Nevada sportspeople applaud new fund to make roads safer for wildlife and people
On Thursday March 9th, the Nevada Assembly Committee on Growth and Infrastructure held a hearing on bill AB112 to establish a Wildlife Crossing Fund within the State’s General Fund. The committee received testimony, all in support of passage, from over 20 individuals across diverse interests including hunting and conservation groups, livestock producers, road construction, and local government. The Fund, which would be administered by the Department of Transportation to work collaboratively with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, will support new and existing projects that allow wildlife to migrate safely across highways.
“Our roads, highways, and overall human expansion into wildlife habitat has to be balanced with their need to have safe migratory corridors,” said Carl Erquiaga, TRCP Nevada field representative. “Nevadans overwhelmingly support protecting wildlife corridors and this bill provides critical resources to ensure safe migratory routes for our native wildlife, like mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep.”
In Nevada, several major big game herds follow migration routes that traverse over a hundred miles annually, often crossing multiple major highways along their way. In some instances, animals cross these roadways for their daily movement hundreds of times a year. According to a Nevada Department of Transportation study, more than 500 wildlife-vehicle collisions occur on the state’s roads annually, at a cost of over $19 million to drivers and Nevada taxpayers. While Nevada has been a leader in constructing safe wildlife crossings in places like Interstate 80, Highway 93 and Interstate 11 near Hoover Dam, there are many locations in need of similar projects.
If passed, AB112 will provide needed funding for crossing projects that protect both people and wildlife. This initiative will also make Nevada more competitive for similar federal funding. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed by Congress in 2021, directed the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to distribute $350 million over five years through a competitive grant process to projects that reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve wildlife connectivity. Successful applicants will need to contribute matching funds, and AB112 would create a mechanism for Nevada to meet this requirement.
“I don’t know how many people have really been around these crossings, but they are great,” said assemblyman Burt Gerr of the 33rd district during yesterday’s hearing. “I think this is a great bill and a great project.”
The bill was amended to include language calling for consultation with affected parties who have grazing permits on federal or state land or private landowners near future crossings. The committee will likely hold a work session in the future and the bill will then go to Ways and Means before an assembly floor vote. The state Senate will need to vote to pass AB112 before reaching Governor Lombardo for signature to become law. Nevada sportspeople must remain ready to voice their support if the bill is to cross the finish line.