VT Fish & Wildlife awarded $100k federal grant to help wildlife adapt to climate change

Local News

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department was awarded a $106,256 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take advantage of groundbreaking new data that will help conservation planners protect plants, animals and their habitats in the face of climate change.

Vermont Conservation Design is a science-based assessment of Vermont’s ecologically functional landscape that helps guide fish and wildlife conservation. It was first released in 2015 and maps the habitat needed to ensure Vermont’s wildlife remains healthy and abundant. Now the new state-wide “Lidar” data from the Vermont Center of Geographic Information provides an opportunity to upgrade this conservation tool.

Lidar, short for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing technology that uses aircraft-mounted laser scanners and a global positioning system to map landscape texture, giving researchers a more accurate understanding of land cover.  It provides 400 times higher resolution than any previous landcover data.

The new data will reveal critical details for wildlife movement and ecological connections, like hedgerows through fields and forest edges close to roads.  These connections allow animals to move from one habitat block to the next as they adjust their ranges to climate change.

“Some of our more northern species are going to keep moving north. Some of the stuff that is in the south now is going to be coming up our way. So we can predict where there is going to be biological diversity into the future with this understanding of the physical landscape diversity.” says Jens Hilke, conservation planning biologist for VT Fish & Wildlife.

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