New poll shows strong support for additional wildlife crossings and new conservation measures for seasonal habitats
As snowpack melts across the West and we begin to see the signs of spring, herds of elk, mule deer, and antelope are on the move. After a long winter, these animals need to seek out the best-available food sources and will travel long-established migratory routes to reach their summer ranges.
These seasonal patterns of movement are critical to the health of big game herds, but roads and development have fragmented these seasonal habitats and the routes animals need to use them. Highways in particular not only pose a barrier to migrating herds, as GPS collar data has shown; collisions between wildlife and vehicles pose a significant safety risk to drivers and passengers on our roads.
But sportsmen and women should be encouraged by a new report out of Oregon, which demonstrated overwhelming support for two critical issues facing the West’s big game animals: migration corridor conservation and highway crossings for wildlife.
According to the poll, conducted by the research firm GBAO Strategies for The Pew Charitable Trusts, registered voters in Oregon were overwhelmingly in favor of migration corridor conservation and stronger funding for the wildlife bridges and underpasses that allow big game animals to cross busy roadways.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the numbers highlighted in the report:
- 86% of Oregonians support the implementation of new conservation measures to safeguard wildlife migration corridors.
- 88% of Oregonians would like public land managers to maintain open migration corridors so herds can move across public lands unimpeded.
- 86% of Oregonians support the installation of additional highway overpasses and underpasses to protect migrating wildlife.
- 75% of Oregonians see a need for increased public funding for wildlife crossing structures.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) estimates that there are more than 7,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions in the state. Including medical bills, emergency responder resources, and losses in productivity, the agency suggests these accidents cost more than $44 million in 2018.
These findings are in keeping with a previous Pew poll in Nevada that showed a similarly overwhelming level of support for migration route conservation and wildlife crossings.
In 2019, the Oregon Legislature also showed support for wildlife crossings when Governor Brown signed into law the Wildlife Corridor and Safe Road Crossing Act. The bill directs the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to work together to develop an action plan that will provide guidance to state agencies to designate and protect known migration corridors. Additionally, the action plan will include a list of priority hot spots on roadways where ODOT will adopt a program to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. Sportsmen and women were strong advocates for this legislation and continue to work with the state agencies on writing this plan.
It’s encouraging to know that the vast majority of Oregonians and other Westerners agree that funding these projects is a commonsense investment in the safety of our roadways. The TRCP will continue to work with partners, state agencies, and the federal delegation to ensure that Oregon is successful in installing more crossings across the state for the benefit of wildlife and hunters alike.
Photo: Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife via Flickr