Frequently Asked Questions – Wildlife Connectivity

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  1. What is wildlife connectivity?  Wildlife connectivity describes a network of land that links habitat patches (undisturbed, unfragmented natural areas) together, thereby connecting populations of wildlife and habitat that would otherwise be separated by cultivated land, roads, and other man-made features. This term is often used interchangeably with other terms such as ecosystem corridor, wildlife corridor, ecological corridor, habitat connectivity corridor or movement corridor.
  2. How do you plan to identify the corridors to protect? We rely on integrated landscape modelling to assess factors that are likely to influence patterns of ecological connectivity in our region. These factors include characteristics of the physical landscape and land cover that provide suitable habitat and support the movement of representative wildlife species across the landscape: for example, topographic landforms, soil conditions, and ecosystem processes. We also look at characteristics of urban development, landscape disturbance and environmental change that can disrupt and impede these fundamental patterns of wildlife movement. Then, we look at which connectivity pathways are already protected (by, for example, parks or wildlife reserves) to identify gaps and barriers that may limit the ability of wildlife to move across the landscape. These gaps and barriers become the focus for identifying and prioritizing land management strategies that are effective in restoring, maintaining, and enhancing critical pathways of ecological connectivity over time.
  3. What are focal species? Wildlife connectivity pathways can be modelled and mapped using various methods. Some connectivity models prioritize pathways that meet the requirements of certain species (focal species). Ideally, focal species are umbrella species, meaning that the protection of that species indirectly protects many other species. It is also important that the selected focal species cumulatively represent a variety of ecosystem types, and that we have enough information about each focal species and its habitat requirements to draw valid conclusions. Focal species may also include culturally significant species. Experts on wildlife and habitat connectivity in the Pacific Northwest have recommended that we incorporate consideration of focal species in our project.
  4. What is a biodiversity conservation strategy? A biodiversity conservation strategy is a plan or framework that outlines the actions and approaches needed to conserve and protect biodiversity within a particular area or region. The main intent of such a plan is to identify and prioritize areas of high biodiversity value and to develop targeted conservation actions. It typically includes a range of objectives, goals, and actions aimed at preserving species and ecosystems; maintaining genetic diversity; and addressing threats to biodiversity, such as habitat loss or climate change. A strategy can help guide decision-making related to land use, resource management, and conservation.
  5. How can we implement wildlife corridors in Squamish when we don’t have jurisdiction over so much surrounding land? There are several opportunities to improve the network of protected areas with lands under District of Squamish jurisdiction. Beyond that, we will need to work with other levels of government, including the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, and the Government of British Columbia, as well as private landowners. Our work as part of the Átl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region will provide us with the opportunity to build support and understanding among key stakeholder groups.
  6. What are protected areas? Protected areas are clearly defined geographical spaces, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.  (Dudley, 2008; Stolton et al., 2013). Examples of protected areas in British Columbia are Provincial and National Parks.  Protected areas must have conservation as a primary objective.
  7. What are other effective area-based conservation measures? Other effective area-based conservation measures (often known as OECMs) are geographically defined areas, other than protected areas, which are governed and managed in ways that achieve positive and sustained long-term outcomes for the in situ conservation of biodiversity with associated ecosystem functions and services, and where applicable, cultural, spiritual, socio-economic and other locally relevant values are also conserved (IUCN WCPA, 2019). Examples of OECMs can be conserved watersheds, locally managed marine protected areas or areas of cultural significance.  OECMs conserve biodiversity, regardless of their primary objectives.
  8. What is the scope of this project?  The scope of this project (our focus area) is the northern end of the Biosphere Region. This includes the District of Squamish and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) lands, as well as lands that fall within Squamish-Lillooet Regional District  Electoral Area D.  The Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative Society sees this project as a model for other communities around Howe Sound to consider in the future.
  9. Who is supporting the project?   So far we have received 14 letters of support. They offer some interesting reading.
  10. Much of Squamish has already been developed. Is it too late for a project like this? This important work will help fill a gap in our understanding of the environmental context for our community. It is not too late for this information to inform local planning. For example, in this map the areas identified as “future sub area plan” will likely have development at some point. Understanding wildlife connectivity will be critical for planning in these areas. The North Crumpit area is  currently being planned for development and for the planning process moving forward it would be helpful if this information was already available. All future areas will certainly benefit from this knowledge.
  11. Will this project really help conserve biodiversity?  Yes! Protecting connectivity of wildlife and habitat is THE #1 WAY to conserve biodiversity.  This concept is described for the well-known Yukon to Yellowstone corridor. When populations of a species become fragmented, they can no longer freely move to find food and shelter and to increase their health and resilience by breeding with other populations.  Gradually these isolated populations shrink and may die out.
  12. Will this project help any at-risk species in the Squamish area?  Yes! We have reviewed available records of terrestrial species for the Biosphere Region. As of January 2023, 20 species which have been observed in our project area are protected under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA). 13 observed species are listed as red (at risk of being lost) and 80 as blue (of special concern) by BC’s Conservation Data Centre.  There are a further 15 SARA-listed, 31 BC red-listed and 42 BC blue-listed species recorded for the Biosphere Region, but because these records are not open source we are not able to confirm whether the species were observed in our project area. As most observations have been near roads and so little of our area has been surveyed, we are confident that these observations demonstrate the presence of many listed species in the areas that are candidates for protection.
  13. How much money do you need and how can I help?  Great question!  We have funding in place for our 2023 – 2024 project year. For 2024 – 2026 we estimate that we’ll need  at least $300,000.  With the support of the  Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative Society we are applying for grants everywhere we can, but this is a lot of money for a group like ours to raise. We are a registered charity so we are able to issue tax receipts for donations of any amount. For information on how to donate. 

Photo above by Chris Dale: a bobcat (Lynx rufus) in Brackendale.