Wildlife crossings make roads safer for animals and humans

in abstract

The Secure Roads and Wildlife Safety Act requires Caltrans and the California Division of Fish and Wildlife to establish wildlife obstacles and prioritize crossings when constructing or bettering roads and highways.

By Laura Friedman, for CalMatters

Affiliation member Laura Friedman Represents the forty third meeting district.

Not many people have seen a mountain lion up shut and private, but lions have a definite presence amongst us. From security cam footage to social media posts of the P-22 – the well-known mountain lion of Southern California – you would possibly suppose mountain lions are thriving. You may be mistaken.

Scientists concern that cougars (as they’re typically referred to as) might turn out to be extinct inside many years within the areas the place they now roam as their grass and genes proceed to shrink. Quick automobiles, rat poisoning, and fragmented habitats are simply a few of the lethal challenges going through mountain lions and different endangered species. When a lion recognized to biologists because the P-54 was hit and killed in June, its demise marked the lack of three generations of mountain lions on the damaging roads of the Santa Monica Mountains. Her son had died months earlier and her mom had died in 2018. A month later, the P-89 died on Freeway 101 in Los Angeles, changing into the fourth cougar within the space to die in a automotive crash in 5 months.

This bitter actuality led me to affix Meeting members Ash Clara and Kevin Mullen to introduce Meeting Invoice 2344, which might convey extra wildlife crossings into our freeway system. By prioritizing and investing in bridges, underpasses and different vital enhancements, we are able to make our roads safer for wildlife and drivers.

Butterflies, foxes, desert turtles, California skunks, and different wildlife have misplaced their skill to maneuver freely throughout their native ranges resulting from poor highway planning and growth.

The UC Davis Highway Ecology Middle tracks car collisions between wildlife and identifies sizzling spots on our highways. From 2016 to 2020, greater than 44,000 wildlife car crashes have been reported on California roads, leading to human deaths, accidents, and property injury. Collisions with wildlife are regarded as largely underreported.

Earlier this yr, I joined the groundbreaking celebration on the Agoura Hills of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, which would be the largest wildlife bridge on this planet when accomplished in 2025. Such a venture ought to encourage us to do higher throughout the state. Our invoice, the Secure Roads and Wildlife Safety Act, would require Caltrans and the California Division of Fish and Wildlife to establish wildlife obstacles and prioritize crossings when constructing or bettering roads and highways.

These initiatives could be so simple as bettering current canals or putting in a directional fence to facilitate the motion of wildlife. They may also be bridges and tunnels in areas with excessive charges of wildlife car collisions and the place motion of endangered species is restricted.

Establishing a protocol for state companies to gather highway information is important to this effort. We’ve got to be sensible about allocating sources in order that we are able to prioritize probably the most harmful roads and make them safer for motorists and wildlife.

I do know my colleagues within the legislature consider that bettering highway security is a bipartisan precedence. In states that precede California in implementing crossings, car collisions with wildlife have been diminished by as much as 98% in areas with crossings. Merely put, wildlife crossings work. The query is: Are public security and environmental safety definitely worth the funding?

Our voters will say sure, as a result of Californians love and respect our state’s wealthy biodiversity.

A UCLA-led examine printed earlier this yr discovered that reproductive indicators in southern California mountain lions, significantly an irregular sperm price of 93%, are extra critical than beforehand thought. With out protected routes for these iconic cats, the maze of highways and evolution of the sprawl would solely lengthen genetic isolation and result in native extinction.

It’s irritating to witness the retreat of mountain lions figuring out that wildlife crossings are an efficient means to assist them thrive. We should not sit on this information and do nothing: we should make wildlife crossings a precedence.

_____

Laura Friedman wrote about gun security And the Christine Blasey Ford.