U.S. Congress Acts to Keep Motorists, Wildlife Safe

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   June 29, 2012
Contact:   Bart Melton, Senior Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, Ph: 202-494-7880
Rob Ament, Road Ecology Program Director, Western Transportation Institute, Ph: 406-600-6348
Susan Jane Brown, Staff Attorney, Western Environmental Law Center, Ph: 503-914-1323


U.S. Congress Acts to Keep Motorists, Wildlife Safe

Legislation Will Give States and Federal Agencies Necessary Authority to Prevent Auto and Animal Collisions

Washington, D.C.  – Today, Congress approved a two-year transportation bill which provides states and federal land managers the authority they need to decrease the number of motorist collisions with wildlife.  It has now been sent to President Obama for his signature. Approval of the bill avoids a possible shutdown of transportation programs as funding was set to expire at midnight tomorrow.

The bill has received support from the administration and the leadership of Senate Finance Chair, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT). Senator Baucus has been hailed as a “Highway Hero” for his efforts to improve highway safety in Montana and across the nation. The provisions to reduce collisions with wildlife found in the legislation are an excellent example of that leadership.

"Montana is a highway state full of folks who love the outdoors. Because we log so many miles behind the wheel in Montana, it’s also our responsibility to do all we can to make sure folks are safe on Montana roadways," said Senator Baucus.

The bill comes on the heels of the Federal Highway Administration’s 2008 National Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Report to the US Congress, which documented a 50 percent increase in wildlife-vehicle collisions during 15 years that added up to an estimated 1-2 million collisions annually with direct costs to U.S. taxpayers estimated at $6 to $12 billion each year.

“The rules of the road have just changed,” said Steve Albert, Director of the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University (WTI), “the safety of rural and suburban American motorists has gotten the attention it deserves from Congress with the added benefit of helping wildlife cross the road.”

The bill includes important provisions that will allow states and federal agencies to retrofit roads and create wildlife crossing structures that help prevent wildlife from colliding with the motoring public. The wildlife-vehicle collision provisions address roads on federal and tribal lands, national parks, and state highways.

“This legislation offers states and federal land managers the opportunity to better protect national park visitors and the wildlife they come to view,” said Bart Melton, Senior Program Manager with the National Parks Conservation Association. “Safer roads mean more Americans can return again and again to fish and hike in America’s national parks.”

The passage of the wildlife-vehicle collision provisions in the bill is timely, since there are a number of initiatives in place to give states the authority to identify areas where collisions with wildlife are high as well as to develop innovative approaches to wildlife crossing structure design. Examples of such initiatives include the ARC Solutions’ design competition and the Western Governors’ Association Wildlife Corridors Initiative.

“Wildlife crossings, underpasses and overpasses, are proof positive that we have solutions,” said Dr. Tony Clevenger, the brain-child behind ARC and a research ecologist at Western Transportation Institute. “And now we have the needed direction from Congress to pursue these solutions with more vigor.”  The wildlife friendly provisions were included as part of the transportation legislation that passed through Congress today.

“Passage of this bill will be remembered as a watershed event for the motoring public and wildlife.  Past transportation bills only dabbled with the wildlife-vehicle collision issue, but this one jumps in with both feet,” said Susan Jane Brown, attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center.

For more information on the bill, visit http://www.rules.house.gov/Media/file/PDF_112_2/
LegislativeText/CRPT-112hrpt-HR4348.pdf  For an opportunity to “share your story,” visit http://arc-solutions.org/road-stories/

“We are asking people to share their story of a near-miss or collision with wildlife in order to raise awareness of the breadth of this issue and place local, rural voices front and center to support solutions,” said Monique DiGiorgio of the Western Environmental Law Center’s Bozeman, Montana office. “I hit two deer on I-90 between Manhattan and Belgrade, Montana last year and I can attest to the importance of reducing collisions with wildlife to keep Montanans and the rest of the nation safe on their next road trip.”

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ARC Solutions was launched in 2009 as an effort to heighten awareness and increase the implementation of new methods, new materials and new thinking for how wildlife crossing infrastructure is designed.  This partnership of federal and state agencies, businesses, private foundations, non-governmental organizations, and academics is driven by the fact that research demonstrates that wildlife-vehicle collisions can be reduced by 85-99% when overpasses and underpasses with fencing are deployed. Online at: http://www.arc-solutions.org/

The Western Governors‘ Association’s Wildlife Corridors Initiative was launched in 2007.  The 19 western Governors recognized the importance wildlife connectivity and crucial habitats have for the region and its citizens. As part of the Initiative, the WGA empaneled a working group of experts to develop recommendations on new policies for the transportation sector.  Today, the Western Governors’ Wildlife Council, at the behest of the Governors, is developing tools and policies that assist states in identifying and conserving crucial wildlife habitat and corridors across the region so that it addresses the intersection of highway safety and wildlife connectivity. Online at: http://www.westgov.org/initiatives/wildlife

ARC Solutions • Center for Large Landscape Conservation • Wildlands Network
Western Environmental Law Center • National Parks Conservation Association
Western Transportation Institute – Montana State University

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