Congratulations to HNTB and Michael Van Valkenburgh & Associates! This landscape architecture firm out of New York was recently was awarded $40,000 for their design of a wildlife overpass structure across Interstate 70 through Colorado's Vail Pass, where wildlife-vehicle collisions are frequent and deadly.
The ARC International Wildlife Crossing Infrastructure Design Competition attracted 36 submissions from more than 100 architecture firms from nine countries. The winning design was chosen out of the top five finalists and announced on January 23, 2010 at the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting in Washington, DC.
The winning design features separate wildlife "lanes" for species of different habitats (shrubs, grassland, forest, and meadow) that then condense into one bridge four times wider than the famous wildlife overpass in Banff National Park. The structure itself is a cost-effective system of concrete panels that snap in place, allowing for minimal site disturbance and easy assembly.
Even though this design is much wider than the Banff overpass, it would be much lighter and much less expensive, since the bridge in Banff was designed with wildlife in mind, but to standards such that heavy trucks could pass over it. This isn't necessary for elk, lynx, coyote, bobcat, bighorn sheep, deer, amphibians, rodents, or bears. Even with vegetation and soil on the overpass structure, its design still wouldn't need to accommodate the weight of heavy truck traffic. Hopefully these cost savings and the wealth of designs already completed will persuade more state DOTs to take the next step and fund this type of project in fragmented landscapes across North America.
Some of the other finalists' designs also included a bridge made out of wood from trees killed by beetles, a bright red bridge with paint visible to humans but not animals, and a viewing area far from the bridge, for people with binoculars to wildlife watch.
- New York Times: "For wildlife, a safe highway crossing"
- ARC website with finalists' designs
- See the 06/18/2010 blog below for more info on ARC.
On June 9, 2010, Governor Ritter of the State of Colorado signed HB 1238, Wildlife Crossing Zones Traffic Safety Bill, into law in Vail, Colorado.
“Wildlife plays an integral role in Colorado’s natural heritage, and provides a reliable source of tourism dollars for the state. Helping animals safely cross roads is crucial to maintaining healthy wildlife populations into the future,” said Caitlin Balch-Burnett, Colorado outreach representative for Defenders of Wildlife.
“As wildlife move in response to climate change and increasing habitat fragmentation, one of the first barriers they will confront are roads,” said Monique DiGiorgio, conservation strategist for Western Environmental Law Center. “HB 1238 is seminal legislation that will slow drivers down in critical movement corridors, thereby increasing driver reaction time and reducing collisions with wildlife. It is a model for the nation and WELC is thrilled to have played an instrumental role in its passage.”
"By reducing speeds and alerting motorists to the risk of migrating wildlife, this Act will protect our state’s natural resources and save lives,” said Bethany Gravell, executive director of Center for Native Ecosystems. “We hope this legislation will raise awareness of the need to protect natural passageways that allow wildlife to stay off roads and move safely within their habitat.”
“It brings tears to my eyes to think of all the human and animal lives that will be saved by this important bill,” said Frosty Merriott, the Carbondale Town Trustee who initiated the legislative effort. “Passing this bill was truly a team effort, thanks to the Division of Wildlife, Department of Transportation, and the State Patrol, and I am so grateful for the hard work and perseverance shown by Representative Curry and Senator Schwartz.”
Press on the bill signing:
- Glenwood Springs Post Independent's "Ritter approves law on wildlife crossing zones"
- Denver Post's "Ritter to sign bill today doubling driver fines in wildlife-crossing zones"
- The Baltimore Sun's "Colorado protects wildlife in speed zones"
- The Daily Sentinel's "Wildlife, pets both benefit from bills signed into law Wednesday"
- Aspen Daily News Online's "Three Schwartz bills signed into law"
Photo (L-R): Caitlin Balch-Burnett (Defenders), Perry Will (Division of Wildlife), Senator Gail Schwartz, Bethany Gravell (CNE), Peter Kozinski (Colorado DOT), Monique DiGiorgio (WELC), Representative Kathleen Curry, Frosty Merriott, Governor Ritter.
The National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse (NTEC) has published "Transportation Enhancements: Summary of Nationwide Spending as of Fiscal Year 2009"
• What are the country's transportation funding priorities?
