Saving Room for Nature in Urban Development


Those accustomed to driving in our local Pittsburgh region know all too well the barriers that divide their destination points; Pittsburgh, the city of bridges and rivers, with deep gorges, has a unique typography. When driving throughout Pittsburgh, one can’t help but notice the tree-covered hillsides that connect so many of our famed neighborhoods. It is the wildlife corridor found within these greenways that enables different wildlife species to coexist just outside of our urban environment.

With human population comes human development such as shopping centers, housing plans, construction of business and industrial complexes, highway infrastructure, and more. In the urban development process, wildlife must compete for space and natural resources. Wildlife is forced to adapt to habitat fragmentation, which forces populations of animals into confined spaces. While some wildlife species have adapted to our manmade world, others suffer. White-tailed deer populations have exploded beyond the carrying capacity of our city over recent years, while you may be hard-pressed to find a box turtle living in our city parks.

Many City of Pittsburgh residents are opting to plant native shrubs and trees, as opposed to non-native species. By committing to planting more native species in our yards, we can encourage the health and growth of local species—animals, amphibians, and insects alike. A simple water feature and some low-growing pine trees may attract the American toad. Another native resident indigenous to our city is a species of salamander, which you might be fortunate to encounter on a rainy night.

In home gardening, it’s crucial to be mindful of the chemicals you may be tempted to pour into your soil. Amphibians, like the canary in the mine, are known indicators that are very sensitive to environmental pollution. Amphibians are susceptible to the toxic effects of Glyphosate, a herbicide found in one of the leading weed and grass killers available on the market. Not only do these chemicals endanger local wildlife and amphibians; they’re a direct threat to our pets and children.

Homeowners are not alone. The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act is providing innovative solutions for maintaining wildlife corridors in the Unite States. Many states and local governments have incorporated solutions for managing human and wildlife conflict by using innovative practices in the new construction of highways, including installing tunnels and pipes under the roads in areas that wildlife frequent. As populations increase and urban areas expand, it’s crucial that we leave room for nature.

Engagement with nature starts in our own backyards. From there, we can learn to appreciate our natural world and all the components that create a balanced and diverse ecosystem. When you’re ready to explore more of nature, step outside of the backyard and take a walk in your favorite local park or greenspace.

Become a steward of our natural resources by taking ownership of what is found in your backyards and, when the situation calls for it, use technology to further enlighten yourself! There are numerous apps that aid in identifying plant and bird species. At, citizens scientists of all ages can learn more about local wildlife and how to coexist peacefully with that wildlife.


Written by Thomas Hayes
Thomas Hayes is a wildlife consultant living in Pittsburgh, PA.