This past Novemeber, WCS initiated and co-organized the second workshop on “Mitigating the impact of linear infrastructure on the movement of wildlife”. This workshop follows up on the first national workshop on “Road and railway crossings in Mongolia”, which took place in May 2013. The first national workshop shone the spotlight on this longstanding issue concerning linear infrastructure and its impact on wildlife movement, and was able to publically garner political will among key players and agencies to address this issue while it is still possible to mitigate potential impacts. The workshop culminated in the creation of the Joint Ministerial Working Group to address this issue within the legal framework, and to oversee other supporting activities. In the second workshop, the joint efforts of WCS, the Ministry of Road and Infrastructure (MRT), the Ministry of Environment and Green Development (MEGD), WWF, and the Institute of Biology was able to congregate a meeting consisting of railway companies, environmental impact assessment companies, government agencies, and civil society.
One of the main goals of the workshop was to introduce the work outcomes of the Joint-Ministerial Working Group, these include: 1) the ‘General requirements for over and underpasses built to allow migratory ungulates’, a new standard, which is in the process of development, 2) the ongoing study to identify the most optimal fence removal points along the existing UB Railway line to allow wildlife to cross, and 3) existing international policies and technologies surrounding this issue. Additionally, the Ulaanbaatar Railway and the Mongolian Railway spoke about the environmental policies upheld in their respective companies. Speakers included B.Buuveibaatar (WCS), B.Lhagvasuren (Institute of Biology), Lee Jong Yeol (Samsung LLC), B.Zorigtsaikhan (Ulaanbaatar Railway), Yo.Onon (MEGD), D.Gerelnyam (MRT), D.Batbold (MEGD), and B.Byambajav (MRT). The workshop ended on a strong note. The government agencies and the railway companies came to a common understanding that the movement of wildlife in Mongolia needs to be accommodated if we want to maintain healthy populations of the affected species. Thus, the infrastructure companies promised their willingness to cooperate on these issues; while the ministries and other concerned organizations showed that they were committed to carrying out the necessary work to make uninhibited movement a real possibility. The new standard still needs to be ratified, and the fence removal project still needs to be implemented, but tangible progress has taken place to ensure that Mongolia’s infrastructure does not stop our wildlife from thriving.