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Wildlife Crossings: California Passes Safe Roads Bill

wildlife crossingsMule deer and vehicles frequently collide on California highways; (photo/Kerry Hargrove)
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The California Senate passed the Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act with a 35-0 vote. The bill now awaits approval from Governor Gavin Newsom.

Wildlife advocates in California are celebrating the passage of A.B. 2344, a bill designed to facilitate safer wildlife road crossings. A.B. 2344 — known as the Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act — requires the state transportation agency, Caltrans, to identify and address wildlife movement barriers when building new roads or making improvements.

The bill passed the California Senate unanimously on Monday, Aug. 29. The California Assembly passed it in May.

“Bold state action to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve wildlife’s ability to move throughout the landscape is long overdue,” Mari Galloway, California program manager at the Wildlands Network, said in a statement. “We applaud the Legislature and wide array of stakeholders for supporting ambitious policy that enhances healthy ecosystems and public safety.”

The Wildlands Network is one of the bill’s sponsors.

The Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act will facilitate crossing projects such as culverts, underpasses, overpasses, and more.

an underpass allowing wildlife to migrate as needed.
(Photo/National Park Service)

Infrastructure projects like these allow wildlife to move freely while minimizing wildlife/vehicle collisions. The Pew Trust reports that some wildlife crossings have reduced collisions by 80%.

infrastructure bill
A wildlife overpass on Trans Canada Highway in Banff National Park, similar to bridges to be built in the U.S.; (photo/Craig Zerbe)

In 2021, the UC Davis Road Ecology Center released a report claiming the total cost of large wildlife/vehicle collisions from 2016 to 2020 was more than $1 billion. The Center estimates that when factoring in mule-deer crashes that go unreported to police, the cost could be more than $2 billion for the same period.

The California law comes on the heels of the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, signed into law by President Biden in 2021. That bill provides $350 million over the next 5 years for wildlife crossings nationwide.

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