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The grants will help state and local governments prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve connections between habitats.
Every year, more than a million vehicles collide with wildlife, resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries for drivers and animals alike. Now, nearly $112 million in federal funding is available to cities and states looking to prevent collisions by building routes that help animals safely cross highways.
On Monday, the Federal Highway Administration issued a call for applications for its wildlife crossings pilot program. It’s the first time projects to reduce wildlife collisions and reconnect habitats split by roads will have their own dedicated pot of federal money.
“We are taking an important step to prevent deadly crashes in communities across the country and make America’s roadways safer for everyone who uses them,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a statement.
Applications for this first round of funding are due August 1. Over the next five years, a total of $350 million dollars will be released under the program, which was established under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The money can be used for a variety of efforts, including purchasing tools to track and map wildlife movements, researching innovative safety solutions, construction of overpasses and culverts, and installing road signs to warn drivers of potential danger. Eligible applicants include state departments of transportation, local governments and regional transportation authorities.
The harm caused by wildlife collisions goes beyond the physical well-being of drivers. The resulting medical costs, damage to property and loss of income can be significant financial drains. According to a report by a group of Western state transportation departments, the average total cost of a collision with an elk is more than $73,000.
“Doing nothing about this problem costs more than fixing it, given that proven solutions exist,” said Anna Wearn, director of government affairs for the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, in a statement.
Busy and dangerous roads are detrimental even to animals that manage to avoid collisions. When wildlife is unable to migrate to new areas, it can lead to inbreeding, difficulties finding food and other problems, Wearn previously told Route Fifty.
The Center for Large Landscape Conservation is one of several nonprofits in a coalition that recently developed an online resource for communities interested in the funding. Among its offerings are resources to help applicants develop their proposals using best practices, success stories and information about wildlife protections that already exist in different states.
“Ultimately,” Wearn said, “successful projects will demonstrate the value of making this pilot program permanent in subsequent federal transportation legislation.”
Molly Bolan is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.
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