• What are transportation enhancements (TE)?
• How does your state compare with other states when it comes to spending federal TE program funds?
-- This report provides a view into this popular federal transportation funding program for transparency and valuable comparisons.
Notes for TransWild Alliance members:
Where does Category 11 (environmental mitigation, including wildlife crossings) stand?
• Figure 9 of the 2009 report shows the Distribution of Federal Funding by TE Activity FY 1992 through FY 2009 (in millions).
-- Category 11 projects received $93 million, or 1.0% of the total funds distributed, with 347 projects.
• The FY2008 TE report showed that Category 11 projects received $94 million, or 1.1% of the total funds distributed, with 353 projects.
• Figure 12 of the 2009 report shows Distribution of ARRA Funds by TE Activity (in millions).
-- Category 11 projects received $8 million, or 0.9% of the total funds distributed, with 13 projects.
BE SURE to read up on the ins and outs of TE funding in the excellent 2008 Defenders of Wildlife publication "The $61 Million Question: How Can Transportation Enhancements Benefit Wildlife?"
Habitat & Highways Program Coordinator
Defenders of Wildlife
West Vail Pass has been selected as the site for an international competition among teams of architects, engineers, planners and others to design a wildlife crossing structure over Interstate 70.
Vail Pass was chosen from among twenty two candidate locations for ARC, the North American Wildlife Crossing Structure Design Competition. The competition, convened by a partnership of the Western Transportation Institute and other organizations in coordination with Colorado Department of Transportation, will focus national and international attention on a site long acknowledged as one of the most important and impacted wildlife corridors along I-70.
A wide array of species have been documented crossing or attempting to cross the interstate at Vail Pass. Two of the fourteen lynx killed on roads since 1999, when Colorado began reintroducing the native cats, were killed on Vail Pass. In 2005, Congress approved funding for preliminary studies of the Vail Pass site to support the eventual design of a wildlife bridge.
“Vail Pass is an important highway crossing site for so many creatures,” said Bethany Gravell, Executive Director at Center for Native Ecosystems and a representative of the Colorado Safe Passage Coalition. “Everything from elk and mule deer to endangered species like lynx use this vital movement corridor through our mountains. This design competition focuses on the right location, for the right reasons. This competition will help more people understand the importance of wildlife crossing structures within our highway system.”
“Anyone who has driven over Vail Pass can see it is an important connection between the mountain habitats on either side,” said Caitlin Balch-Burnett, Colorado Outreach Representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “Ensuring wildlife can safely cross roads and highways is crucial to keeping wildlife populations healthy into the future. They are part of the natural heritage and an important draw for tourism dollars. Colorado will serve as an example for the rest of the country by creating an innovatively designed wildlife bridge in this prime location.”
The competition will draw on data collected over the past several years by Colorado Safe Passage Coalition member organizations through a citizen science program that used motion-triggered cameras to record wildlife activity adjacent to the roadway. The competition will also rely on site-specific information from the Colorado Department of Transportation about the topography and construction requirements for the location.
“Highway crossings for wildlife can have so many benefits—improved driver safety, fewer animal deaths, healthier wildlife populations, which also means healthier landscapes,” said Monique DiGiorgio, Conservation Strategist for the Western Environmental Law Center. “Colorado needs to take its commitment to safety for drivers and wildlife to the next level, and Vail Pass is the right place to do it. We believe this competition will be good for Colorado’s mountains and wildlife and will make our state a leader in terms of promoting innovative and practical solutions for wildlife crossings.”
“The completion of a wildlife bridge at West Vail Pass will reconnect one of North America’s most endangered wildlife linkages and represents one more stepping stone toward realization of our goal to create a continental wildway along the Spine of the Continent, from Alaska to Mexico,” said Kim Vacariu, Western Director for the Wildlands Network.
The Colorado Safe Passage Coalition includes Western Environmental Law Center, Center for Native Ecosystems, Colorado Wild, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife, and Wildlands Network. The coalition seeks to improve both wildlife health and public safety by facilitating wildlife crossing of roads, highways, and other barriers.
Further information about the ARC Competition and a full list of the eighteen sponsors is available on the ARC website.
Check out the Vail Daily article "Can you design a bridge for wildlife on Vail Pass?"
