The East Coast region has signed a new law to encourage more wildlife crossings across its busy highways. The legislature means that state agencies will now be required to include wildlife passage solutions in proposed road projects, with the aim of reducing road collisions between local wildlife and vehicles.
California’s Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act will help save vital species like mountain lions, deer, and elk to find food and a home. The passages in question push transportation and wildlife agencies to identify and address essential wildlife projects when designing and implementing wildlife operations within important habitat connectivity areas. Such operations could be built in the form of overpasses, underpasses, culverts, and other structures which have been shown to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions by up to 98%.
The passing of the Wildlife Protection Act, which was August 30th, 2022, also signifies $50 million in funding for further wildlife projects in 2022. In particular, $10 million will be spent on the new Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing in Liberty Canyon. This project is anticipated to provide a safe passage for mountain lions, which are listed under the California Endangered Species Act.
Although primarily benefiting the wildlife, this also increases safety on Californian roads, as crashes with wildlife can be deadly for both drivers and species. Such collisions occur more frequently as the habitats in which these animals exist get increasingly smaller, forcing the animals to make treacherous journeys to find food and habitat to live in, ultimately threatening California’s rich biodiversity.
P. Rose, policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Urban Wildland program, states: “This legislation is proof that public safety and wildlife protection can go hand in hand. […] For decades we’ve been building roads that slice through habitats and block animals’ movement. Now we know better, and we’re finally taking the necessary step to improve connectivity and make roads safer for people and wildlife.”