Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Rocky Mountain States, Assistant Manager
Why it Matters: Human development and roads overlap with critical fish and wildlife habitat and bisect important migration routes for numerous wildlife species in Colorado, including its iconic mule deer and elk herds. In an effort to make the states roadways safer for people and wildlife, SB22-151 would allocate $5 million to the Colorado Department of Transportation to facilitate completion of high-priority wildlife crossing projects in high-value wildlife habitat to reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions.
Sportspeople recognize the need to conserve migration corridors, stopover areas, and winter range habitats that are critical for the long-term viability of big game species that provide hunting opportunity, particularly in the West. Consistent with this goal are wildlife crossings that include structures such as underpass tunnels, viaducts, and overpasses that allow animals to cross human-made barriers, such as highways, safely. This conservation need was made a priority in the recent passage of the federal Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which specifically authorized $350 million over 5 years to help reduce the estimated one to two million annual wildlife-vehicle collisions across the nation. In addition to increasing human safety on the road, this legislation will help restore habitat connectivity for the species most cherished by sportspeople. One state that is proactively looking to capitalizes on this recently enacted piece of legislation and associated funding is Colorado.
Human development and roads overlap with critical fish and wildlife habitat and bisect important migration routes for numerous wildlife species in Colorado, including its iconic mule deer and elk herds. Every year there are around 14,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions in Colorado, resulting in human injuries and fatalities, and approximately $80 million in property damage, emergency response, medical treatments, and other costs annually. Furthermore, wildlife-vehicle collisions kill 2% of Colorado’s big game populations, including 9,000 mule deer every year on Colorado roadways.
To address this issue, Colorado has been on the forefront of wildlife crossing planning and construction nationally. The Highway 9 wildlife crossing project is an excellent example of how effective wildlife crossing projects can be as it has successfully reduced wildlife vehicle collisions by 90% in that specific stretch of highway. In an effort to replicate these results in other parts of the state, Senate Bill 22-151: Safe Crossings For Colorado Wildlife And Motorists (SB22-151) was introduced. If enacted, SB22-151 would allocate $5 million to the Colorado Department of Transportation this year to facilitate the completion of high-priority wildlife crossing projects in high-value wildlife habitat that will make the state safer for all by reducing the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions. Furthermore, the $5 million could be utilized as a non-federal match to position Colorado to successfully compete for federal infrastructure grants under the wildlife crossing program established by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
SB22-151 has passed out of the Senate and is currently on third reading in the House. Once it passes third reading, SB22-151 will await final action by Governor Polis. If enacted by the Governor, SB22-151 will put much needed funds towards securing the future of Colorado’s wildlife and the safety of its motorists. CSF, along with several partners on the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Project, have been championing this piece of legislation since its introduction to the legislature in early March. CSF is hopeful that SB22-151 will ultimately be successful this legislative session.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?