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Wildlife crossing funds look for safe passage

Wildlife crossing funds make it safely through ‘22 legislative session

By Amy Patrick & Al Elkins, OHA Lobbyists

Amy@oregonhunters.org

The short 2022 Oregon Legislative Session closed with several good bills receiving funding, while others didn’t make it to the finish line. Here’s a brief recap of the bills OHA engaged:

  • HB 4130 requested $5 million to fund wildlife crossings projects. The bill itself did not make it through the entire committee process, but the appropriated funding, at an increased amount of $7 million, was included in the end of session bill.

OTC urged to fund crossings

By Tyler Dungannon, Conservation Coordinator

TD@oregonhunters.org

Via the Infrastructure, Investments, and Jobs Act, the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) has $412 million in flexible funds at its disposal that can be used where needed. OHA has testified on multiple occasions, along with many partners, urging the OTC to use $10 million of these funds toward implementation of wildlife crossings to reduce vehicle collisions with deer and elk on Oregon’s highways.

Representative Ken Helm and 45 state legislators recently signed on to a letter echoing OHA’s request. This issue is not partisan, and many Republicans and Democrats signed on to this letter, because it’s important to all Oregonians that we mitigate highway impacts with respect to wildlife.

It remains unclear if the OTC will prioritize wildlife crossing projects in its use of IIJA funds, despite a compelling letter from roughly half of the Oregon State Legislature.

Consistent with the Oregon Department of Transportation’s mission, wildlife crossings would increase the safety and reliability of our transportation system, reduce property damage and other costs, and assist wildlife conservation efforts.

Among west coast states, Oregon has been identified as having the highest risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions. The state recorded more than 30,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions between 2017-2021, and with many collisions unreported, the actual number is estimated to be more than twice as large. Wildlife crossings are a proven solution that can reduce these collisions by 80 percent or more, as seen at Oregon’s Lava Butte underpass. With only five wildlife crossings, Oregon significantly trails other western states (Colorado has 69, Utah has 50, and California has 50).

OHA spearheaded an effort by the Oregon Action Team on Ungulate Migration to prioritize wildlife crossing projects throughout the state, and these project areas have been informed by data on deer and elk collision hot spots. This recent report is housed on OHA’s website, and it identifies $22-$35 million in immediate project needs. View it at:

https://oregonhunters.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/OAT-Wildlife-Crossings-Prioritization_FINAL_02-01-2022.pdf

 

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