Why must we reconnect habitat? Consider the fate of P22. He was probably born in 2010 in the mountains of Santa Monica, and somehow made the 50 mile journey to LA, and from there could never return. This cougar improbably managed to survive around Los Angeles around Griffith Park for some twelve years has been euthanized. Hit by a car of course, struggling on for a bit after.
For Los Angelenos, P22 long stood as a local icon, a reminder of Nature’s grandeur, and as Neil Young would have it, “Mother Nature on the run.” P22 lived a solitary life, for what other cougar could somehow end up in the midst of a city? Moving and tragic all at once.
He would often cross the 405 and the 101, two of the most formable highways in the country, ranging from neighborhood to neighborhood, always tracked of course, given obvious safety concerns — for both humans and the cougar. People would swear they sensed his eyes or imagined his hot breath as they walked through Griffith Park, one of his favorite haunts. Please read this beautiful tribute to P23 in The Guardian.
We are seeing this now regularly. The last of its kind disappearing. The last white rhino. The last box turtle in this little patch of woods otherwise surrounded by tract housing. The last Bobwhite or Purple Martin or Leopard Frog or Tiger Salamander in this field or that pond or marsh. Fragmented habitat. The animals themselves can no longer connect to each other, to live in common, to procreate. And so they are gone soon enough.
That is why The Long Island Conservancy champions reconnecting habitat as we seek to restore it. In 2020 November, Frank Piccininni, a board member and Co-Founder of The Long Island Conservancy, hosted a Zoomcast for Prof. Douglas Tallamy, who argued for precisely this in Nature’s Best Hope: We must be very strategic about where we restore habitat if we are to have the maximum impact for our local creatures.
Birds must have regular places to land. For our local creatures to survive, they must have ‘range’ — linked habitat over a wide area. The dense suburban landscapes of Long Island slice through woods and creeks, bury marshes. It is imperative that we work strategically to link pockets of habitat together.
This fundamental insight led Suffolk County to create the Pollinator Corridor Task Force, where Frank is Co-Chair. Locate just where we need to create habitat for a given species to extend its range or reknit habitat fragmented by roads, development, or invasive plants. Look to vacant lots or sumps, even your own yard.
We may mostly lack the land to return some alpha predators — the wolves, the cougars — but short of that, there is much we can do to create local range through creating nature corridors, wildlife crossings, and by using what land we can around us.