Check out the Denver Westword article "Designers! Get wild on Vail Pass!"
The Center for Native Ecosystems and our partners in the Colorado Wildlife on the Move coalition have just launched a new website, www.I-70WildlifeWatch.org. This innovative website, created by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University, will allow motorists to report wildlife they see along Colorado’s Interstate 70 between Golden and Glenwood Springs. The website launch is timed to coincide with the fall migration season -- November and December have the highest rates of wildlife-vehicle collisions as more deer and elk cross roads to get to their winter range.
The Colorado Wildlife on the Move coalition, a group of less-than-traditional allies including Center for Native Ecosystems, the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, and Eco-Resolutions, works together to decrease the incidence of wildlife-vehicle collisions on our state’s roadways.
Drivers who see wildlife (both live and roadkill) along this stretch of I-70 can use maps embedded in the website to identify the specific location where they saw the animal. This information will be used by Center for Native Ecosystems and the Colorado Department of Transportation to identify locations on I-70 where animals are most frequently trying to cross. Our goal is to create a system of crossing structures along I-70 (including culverts, underpasses, and a vegetated overpass) to ensure that wildlife can move safely throughout the landscape.
You can help make I-70 safer for motorists and wildlife by participating in the I-70 Wildlife Watch website. It's easy -- you log on, report wildlife sightings along the interstate, and by doing so, help contribute to our work to make this interstate safer for drivers and wildlife. Learn more about our habitat connectivity work and see recent images from our motion-triggered cameras along I-70!
Center for Native Ecosystems
A new article from Maine Audubon highlights projections by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which show that Maine could have a climate similar to Maryland's by century's end.
Studies project that along with the climate, wildlife habitat in Maine will also change dramatically. Trees and vegetation that thrive in a warmer climate will stretch farther north, as Maine's spruce and fir retreat to Canada. As native wildlife lose habitat, they also will have to compete with new species moving in.
Plus, wildlife face increased threat from sprawling roads and scattered development. Because of fossil-fuel pollution, roads significantly contribute to climate change and serve as major barriers to wildlife, by turning them into roadkill and fragmenting their habitat.
Maine Audubon and partners are working with Maine Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree to initiate state legislation. The Climate and Energy Planning Act would emphasize smart growth-planning, make more efficient Maine's buildings and public transportation systems, and protect Maine's wildlife through conservation of connected habitat.
"When it comes to climate change, decisions that benefit wildlife benefit us, too," said Maine Audubon biologist Barbara Charry. "Keeping large blocks of forest intact takes carbon out of the air and conserves habitat. Limiting sprawling roads cuts overall car emissions and allows wildlife to move safely. It's all connected."
For the full article, please visit
Maine Audubon's website
Conservation Policy Assistant, Habitat & Highways Campaign
Defenders of Wildlife
Can you believe it’s been 10 years? June 2008 is the 10th anniversary of TEA-21 and the inclusion of Transportation Enhancements Activity 11, providing federal transportation funding for projects that reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and restore habitat connectivity.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary, Defenders of Wildlife is proud to announce our new publication, “THE $ 61 MILLION QUESTION: How Can Transportation Enhancements Benefit Wildlife?” a guide to Transportation Enhancements Activity 11 and a call for wildlife conservationists and natural resource managers to apply for TE funding. Because even after ten years, this funding opportunity has gone largely unnoticed by the conservation community, leaving as much as $61 million per year for wildlife habitat connectivity on the table.
Do the fuzzy math:
$8.1 billion authorized for TE since 1998
÷ 11 years
= $734 million per year
÷ 12 categories
= $61 million per year possible for wildlife*
Quite simply, if we don’t apply, we won’t get funded. Conservation efforts are in a perpetual funding crisis and we cannot afford to leave any stone unturned, especially one with $61 million beneath it.
That’s why we’re also launching our “Operation TE11 @ 10” to challenge partners across the country to apply for TE Activity 11 funds for wildlife related projects. Send us your ideas for wildlife related TE projects in your own back yards and we will choose five outstanding projects to receive technical support from Defenders of Wildlife.
Download the report at http://www.HabitatandHighways.org and please forward widely to your friends and colleagues in the conservation community.
Director, Habitat and Highways Campaign
Defenders of Wildlife