Thousands of years ago, animals like deer, elk and moose migrated between seasonal habitats for their survival, but our growing network of roads and highways leads to millions of collisions with wildlife vehicles every year, fatal to humans and animals. The strategic location of bridges, tunnels, canals, fences and other infrastructure can provide safe passage for wildlife both under and over roads, linking landscapes and improving driver safety. Many states have enacted legislation in recent years to identify and protect wildlife corridors, contributing to the more than 1,000 wildlife crossings in the United States today.
Five things to know about wildlife corridors
Road vehicle collisions represent an increasing percentage of accidents on American roads.
An estimated two million motorists collide with significant wildlife each year, causing nearly 200 deaths, 26,000 injuries, and $8 billion in property damage. In rural areas such as Wyoming, 15% of all reported incidents are wildlife related.
The seasonal migration patterns of North American wildlife are essential to their survival.
Many species, such as moose, elk, deer and thistles travel the same routes from summer to winter, covering hundreds of miles over the course of weeks and even months.
New technologies allow scientists to determine where, when, and how wildlife is moving.
Wildlife biologists use GPS collars to track migrations in real time and map areas where collisions occur. This technology can help countries make decisions about the design and location of crossings, as well as study their effectiveness.
States have access to federal funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
IIJA directs the U.S. 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 collisions in wildlife and improve habitat connectivity.
Protecting wildlife corridors is a bipartisan issue.
At least 12 states have enacted legislation or issued an executive order regarding wildlife corridors in recent years — California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.
- California AB 2344This summer passed, requires the Department of Transportation to Assessment of barriers to wildlife movement before commencing new road projects. This builds on legislation enacted last year that clarified the application of mitigation credits to wildlife connection projects (SB 790). California recently laid the foundation stone for what’s described as the world’s largest wildlife crossing — a bridge Over 200 long and spanning more than 10 lanes of traffic through US 101st in Los Angeles County.
- Colorado passed SB 151 Allocate $5 million this year to wildlife crossings and create dedicated funding for these structures within the Department of Transportation. The country also unanimously passed a joint resolution in 2021 (SJR 21) It calls for greater collection of wildlife movement data, a plan to improve habitat connectivity for native species, a report outlining the benefits of the trails, and the creation of a working group to develop state policies. This follows executive order Released in 2019. Colorado has more wildlife crossings than any other state.
- Florida lawmakers unanimously passed the Wildlife Corridor Act 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 tiger.
- New Mexico finished its file Wildlife corridors business plan With the allocation of $ 2 million for the crossings in the 2022 legislative session. Based on the legislation enacted in 2019 (SB 228), the plan uses environmental data and modeling to identify vehicle collision hotspots between wildlife and critical wildlife corridors for the purposes of improving driver safety and maintaining habitat connectivity for six species of large mammals. The law requires state agencies to seek input from the public, tribal governments, and other stakeholders in finalizing the list of priority projects.
- The Wyoming legislature has allocated more than $10 million for wildlife crossings this year. In 2020, the governor issued executive order Create a process for identifying wildlife corridors, starting with the trails of mule deer and antlers. Also in 2020, the Legislative Council passed HB 69allowing for voluntary donations to support wildlife conservation efforts related to the state’s transportation system. The US Department of the Interior indicated the support To approach the state in the corridors of wildlife.