It should be safer for elk and other wildlife to cross busy highways. That is, if Congress lends a helping hand.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee did its part. It unanimously approved the Surface Transportation Infrastructure Act (S. 2302) which designates substantial funding and direction for state and federal agencies to address wildlife crossings and strategies to reduce vehicle-wildlife collisions. The bill creates a wildlife crossings pilot program with $250 million in grants to states over five years to design, implement and build natural infrastructure to connect wildlife habitat impacted by highways, bridges and railways. It also prioritizes wildlife habitat connectivity, restoration and wildlife-vehicle collision reduction in planning and construction for all infrastructure projects.
“Last year, the Trump Administration asked state wildlife agencies to help develop plans to conserve migration corridors for elk, pronghorn and mule deer. Highways, bridges and railways often prevent these animals from migrating to crucial winter and summer ranges and cause dangerous collisions with vehicles,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “RMEF asked for Senator John Barrasso’s (R-WY) help in addressing this problem and he delivered with much more than we or anyone else expected. For the first time, wildlife crossings will be prioritized in infrastructure planning, construction and funding. This will greatly benefit elk and other wildlife as well as motorists.”
The infrastructure bill also includes funding for other programs important to RMEF including remediating Forest Service roads and trails and increasing support for the Federal Lands Access Program which improves transportation facilities providing access to federal lands.
The bill now moves to the entire Senate for consideration in September.