This is a document from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, detailing its conservation strategy in regards to wildlife. It begins with some background on the state of Oregon. Due to growing populations, towns and cities are expanding. Forests and farms have been converted to urban land. This means that new challenges will emerge in natural resource management, as well as new opportunities in the ways that we conserve.
The document goes on to provide approaches to increase wildlife biodiversity in Oregon’s cities. Native plant gardens and native landscaping, backyard ponds, and bat and bird roost and nest sites on buildings, bridges, and utility poles can provide places for some wildlife species to feed and rest. However, natural areas are often limited or do not provide adequate habitat including food, water, cover, and mobility for a large density of species. They propose planning new development that incorporates the protection of large, connected, and functional habitats. This will create a network of quality habitat. When planning for redevelopment, they will look for opportunities to restore and improve habitat and increase connectivity. They suggest incorporating habitat features and functions into the built environment such as wildlife road crossings, rooftop gardens and nests, and artificial habitat structures.
This document also brings up the point that education is a large part of conservation. Educating citizens about wildlife conservation issues will lead to a better appreciation of wildlife and increased citizen action. Cities provide the perfect opportunity for public involvement in restoration projects and environmental stewardship with such high human populations. I personally think that a grass-roots effort can be an effective strategy for rewilding. There are a lot of people who can participate. It is their city and the people living there might end up being the most determined to create an ecologically healthier city.
In cities, much of the land is covered by paved surfaces which creates problems of storm water runoff polluting watersheds. The DWF plans to test out storm water management options and consider new information as it becomes available. They are trying to manage storm water so that it closely mimics the natural flow of water within the city. I love the fact that the DWF is saying that they don’t necessarily have the right answer, but they will test different strategies and are willing to learn from it. The idea of increasing wildlife in cities is pretty new, as humans have historically removed wildlife from cities. It is important that we try different strategies to see which are most effective.
This document also addresses the issue of communication between environmental and non-environmental groups. It says, “landowners, government entities, and local and regional groups do not always coordinate to address issues that may be ecologically connected, but politically or programmatically separate.” The DWF plans to promote the exchange of information and provide guidance to communities using information on how to restore habitats on previously developed sites, set aside green infrastructure systems, and plan urban growth strategies which will sustain wildlife. A way that they will do this is by creating a cost share funding opportunity for conservation planning. By providing incentives to rewild land and structures, it might encourage people who would not have already considered it to try conservation work.
Overall, I think this document does show some good approaches to increasing biodiversity in urban areas. These strategies include managing stormwater to more closely mimic natural hydrology, landscaping with native plants, restoring historically important habitats when sites are redeveloped, and environmental education and outreach. The problem that I see is that these are only the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s plans. While they may be planning to increase habitat connectivity, are they the ones who really have that power? Providing information to landowners and city planners might be the most important part of this whole document. These are great ideas, but now the power lies in the people living in these cities to put them into action. I do believe that if people are willing to make the effort, these ideas are a great start for the process of rewilding cities.