Mapping High-Risk Critical Habitats

Development due to urbanization, exurbanization, and associated infrastructure will continue to be among the most significant threats to wildlife conservation in the coming thirty to forty years. Between 1980 and 2000, the footprint of development in the United States expanded from 10.1% of the land area to 13.3%, growing roughly at a rate of 1.60% annually. By 2020, the development footprint of urban and suburban housing is expected to expand to 2.2 percent of developable land, while the footprint of exurban development is expected to expand to 14.3 percent of developable land.

In 2000, Congress enacted the State Wildlife Grants Program to provide funding to states for conservation projects and planning aimed at preventing wildlife species from becoming endangered. To be eligible for funding under the program, Congress required every state and territory to develop a State Wildlife Action Plan. The plans are designed to provide a strategic framework for wildlife and habitat conservation in the states. At least 31 states have developed spatially explicit maps identifying the location of conservation opportunity areas or priority habitats for conservation.

Funded by the Wildlife Habitat Policy Research Program, the study was carried out by Colorado State University and the Environmental Law Institute. It identifies where the pace and extent of urban and exurban development will soon be a significant threat to the key wildlife habitat identified in the State Wildlife Action Plans over five different time horizons in six case study states. The resulting report, Time Sensitivity of Priority Habitats, was published in 2009.

The profiles for the six case study states are also available:

  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Tennessee

Related ELI Project Areas: Sustainable Use of Land; Invasive SpeciesEcosystem Services;Biodiversity Conservation.

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