Critical habitat – and a highway runs through it

Critical habitat – and a highway runs through it

Conservation Northwest / Sep 20, 2018 / Wildlife Crossings, Work Updates

Your donation will help us buy the first wildlife crossing for Highway 97 in the Okanogan Valley!

By Leigh Ann Gilmer, Development Director & Chief Operating Officer

There’s a 12-mile span of highway in north-central Washington that’s designated as a “high kill area.” Along this stretch, drivers grip their steering wheels with tight knuckles as they test their luck and barrel through the migration route of Washington’s largest herd of mule deer.

An Impasse for Wildlife

In the sublime landscape of Washington’s Okanogan Valley, generations of mule deer, Canada lynx, and other iconic wildlife species have migrated from the North Cascades in the west to the Kettle River Mountain Range in the east to find food, mates, and to adapt to a changing environment.

This has been their home, their habitat…and a highway runs through it.

Running alongside the Okanogan River, Highway 97 is a busy transportation corridor and serves as an important thoroughfare for more than 5,200 commuters, freighters, and travelers every day.

High kill stretch of Hwy 97
A sign warns motorists on Highway 97 to watch out for migrating mule deer. Photo: Jay Kehne

All that traffic is tragic for wildlife.

Between miles posts 299 and 312, there lies a bottleneck where the highway cuts through the traditional migratory path of Washington’s largest herd of mule deer, and divides precious habitat for Canada lynx.

Animal-vehicle crashes in this “high kill area” alone result in the deaths of 350 mule deer every year – and that’s just a conservative estimate.

A Plan for Safe Passage

Conservation Northwest is raising funds to install a wildlife crossing along Highway 97 – the first of its kind to create safer passage for both people and wildlife traveling through the Okanogan Valley in north-central Washington.

One underpass will cost $300,000 to build. Luckily, we are sharing this cost with two key partners, the Mule Deer Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Conservation Northwest’s share of the cost for the wildlife crossing is $125,000. If we raise this funding by the end of this year, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has agreed to donate the cost of construction and labor to install the underpass in this bottleneck location.

Draft design of the wildlife underpass we can install on Highway 97 to protect mule deer, lynx and other wildlife—but only with your help!

You can be part of this vital project. Every gift, every dollar, helps to buy concrete and rebar to build the first-ever Okanogan wildlife crossing.

Your support will make this first underpass a reality, and will save the lives of at least 350 mule deer every year. That means one deer saved every day after this wildlife crossing is complete!

We’ve raised 47 percent of our goal. Will you give today to help reconnect vital habitat for Northwest wildlife?

For the wild,

Leigh Ann Gilmer
Development Director & Chief Operating Officer

Please donate today to create safer passage for people and wildlife. It’s easy – just click here and select “Highway 97 Wildlife Crossings” in the Gift Information drop-down menu.

Or learn more about the Okanogan Wildlife Crossing Campaign!