Wyoming Department of Transportation Champions Wildlife Crossings

Date:   December 27, 2010
Contact:   Sharon Mader, Grand Teton Program Manager National Parks Conservation Association Phone: 307-733-4680 office; 307-690-5245 cell

Wyoming Department of Transportation Champions Wildlife Crossings

PINEDALE, WY — The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) established themselves as a regional leader in efforts to reduce wildlife mortality on roadways last week when they unveiled an ambitious plan to preserve wildlife movement through the ‘path of the pronghorn’ in northwest Wyoming. Despite their inability to win a federal grant to fund a state-wide system of wildlife crossing structures, the agency has decided to move ahead and committed millions of dollars of Wyoming general transportation funds to construct wildlife overpasses and underpasses in this corridor; an area seen as crucial to maintaining the pronghorn migration from the Upper Green River Valley into Grand Teton National Park.  This system is critically needed to reduce wildlife vehicle collisions and increase safety for motor vehicle users along Highway 191.

“This is a big step forward for Wyoming’s wildlife,” said NPCA Grand Teton Program Manager Sharon Mader. “We applaud the leadership of WYDOT and the collaborative work of other federal and state land use agencies in their efforts to preserve the path of the pronghorn. Initiatives such as this present a model for the region to protect and connect large landscapes throughout the West.”

WYDOT’s plans to construct wildlife crossing structures, including two wildlife overpasses and a series of underpasses along 23 miles of Highway 191 will have a significant positive impact by allowing for safe wildlife movement across the highway.

“WYDOT District Three Engineer John Eddins deserves much credit for his efforts in promoting and constructing wildlife road mitigation in the face of diminished budgets,” Mader added. “He has been a leading figure in improving road safety while preserving wildlife migration access, which was highlighted when he and his staff were profiled at the recent meeting of the Western Governors’ Association wildlife committee as a laudable model for wildlife corridor preservation.”

The National Parks Conservation Association has focused efforts in Wyoming on preserving the migration of pronghorn antelope from the Green River Valley into Grand Teton National Park.  Although Wyoming has an abundant population of antelope, the Grand Teton herd has been reduced to a remnant band of 300-400 animals that successfully make the 150 mile bi-annual migration.  Historically, as many as 6,000 pronghorn successfully made this trek each year.  This dramatic reduction in migrating animals alarmed scientists who fear that any further disruption in migration pathways could eliminate a future population of pronghorn in the park. Portions of their historic migration corridor have been dramatically restricted in areas narrowed by roadways and development that are referred to as bottlenecks. Despite successes in private land conservation in the valley by land trusts and foundations, highway road kill remains a significant contributor to pronghorn mortality in this wildlife-rich valley. 
“The ‘path of the pronghorn’ has been increasing challenged by commercial, residential and industrial development in the Upper Green, and a marked increase in numbers of animals killed on highways,” Mader said. “The most notorious stretch bisects this important wildlife movement corridor in an area known as Trappers Point.  This is the section of Highway 191 that will be the focus of WYDOT’s project this summer.”

In 2008, the U.S. Forest Service, Grand Teton National Park and the National Wildlife Refuge signed a ‘Pledge of Support’ to establish a protected national wildlife corridor across federal lands from the Upper Green into Grand Teton to preserve the pronghorn migration. 




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