Show your support for saving lives on Highway 97
Conservation Northwest / Apr 05, 2021 / Action Alert, Connecting Habitat, Okanogan Working for Wildlife, Wildlife Crossings
WILD NW Action Alert #319: Contact state legislators and show your support for Safe Passage 97 project funding in the transportation spending package.
April 2021 update: this action alert is now closed! Stay tuned for more information.
More than 850 Washingtonians took action in January by contacting committee leaders through our previous alert. Thanks to your support, the $18 million requested to fully-fund the Safe Passage 97 project is now included in the list of Forward Washington transportation projects in both the state House and Senate budgets! This new action form contacts your local state senator and representatives to share with them your support for this bipartisan project, and ask that they approve the spending packages with Safe Passage 97 fully-funded. Please take action again even if you previously did so. THANK YOU!
In north-central Washington’s Okanogan Valley, more than 350 deer are hit and killed each year in just 12.5 miles of Highway 97. With local partners, agencies and tribes, we’ve been working to address this needless loss of life through the Safe Passage 97 project.
Using more than $260,000 in funds donated by concerned citizens around the state, in 2019 and 2020 Conservation Northwest, the Mule Deer Foundation and the Colville Confederated Tribes began to address this urgent issue—
renovating Janis Bridge to serve as a wildlife undercrossing and installing the first mile of deer fencing along Highway 97 south of the bridge to the intersection with Highway 7.
In the year since completion, trail cameras have recorded thousands of pictures of animals using the new undercrossing to avoid dangerous collisions with motorists, including numerous herds of mule deer, cougars, bobcats and other species. But state funding is needed to complete the Safe Passage 97 project.
Send state senators and representatives a message urging them to support funding for the Safe Passage 97 project in the multi-year transportation package using our simple form!
This solution has broad local and regional support, and needs to be continued another 11 miles to reduce accidents and the loss of animal life. Using pre-design scoping documents prepared by WSDOT, $18 million is needed to continue fencing, necessary cattle-guards, gates, deer escapes and six wildlife underpasses to prevent an additional 244 vehicle-animal collisions per year. This amount has been included in both the House and Senate Forward Washington transportation projects spending packages, and we’re hopeful these budgets will be approved.
Installing these underpasses and associated infrastructure will help farm workers, truckers, Tribal members, local commuters, tourists and hunters stay safe, save money, and preserve mule deer for the benefit of both human and natural communities. Safe Passage 97 will also allow other wildlife species to adapt to a changing climate by preserving an essential migration corridor between the Cascades and Rocky Mountains.
State Senator Shelly Short and Representatives Joel Kretz and Jacquelin Maycumber of north-central Washington’s 7th District formally requested funding for the Safe Passage 97 project on February 10th, 2020. The Colville Confederated Tribes, Okanogan County, National Wildlife Federation and others have previously submitted letters of support to the legislature.
Thank you for taking action!
Suggested comments to state legislators
Feel free to copy and paste the below! or USE OUR EASY ACTION FORM.
Hello, as a constituent of yours, I’m writing to express my support for both the Senate and House Forward Washington transportation spending packages, and hope to see this critical funding approved. Particularly, I am excited about the inclusion of $18 million in funding for the Safe Passage 97 project, a very important public safety and wildlife project in Okanogan County—it’s a win-win for motorists, freight transportation, mule deer and other animals.
This project also has strong bipartisan support from lawmakers across our state. And more than 850 messages from Washingtonians like this one were also sent to Transportation Committee members in early January 2021.
The Safe Passage 97 project used private funds donated by concerned citizens around the state to renovate Janis Bridge to serve as a wildlife crossing, completing phase one of the project. In the year since completion, trail cameras have recorded thousands of pictures of animals using the new undercrossing to avoid dangerous collisions with motorists, including numerous herds of mule deer, cougars, bobcats and other species.
But funding is still needed for the second phase of the Safe Passage 97 project to continue fencing, necessary cattle-guards, gates, deer escapes, and install six wildlife undercrossings on a stretch of Highway 97 between Riverside and Tonasket that will prevent 244 vehicle-animal collisions per year. In addition to supporting the safety of drivers, this project will save Washingtonians $2.5 million per year and keep hundreds of deer alive for the public to enjoy.
I am asking you to approve the transportation spending package, including $18 million in funding for the Safe Passage 97 project.
This ask also has support from Okanogan County Commissioners, the Colville Confederated Tribes, the City of Omak, Conservation Northwest, the Okanogan Chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation, Central Washington Latino Community Fund, Okanogan Tourism Council, Washington Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, trucking and freight associations, and more.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to the concerns of your constituents, and considering the approval of the proposed transportation spending package.