Safe Passage: Towards an Integrated Planning Approach for Landscape Connectivity

Roads fragment landscapes, resulting in barriers to the safe movement of humans and animals. Canada’s growing urban regions and road networks are associated with increasing wildlife-vehicle collisions and in the long term, landscape fragmentation can result in habitat degradation a decline in biodiversity. There is strong evidence that wildlife crossing infrastructure can dramatically reduce the risk of collisions and mediate negative environmental impacts. Yet where the construction of wildlife crossing infrastructure has emerged, it has been slow, sparse and ad hoc. Solving these issues is not solely a technical or research challenge; it is about working collaboratively across disciplines and building political, economic, and cultural consensus. This partnership recognizes that there is an emerging public policy and infrastructural design imperative to find new and creative ways to (re)connect our landscapes in support of the safe passage of humans and animals. By engaging with these issues in a unique interdisciplinary and experiential learning format that links landscape design and road ecology with evidence-based policy and urban environmental planning, this partnership creates new opportunities for advanced research and civic engagement.

This three year project is aimed at the development of an integrated approach for the sustainable planning, design, and implementation of crossing infrastructure and improved landscape connectivity. Safe Passage: Towards an Integrated Planning Approach for Landscape Connectivity aims to: (re)connect landscapes for the safe passage of humans and wildlife; reach Canada’s predominantly urban population by bringing landscape connectivity issues to the urban scale; and improve our contemporary relationship with wildlife in and around our cities through innovative planning and design. Specifically, it will create a dynamic working forum for the collaboration of university researchers, practitioners, and community leaders for the shared goal of creating a policy and implementation framework for landscape connectivity. The partnership’s collaborative approach culminates in the CoLaboratories–researched-based, collaborative studio workshops in which participants come together to apply, present and share emerging research in the design of new solutions for human and wildlife mobility across urbanizing landscapes. The partnership will develop and deliver tangible solutions to issues surrounding landscape fragmentation in two of Canada’s rapidly urbanizing centres, Toronto and Edmonton.

This partnership is structured around a closely-linked working group comprised of academics from 4 universities (Ryerson University, University of Toronto, Royal Roads University and Montana State University) and partner organizations who contribute to the three phases of the project over three years. Community leaders in urban and landscape planning and conservation: Evergreen Brick Works, Toronto Zoo, Toronto & Region Conservation Authority, City of Toronto, City of Edmonton, Miistakis Institute and ARC Solutions, have pledged to work alongside a group of professional planners, landscape architects, ecologists, and sustainability and policy experts to generate the material results of this partnership for public exhibition, policy stimulus, and civic dialogue. The project brings several benefits to Canada through engagement with one of our most pressing environmental concerns and by training highly qualified personnel in the inter-related disciplines of evidence-based policy creation, ecological design, and planning. More broadly it will provide Canadians with a timely opportunity to engage in complex socio-ecological issues and to re-imagine our collective relationship the shared landscapes we call home.

MAY 2016 // Safe Passage: Towards an Integrated Planning Approach for Landscape Connectivity has been awarded a Partnership Development Grant by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in the amount of $199,500.