Pin It
Favorite

Safe Passage 

by Patrick Farrell & r & In the Cascade Range, the question isn't why animals cross the road, but how they can do so without becoming Salamander Road Cakes or Elk a la SUV. The answer, say Washington state transportation officials and biologists, lies under and over a humming mountain highway.


Last month, the state's Department of Transportation released plans for widening a 15-mile section of I-90 east of Seattle, smack in the middle of a major wildlife thoroughfare. To reduce auto-animal collisions, the plans include several types of wildlife passages modeled after successful critter crossings in Arizona and Florida and on Banff's Trans-Canada Highway.


The road improvement project, slated to begin in 2011, will be a "showpiece" of ecological highway building, says Kim Vaughn, a transportation department design supervisor. Work could include improving culverts to aid smaller mammals and reptiles, creating hydrologic connections for fish and amphibians, and building the country's first wildlife over-crossing -- a wide bridge carpeted with native soil and plants.


"We're targeting a wide range of species, from low-mobility salamanders to large carnivores," Vaughn says.


Tony Clevenger, a Montana State biologist, says getting animals across safely is just the beginning: "Habitat is getting chopped up, and biodiversity is getting scarcer." The real boon of the project, he says, will be reconnecting the wildlife living on both sides of I-90 in the Wenatchee National Forest.


So far, the state has committed $388 million to the highway improvements, most of which will go to road widening and avalanche-safe tunnels. That wildlife welfare is also addressed is good news to Jen Watkins, a spokeswoman for the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, which pushed for including animal crossings in the project: "It's critical for us to attack the last barrier for wildlife." The public can comment on the project through Aug. 5.





This article first appeared in High Country News (www.hcn.org), which covers the West's communities and natural-resource issues from Paonia, Colo.
  • Pin It

Latest in Comment

  • Spilled Votes
  • Spilled Votes

    One last look at the conservative domination of the Idaho elections earlier this month
    • Nov 25, 2014
  • Making Spokane Pop
  • Making Spokane Pop

    Publisher's Note
    • Nov 25, 2014
  • Size Matters
  • Size Matters

    Class size isn't a silver bullet, but it will help
    • Nov 25, 2014
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
2014 Festival of Fair Trade

2014 Festival of Fair Trade @ Community Building

Nov. 28-30

All of today's events | Staff Picks

Most Commented On

  • The Lives on the Bus

    Can the STA redesign the Plaza in a way that makes everyone happy?
    • Nov 12, 2014
  • Prisoners of War

    The war on drugs isn't over. Still in the feds' crosshairs: medical marijuana growers across eastern Washington
    • Oct 29, 2014
  • More »

© 2014 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation