Activists speak out for wildlife crossings

(Jackson, Wyo.) - It wasn't on the agenda for the Special Joint Information Meeting, but it still dominated the beginning of the meeting. At the Special Joint Information Meeting in Mid-March, several people spoke during the public comment section to advocate for more safe wildlife crossings for Jackson Hole. This is part of the Safe Wildlife Crossings Jackson Hole initiative, which is a volunteer group that brings together voices in the conservation community to work to reduce wildlife deaths as a result of collisions in the area. According to Chris Colligan, wildlife program coordinator for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, when the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) began planning for construction on South Highway 89 from Melody to Hoback, there was a lot of interest from the conservation community. As a result, WYDOT asked these conservation groups to join forces for a common goal. Safe Wildlife Crossings is now the conservation voice for the project. As a result, Colligan said that there will be six wildlife underpasses built on Hwy 89 starting in 2017. "We are thrilled that wildlife crossings will be built here in Jackson," he said. "Moving forward, there are many hotspots in Teton County where there are collisions with deer primarily. We are looking at a comprehensive, integrated transportation planning process that will address wildlife-vehicle collisions." "It's not just overpasses and underpasses, it is any mitigation tool that might be available to reduce the chances of collisions with wildlife," Colligan added. "Underpasses and overpasses are the most effective -- they are about 90 percent effective." On Tuesday night, volunteers of the Safe Wildlife Crossings Jackson Hole gathered to discuss the initiative. [image: Inline image 1] *Safe Wildlife Crossings Jackson Hole meeting on Tuesday night.* Volunteer Travis Ziehl, a Wyoming native and a hunter, said that he is involved in the organization because he believes that mule deer are an important resource to the area. "If you are fortunate enough to get a mule dear down, you make sure that you use all of it," said Ziehl. "Now I live south of town. I see dead mule deer all the time across all these roads and I just see it as a tremendous waste. We have got an awesome resource -- a super food venison -- and it is just going to waste on the side of the road. That is the reason that I am engaged with this issue." Maggie Edmunds became involved with Safe Wildlife Crossings Jackson Hole after participating in the Conservation Leadership Institute. During the 8-week program, she met with different members of the communities and learned about the need for wildlife crossings. "It struck a cord with me. You see wildlife on the side of the road all the time and it is really sad," said Edmunds. "More and more people are moving south of town or over the pass and if we want to keep that commute safe for people in our community and also wildlife, we need to do something." Colligan feels that this is truly a cause where a person can make a difference. "I think the best part about it is that these are structures that are very effective. This is proven," said Colligan. "This [wildlife collisions] is a problem in our county and our community that has long been recognized and we have a solution, so we are trying to work towards that goal." "There are so many wildlife issues, and this is one that will actually make a difference on the ground for wildlife and directly reduce mortality and I think there are very few issues like that," he added. More information about Safe Wildlife Crossings is available at *Feature Photo: h/t Mark Gocke, Wyoming Game and Fish Department /