Letter: Wildlife and vehicles can peacefully coexist | SteamboatToday.com

Letter: Wildlife and vehicles can peacefully coexist

Thank you for exposing the sad truth about how frequently bears and other wildlife are killed on our roadways through Suzi Romig’s article on the orphaned bear. Here in Steamboat Springs, it seems like we have grown numb to the casualties of human-wildlife conflicts.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, within a 10-mile radius of Steamboat Springs, we lost nine bears and two moose last summer. Those are just the animals that were counted. We act as if there were no way to prevent this but, in fact, there is.

The answer? Fund wildlife crossings. Wildlife biologists know where the problem areas are. Anecdotally, so do we.

Wildlife crossings and corridors are solutions that integrate transportation and land use planning. They are what they sound like: opportunities for wildlife to safely cross roadways. Tunnels and bridges are the most common.

They’ve been successfully implemented close to us with the Colorado Highway 9 Wildlife Crossing Project. According to CPW and the Colorado Department of Transportation, using carcass counts and reported crashes, the crossings have decreased collisions by more than 90%.

Wildlife crossings are generally reactive. We should also be proactively preserving wildlife corridors and habitat through land use planning. We know where wildlife move and the type of habitat they prefer. If we preserve more habitat, we give wildlife the space they need to coexist with us. The Brown Ranch presents a unique opportunity to integrate this concept into our land use planning in a meaningful way.

Local funding solutions, such as a regional transportation authority, have long-term promise. But we need immediate action. The recently passed infrastructure bill includes $350 million for wildlife crossings. Here in Routt and Moffat counties, collaborative projects could have a big impact on human safety and wildlife preservation. There is an unprecedented opportunity in rural Colorado to tap into federal and state funding right now.

Northwest Colorado is on center stage. Between the Just Transition Movement, the changing regulatory environment of water resources, and the incredibly positive collaborations that have been developed valleywide around climate action and renewable energy, all eyes are on us. I sincerely hope we continue to leverage the opportunities available to us, in this case for the safety and well-being of people and wildlife.

Sonja Macys

Steamboat Springs

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