wildlife migration corridors

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For thousands of years, animals such as deer, elk, and elk have migrated between seasonal habitats to survive, but our ever-expanding network of roads and highways results in millions of vehicle-wildlife collisions each year, fatal to humans and animals. The strategic placement of bridges, tunnels, culverts, fences, and other infrastructure can allow the safe passage of wildlife, either under or over roads, connecting landscapes and improving driver safety. Several states have enacted laws in recent years to identify and protect wildlife corridors, contributing to more than 1,000 unique wildlife crossings in the US today.

Five things to know about wildlife corridors

  1. Wildlife vehicle collisions account for a growing percentage of accidents on US highways.
    It is estimated that between 1 and 2 million motorists collide with large wild animals each year, causing approximately 200 human deaths, 26,000 injuries, and $8 billion in property damage. In rural areas like Wyoming, 15% of all reported accidents involve wildlife.

  2. The seasonal migration patterns of North American wildlife are essential to their survival.
    Many species, such as elk, moose, deer, and pronghorn, travel the same routes from summer to winter, covering hundreds of miles over the course of weeks and even months.

  3. New technologies are allowing scientists to determine where, when and how wildlife moves.
    Wildlife biologists are using GPS collars to track migrations in real time and map areas where collisions occur. This technology can help states make decisions about the design and location of crossings, as well as study their effectiveness.

  4. States have access to federal funds through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
    The IIJA directs the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to distribute $350 million in grants over five years to states, municipalities, and tribes for projects that reduce the number of vehicle-wildlife collisions and improve connectivity of the habitat.

  5. Protecting wildlife corridors is a bipartisan issue.
    At least 12 states have enacted legislation or issued an executive order on wildlife corridors in recent years: California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.

State Legislation

  • California AB 2344approved this summer, requires the transportation department assess barriers to wildlife movement before starting new road projects. This builds on legislation enacted last year that clarified the application of mitigation credits to wildlife connectivity projects (SB 790). California recently broke ground on what is billed as the world’s largest wildlife crossing: a bridge over 200 long and spanning over 10 lanes of traffic along US 101 in Los Angeles County.
  • colorado passed SB 151 this year by allocating $5 million for wildlife crossings and creating dedicated funds for these structures within the transportation department. The state also unanimously passed a joint resolution in 2021 (SJR 21) calling for increased data collection on wildlife movement, a plan to improve habitat connectivity for native species, a report identifying benefits of corridors, and the establishment of a task force to develop state policy. This follows a executive order issued in 2019. Colorado has more wildlife crossings than any other state.
  • Florida lawmakers unanimously passed a wildlife corridor law in 2021 (SB 976), allocating $400 million to protect nearly 18 million acres of interconnected natural areas key to the survival of multiple species, including the endangered Florida panther.
  • New Mexico finished its wildlife corridors action plan plus dedicate $2 million to crossings in the 2022 legislative session. Derived from legislation enacted in 2019 (SB 228), the plan uses data and ecological models to identify vehicle-wildlife collision hotspots and critical wildlife corridors to improve driver safety and maintain habitat connectivity for six species of large mammals. The law requires state agencies to seek input from the public, tribal governments, and other interested parties to finalize the list of priority projects.
  • The Wyoming legislature dedicated more than $10 million for wildlife crossings this year. In 2020, the Governor issued a executive order establish a process for the designation of wildlife corridors, beginning with the mule deer and pronghorn routes. Also in 2020, the legislature passed HB 69which allows voluntary donations to support wildlife conservation efforts related to the state’s transportation system. The United States Department of the Interior has indicated its support for for the state’s approach to wildlife corridors.

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