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SB 228 Calls on Game & Fish and DOT to Formally Work to Create Action Plan

Sen. Mimi Stewart’s bill to create a plan for wildlife corridors to protect animals and people on New Mexico roads received concurrence from the Senate on Wednesday after passing the New Mexico House of Representatives late Tuesday. SB 228 now heads to the governor’s desk.

“Without carefully planned wildlife corridors, New Mexico roads are incredibly dangerous for animals and people alike,” Stewart said. “By using overpasses and underpasses, among other tools, we can keep animals off our roads and ensure drivers and their passengers get where they’re going safely.”

SB 228 authorizes the Department of Game and Fish and the Department of Transportation to work together to create a Wildlife Corridor Action Plan and a Prioritized Wildlife Corridors Project List. The departments’ work would specifically look at barriers to wildlife migration and make recommendations to eliminate those barriers in ways that protect animal and human safety. Funding for this effort is included in the DOT’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget.

“Game & Fish and the Department of Transportation have been working over the years to create wildlife corridors as best as they can,” Stewart said, “but officials in those agencies will tell you that it’s not enough. More than a 1,000 animal-car collisions happen on our roads each year. SB 228 finally gives Game & Fish and DOT the authority and direction to create a Wildlife Corridors Action Plan that will save human lives and protect wildlife.”

Public input will be an important part of the plan’s creation and the ultimate implantation of the plan, Stewart said.

“We are all stakeholders when it comes to planning wildlife corridors,” Stewart said. “We all use the roads and are fortunate to live in a state with abundant, diverse wildlife. Game & Fish and DOT will base their plan on input from various communities, including private landowners and tribal entities.”

Underlying Stewart’s bill are data that show the risk faced by wildlife and humans on New Mexico roads. According to New Mexico Defenders of Wildlife: “In New Mexico, deer, elk, pronghorn and bear account for 75 percent of the animal-involved crashes. From 2002-16, the New Mexico Department of Transportation reported 15,213 of these collisions with 1,637 coming in 2016. NMDOT estimated the 2016 animal-vehicle collisions alone cost nearly $20 million.”

“The numbers tell the story,” Stewart said. “We need to make our roads safer for people and wildlife.”