Home Advocate West Slope groups advocate for funding more wildlife crossings

West Slope groups advocate for funding more wildlife crossings

A moose crosses the road ahead of drivers in Steamboat Springs. Local wildlife advocates are pushing for a bill that would create a dedicated fund for wildlife crossings in Colorado.
Karen Desjardin/Courtesy Photo

Northwest Colorado residents and wildlife conservation groups are among those advocating for increased state funding for wildlife crossings proposed in the currently advancing Senate Bill 22-151. in the state legislature.

Bipartisan legislation called Safe Crossings for Colorado Wildlife and Motorists would provide additional funding for wildlife road crossing projects across the state.

The law project was being discussed Friday, May 6, in the state House of Representatives as the final step for approval.

The bill would create a Colorado Wildlife Safe Passages fund for wildlife crossing projects on stretches of roads and highways with high rates of wildlife-vehicle collisions or where the ability of wildlife to move across the landscape has been hampered by high traffic volumes, explained Paige Singer, conservation biologist at nonprofit Rocky Mountain Wild.

“Hunting, fishing and observable wildlife contribute $5 billion in economic output to Colorado each year and support 40,000 jobs statewide,” wrote the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Project – which includes Keep Routt Wild – in a May 3 letter to the Colorado House Appropriations Committee. .

“The $5 million allocation and fund that would be created by Senate Bill 151 would begin to make travel around the state safer for residents, visitors and wildlife and ensure that healthy wildlife populations and resilient homes and quality hunting opportunities continue to be part of the Colorado Way of Life,” the letter continued.

Routt County resident Gaspar Perricone, who chairs the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Project, said he “welcomes the state’s commitment and looks forward to continued investment in this ongoing effort.”

The fund would help advance projects identified in CDOT’s 10-year pipeline of projects with wildlife infrastructure components, as well as projects identified by the Colorado Wildlife and Transportation Alliance.

Perricone said a key benefit of state funding would be to help leverage more federal funding.

A moose on the road on the morning of Monday, May 2 on Village Drive just south of Walton Creek Road in Steamboat Springs is just one illustration of the importance of avoiding wildlife-vehicle collisions in the Northeast. western Colorado.
Karen Desjardin/Courtesy Photo

“This is a big step in strengthening the landscape connectivity needed to support a healthy wildlife population while reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions statewide,” Perricone said Thursday. May 5. “This is good news for public safety and hunting and wildlife opportunities and the associated economic activity in the county.

The stretch of US Highway 40 that runs east from Craig to Hayden is just one area of ​​significant wildlife-vehicle collisions. This section is also on the state’s list as a priority for Northwest Colorado for developing fundraising strategies and future projects, said Elise Thatcher, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

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A herd of elk is often seen on the south rim of Steamboat Springs.
Karen Desjardin/Courtesy Photo

Motorists and law enforcement officials in the area also witness numerous collisions with wild vehicles on many sections of US 40 throughout the Yampa Valley and up to Rabbit Ears Pass, as well as on other roads in the region.

Vehicle collisions with large wildlife have killed bears and moose near Steamboat Springs multiple times in the past year.

Rocky Mountain Wild noted that law enforcement officials report an average of 4,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions per year in Colorado, although the number may be closer to 14,100 each year when estimating unrecorded collisions.

A herd of elk crosses Highway 40 in December 2021 near the Haymaker Golf Course on the edge of Steamboat Springs. Wildlife conservation groups say the roads bisect important migration routes for Colorado wildlife.
Karen Desjardin/Courtesy Photo

According to Rocky Mountain Wild, collisions between wildlife and vehicles can have tragic consequences, including hundreds of human injuries and some deaths, the death of thousands of animals and an annual cost of approximately $80 million in property damage, emergency response, medical and other treatment. costs. This figure does not include the value of lost wildlife – estimated at around $24 million – or the impact on the health of wildlife populations.

According to CDOT’s West Slope Wildlife Prioritization Study completed in 2019, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials estimate that more mule deer are killed each year in collisions between wildlife and vehicles on the western slope only during the annual harvest of the hunters.