Now is the time for sportsmen and sportswomen to step up and ensure this work moves forward
In 2019, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law the Wildlife Corridors Act, a first-of-its-kind piece of state legislation. The law mandated that New Mexico’s agencies develop monitoring protocols, analyze economic benefits, identify movement barriers, and create maps to better conserve migratory habitats used by big game animals like elk, mule deer, and pronghorn.
Following the Wildlife Corridors Act’s directive, the New Mexico Department of Transportation and the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish just released the Wildlife Corridors Action Plan. Among other things, the plan highlights 10 wildlife-vehicle collision hotspots, five of which were identified using collision data and five of which were identified using ecological data such as GPS, telemetry, and linkage modeling. In addition, the plan provides project recommendations and cost-benefit analysis for each project.
Across New Mexico over the course of one year, there are roughly 1,200 wildlife-vehicle collisions costing nearly $20 million in total, a figure that does not incorporate the economic impact of loss of work, school, or productivity resulting from these accidents. Roadways also contribute to habitat fragmentation, disrupting migratory movements and impeding access to the important seasonal habitats on which wildlife rely for their survival.
The Wildlife Corridors Action Plan takes a significant step to address these issues by identifying those sites where wildlife-vehicle collisions are most likely to occur and where potential future projects could most effectively mitigate and reduce these incidents. The plan does not, however, fund these projects or delineate a timetable for their completion. With $350 million of federal infrastructure funding available over the next 5 years and the state enjoying a revenue surplus, New Mexico is well-positioned to compete for and leverage state and federal funding to complete this work.
With such an opportunity on the table, it is critical that New Mexico sportsmen and sportswomen step up and get involved. Right now, NMGF and NMDOT are accepting public comments on the Wildlife Corridors Action Plan until March 12, 2022. It is important that members of our community share their local knowledge and experiences with planners. It is equally important to ensure that the plan uses ecological data and corridor models to enhance, restore, and conserve connectivity on these landscapes beyond collision hotspots.
Beyond commenting on the plan, sportsmen and sportswomen need to contact our state legislators and the governor’s office and communicate the importance of funding these projects. Safe passage for our wildlife is a significant investment: projects such as these range in cost from $17 to $45 million each and take years to plan and build. Research shows, however, that these highly effective infrastructure investments save millions in costs through accidents averted and lives saved.
There can be no better investment than in the safety of our roads and our treasured wildlife.
For more information on the Wildlife Corridors Action Plan, visit https://wildlifeactionplan.nmdotprojects.org/.
Comments on the plan can be submitted between January 12, 2022, and March 12, 2022 via:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: (505) 470-3656)
- Mail: Draft Wildlife Action Plan (Attn: Matthew Haverland), 1120 Cerrillos Rd, Rm 206, P.O. Box 1149, Santa Fe, NM 87505