State funding secured for the next wildlife underpass on Highway 97
Conservation Northwest / Mar 16, 2022 / Cascades to Rockies, Connecting Habitat, Wildlife Crossings
As the Washington legislative session came to a close last week, we were thrilled at the announcement that funding for the next one of our six planned wildlife underpasses on Highway 97 between Riverside and Tonasket was approved.
After four years of working in the legislature, Conservation Northwest’s lobby team secured a place in the new Move Washington Forward budget to start funding the work. These crossings will drastically improve safety for wildlife and drivers on a treacherous stretch of highway and further our goal of connecting habitat from the Cascades to the Rockies.
With $2.73 million allocated for next year, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) can do detailed engineering and install the first underpass south of Janis Bridge to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions further.
In addition, this funding can serve as matching dollars so WSDOT and partners can apply for a new federal grant program specifically for wildlife crossing structures in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Competing for this funding is a top priority for WSDOT, and if the state is successful, it will allow for building additional underpasses.
The first wildlife crossing and one mile of deer fencing built on Highway 97 at Janis Bridge were completed in August 2020. Almost two years after the Janis Bridge crossing was finished, data from WSDOT shows there has been a 91 percent reduction in the number of vehicle-deer collisions. Before the undercrossing, vehicles hit approximately 50 deer per year in this area alone.
We want to heartily thank Legislative District 7 Senator Shelly Short and Representatives Joel Kretz and Jacqueline Maycumber for their continued support. We also thank Transportation Chairs Senator Marko Liias and Representative Jake Fey and the rest of the Senate and House Transportation Committee members for including the project during a session with high stakes, complicated negotiations, and no new gas tax!
We also want to thank all the community partners that brought the project to this point, especially the Okanogan Trails Chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation, and everyone who donated generously to enable the improvements we put in south of Janis Bridge.
This first phase of the Safe Passage 97 project was made possible by more than $180,000 in private funds raised by over 570 individual Conservation Northwest donors, as well as other organizations and private foundations, including:
- Mule Deer Foundation
- National Wildlife Federation
- Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Washington Chapter
- Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
- Spokane Audubon
- Community Foundation of North Central Washington
- Moccasin Lake Foundation
- James M. Lea Foundation
- The Volgenau Foundation
- Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund
Learn more about our wildlife habitat connectivity work and the Safe Passage Highway 97 project.