State funding needed to continue saving lives on Highway 97
Conservation Northwest / Jan 05, 2021 / Connecting Habitat, Legislation, Wildlife Crossings
A total of $18 million will prevent more than 244 vehicle-deer collisions per year in north-central Washington.
Or DOWNLOAD OUR 2021 LOBBYING ONE-PAGER AS A PDF or VIEW THIS VIDEO OF WILDLIFE USING JANIS BRIDGE CROSSING. Scroll down for suggested comments to state legislators.
Between Riverside and Tonasket in north-central Washington more than 350 vehicle-deer collisions occur every year in just 12.5 miles of Highway 97. With other local partners, agencies and tribes, we’ve been working to address this needless loss of life through the Safe Passage 97 project. Medical costs, car repairs, Washington State Patrol and Sheriff’s Department response, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) clean-up crews, and the value of the deer all add up to approximately $6,500 per accident, costing the public more than $2.5 million every year.
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. We are asking that this amount be included in the next large multi-year transportation package being negotiated during the 2021 legislative session.
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.
A concerned community
Okanogan County citizens, WSDOT, Conservation Northwest, the Okanogan Trails Mule Deer Foundation Chapter and others are looking for a solution to reduce animal-vehicle collisions along Highway 97. The stretch of highway between Riverside and Tonasket is an important north-south commuting route and freight corridor. This area is also an important travel route and habitat for mule deer. The combination of vehicles and deer results in an epidemic of roadkill and vehicular accidents.
Washington state has adopted Target Zero—a goal to reduce human fatalities and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways to zero by the year 2030. Their goal is zero deaths and serious injuries, because every life counts.
Currently, the Washington State Department of Transportation proposes that the most effective way to reduce deer-vehicle collisions in this high-collision highway segment is through the construction of roadside fencing with associated undercrossings. Fencing at some level may be necessary to direct wildlife to these new undercrossing, but will be included based on monitoring.
Suggested comments to state legislators
Feel free to copy and paste the below! or USE OUR EASY ACTION FORM.
Dear Transportation Committee Leader,
I’m writing to urge you to support the inclusion of $18 million in funding in the next large multi-year transportation package being negotiated during the 2021 legislative session for 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.
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 support $18 million in funding for this very important project in the next multi-year transportation package being negotiated during the 2021 legislative session.
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 inclusion of funding for the Safe Passage Highway 97 project in the next large multi-year transportation package.
Together, we can make safer passage on Highway 97 a reality. Please take action for people and wildlife on Highway 97 today, or LEARN MORE ON OUR WEBPAGE.
*Estimate Source: Washington State Department of Transportation, all estimates are approximate.
**Deer estimated at 3x the amount hit and removed by WSDOT