endangered flying squirrel, flying squirrel endangered
Flying squirrel

Amid Construction Projects, Animals Struggle to Survive

September 15, 2008 07:54 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
Construction around the United States is affecting some animals in surprising ways, including altering their hunting and mating techniques, in addition to threatening their habitats.

From East to West

Roadwork in the mountains of Western North Carolina is making it difficult for the endangered northern flying squirrel to reach other colonies. The dilemma is preventing the squirrels from mating and cutting them off from potential food sources. But according to the Charlotte Observer, Duke Energy could provide a solution. The company has installed “40-foot tall intermediate landing areas” to help squirrels traverse the wide highway cutting through the area.

A similar situation is occurring in Northern California, where residents have encountered mountain lions on roads and in backyards. Urban development has impeded mountain lions’ ability to hunt for food in the Santa Cruz Mountains, forcing the animals to venture beyond their comfort zone.

The good news is that Bill Clinton’s regulation prohibiting new roads and commercial activity in almost 60 million acres of national forest is still in place, despite challenges initiated by the Bush administration, and by individual states and industries, according to The New York Times. “In seven years, only seven miles of new roads have been built in protected areas in the lower 48 states,” reported the Times.

Background: Federal conservation policies

In August 2008, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced a plan to lessen federal oversight of construction projects that critics say could harm endangered species and plants. The proposal would decrease the number of independent reviews conducted by government scientists on projects such as highways and dams.

Also in August, the Bush Administration removed the West Virginia northern flying squirrel from the endangered species list, claiming that “conservation efforts and habitat restoration” had brought the squirrel back “from the brink of extinction.”  However, “two of three academic experts brought in by the Interior Department recommended against the delisting,” due to a lack of data.

Related Topic: Plants threatened by construction

Meanwhile, in Mississippi cities Auburn and Oxford, construction of a 347-home development has been delayed because of a protected flower, lady-slippers, growing in a nearby backyard, reports the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

And at Houston’s Rio Grande Levee, future site of a 16-foot-tall border fence, “thick groves of some of the nation’s last remaining sabal palms” grow. The grove of palms is a preserved area, but its caretakers and conservationists fear the fence will lead to destruction, according to The Houston Chronicle.

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