general
What is the wildlife corridor charette report?
It is a report about where wildlife corridors should be conserved in the near-urban portion of western Halifax. It is the result of a half-day meeting (called a charette) of experts with knowledge of wildlife conservation, and with local community knowledge-holders. The report contains maps of the locations in near-urban western Halifax where wildlife corridors could be conserved between large, still-wild areas.
Why would we need protected wildlife corridors?
We need to retain wildlife corridors in our near-urban environment to sustain the ecosystems services they provide and to nourish our quality of life. Wildlife and plants are essential for all sorts of things – wild pollinators pollinate our plants, birds hunt insects, plants clean our air. Without wildlife corridors, these animals, insects, plants, and other organisms can’t keep their populations going. Wildlife corridors are also places where we can connect with nature.
Because we need wildlife corridors for a healthy city, corridors are key elements of the Halifax Green Network Plan (HGNP). The work of the charette participants was to further refine and add to the corridors recommended in the HGNP. Our work brought in experts in conservation planning and local knowledge-holders to inform the wildlife corridors report and associated maps.
What do you hope will happen as a result of the report?
We hope the wildlife corridor report and maps are brought into the Halifax Regional Plan along with the Halifax Green Network Plan as part of the Regional Plan Review (2021). There are calls within the HGNP for HRM to collaborate with community groups and institutions in order to “refine, maintain and update the key datasets needed to understand the health of the Region’s ecosystems, wildlife populations and wildlife movement corridors” (Action 17). The report offers the opportunity to do just that, and have the most up-to-date and in-depth data on wildlife corridors to guide our Region’s growth and development. Ultimately, we want HRM staff to use the maps and report in planning decisions and recommendations. Community groups could use the report and maps in local efforts to conserve wildlife corridors.
Why this work? Why now?
We know we need wildlife corridors for all of the benefits they provide, but our chances to conserve them are slipping away. Although the Halifax Green Network Plan was accepted by HRM in 2018, the majority of necessary work to conserve the corridors outlined in the Plan has yet to occur. Also, more work was needed to better delineate where corridors are needed. We’ve done that work for the western part of near-urban Halifax, and now want it to be accepted by HRM right when they are adopting the HGNP into the Regional Plan, which is this year. It also serves as an example for how to delineate where corridors are needed in other parts of HRM.
What are wildlife corridors?
Wildlife corridors are areas of land where animals and plants can disperse. They allow species and populations to move between areas of good quality habitat by establishing a linked network.
Why are wildlife corridors important?
Wildlife corridors are essential to reduce habitat fragmentation and allow species and populations to move and disperse from one suitable habitat to another. These species provide ecosystem services, or in other words, naturally do things that are helpful to people. Pollinators pollinate our plants, birds eat pest insects, plants clean our air and water. We need wildlife in our cities and around us, but without wildlife corridors these wildlife and flora populations can’t sustain themselves.
Are there downsides to wildlife corridors?
There can be downsides to wildlife corridors but generally they are outweighed by the positive benefits. Diseases and parasites may be transmitted through wildlife corridors leading to transmission between populations. Corridors may also enhance the dispersal of invasive species to new habitats. However, studies have found that diseases and invasive species are more likely to travel through disturbed areas than through intact and healthy natural areas.
*The spread of Lyme disease would not be increased by the development of wildlife corridors – All counties in mainland NS are now considered high risk for Lyme disease and the Black-legged Ticks that carry Lyme disease are now widespread throughout Nova Scotia. This presence or dispersal of Black-legged Ticks would not be increased by the development of wildlife corridors.
Could wildlife corridors cause more human-wildlife conflicts?
Wildlife corridors are likely to reduce human-wildlife conflicts. Problems often occur between wildlife and humans in the cases when the two are in close proximity (especially if food availability for wildlife is low and animals target human dwellings for food from gardens or garbage). Wildlife corridors would allow animals to disperse more freely to better quality habitat, increasing their access to natural food resources.
Once these wildlife corridors are established, would they impose restrictions on what people can do with their properties?
This wildlife corridor report is based on science, mapping, and local knowledge to show where wildlife are moving across the landscape, and so where wildlife corridors should be conserved, in some form. It does not say what to do to conserve them, and in fact that would be based on local circumstances. There are several tools that HRM or other entities could use to create safe passages for wildlife.
There are multiple ways in which wildlife corridors could be conserved, and many don’t involve people’s private properties. For example, wildlife-crossing underpasses or bridges can be built at locations where wildlife tend to cross highways. This can reduce highway collisions with wildlife, which is a benefit for both wildlife and people. The report and maps do not recommend which conservation approaches to use for the wildlife corridors – that would depend on the specific circumstances. HRM and other institutions and organizations have multiple ways to conserve the integrity of wildlife corridors.
Why should HRM work on wildlife corridors?
We have wildlife in HRM, including in the more urban areas. This wildlife moves through the landscape, specifically in some areas more than others. When we facilitate wildlife (and plant) movement in certain locations, we can continue to receive the benefits from wildlife, and reduce impacts on people and wildlife.
The Halifax Green Network Plan (HGNP) was passed by HRM council in 2018 and is about to be adopted into the HRM Regional Plan. A big part of creating a greenbelt for Halifax through this plan is conserving corridors for use by wildlife, but also because corridors provide co-benefits for humans… these are often places where people can go for outdoor recreation, or are sites that are culturally or economically important. The computer modelling of corridors done for the HGNP was a great start, and our report adds to it, so we can all have a clearer image of where wildlife corridors need to be conserved now, at least in the areas addressed in the map and report.
What do you hope will happen with your report?
We want this report to accompany the Halifax Green Network Plan and be incorporated into the Plan’s Ecology Map as the Plan is adopted into the HRM Regional Plan this year. This report is a needed and timely addition to the Halifax Green Network Plan. We hope that HRM staff and councilors will see the value in bringing it into the Regional Plan as part of the Halifax Green Network Plan, which is slated for inclusion it the Regional Plan update this year.