By Nadia Ramlagan for WVNS
Wildlife crossings such as green bridges or other structures that allow animals to cross roadways safely have been shown to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.
Lawmakers, including Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), have allocated $350 million toward a pilot wildlife-crossings program as part of the recently unveiled Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act.
Mike Leahy, director of wildlife hunting and fishing policy with the National Wildlife Federation, said West Virginia consistently ranks as one of the top states for collisions between wildlife and vehicles.
He said most of the funding will be used to support projects in rural areas.
“Wildlife crossings and other strategies like underpasses and fencing,” said Leahy, “proven really good for keeping wildlife populations moving.”
According to the Federal Highway Administration, the total cost of damages from wildlife-vehicle collisions is estimated to be more than $8 billion dollars each year.
The bill, which also authorizes more than $300 billion for upgrades to highways, roads and bridges nationwide, currently sits with the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation Infrastructure.
Leahy said West Virginia’s rich outdoor heritage and hunting and fishing economy depend on habitat connections that wildlife crossings ensure aren’t lost to road development.
“The infrastructure bill includes funding for research, on how to reduce those collisions and what the best methods and tools are,” said Leahy. “It includes training for workers on how to build the projects that reduce those collisions.”
West Virginia’s outdoor recreation industry generates more than $3 billion annually and contributes to more than 91,000 jobs.