NM Summit Works to Solve Safe Passage for People, Wildlife
Thursday, March 24, 2022
Shrinking wildlife habitat puts big-game animals at greater risk of colliding with cars and trucks, and has led to the Wildlife Corridors Action Plan to be discussed today in Albuquerque.
The plan identifies wildlife-vehicle collision hot spots posing a particularly high risk to the traveling public, and outlines how to create safe crossings.
Jesse Duebel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said big-game animals tend to use the same routes year after year. When they are lost to development, he explained animals end up on "islands" of habitat and then take whatever route necessary to travel for food.
"Because we're facing an extinction crisis, it's more critical than ever that we eliminate this kind of island dynamic and start connecting these habitats back together with these types of crossings," Duebel asserted.
The plan was developed by the New Mexico Department of Transportation in partnership with the state's Department of Game and Fish. The hybrid virtual/in-person conference will be held at Albuquerque's Sheraton Hotel today and Friday. More information is available at nmwildlife.org.
The plan focuses primarily on the movements of six large mammals: elk, deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, black bear and mountain lions. Duebel is a hunter, and said others like him often put themselves in places rich with wildlife, and in doing so, make themselves vulnerable to collisions.
"And it's not uncommon that we're traveling the roadways early morning and late evening or into the night," Duebel pointed out. "Hunters are at risk of having these type of collisions."
Duebel noted the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, will provide $350 million over five years for competitive grants to municipalities, states and tribes for the construction of bridges, tunnels, culverts and fencing.
"Elected officials are really starting to recognize how critically important these projects are," Duebel remarked. "Again, to preserve the wildlife that we all enjoy but also to preserve human health and safety."
Earlier this year, the New Mexico Legislature also pledged $2 million to support such projects, which Duebel added will mean more jobs for local residents.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
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