The following is a press release issued by the Center for Biological Diversity:
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act into law today, paving the way for more wildlife crossings and road improvements across the state.
The law, which received bipartisan support in the legislature, will require Caltrans to identify barriers to wildlife movement and prioritize crossing structures when building or improving roadways.
“This legislation is proof that public safety and wildlife protection can go hand in hand,” said J.P. Rose, policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Urban Wildlands program. “For decades we’ve been building roads that slice through habitat and block animals’ movement. Now we know better and we’re finally taking the necessary steps to improve connectivity and make roads safer for people and wildlife.”
The law directs state agencies to develop a projects list geared for areas where wildlife passage features could reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and enhance connectivity. The projects could be in the form of overpasses, underpasses, culverts and other infrastructure, which have been shown to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions by up to 98% while facilitating the movement of animals like mountain lions, elk and deer.
Crashes with wildlife can be deadly for both drivers and sensitives species. These collisions can become more common as wildlife habitat shrinks and gets sliced up by poorly planned roads and overdevelopment. Habitat fragmentation can lead to inbreeding and genetic isolation for many species, threatening California’s rich biodiversity.
“The Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act signifies an important step towards reconnecting California’s landscapes for mountain lions, migrating deer herds, amphibians and other wildlife impacted by roads,” said Mari Galloway, California program manager at the Wildlands Network. “This policy, combined with increasingly available state and federal funding, provides an amazing opportunity to address transportation impacts on California’s ecosystems while making roads safer for motorists.”
The Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act is sponsored by the Center and the Wildlands Network. It builds on legislation enacted last year that clarifies the use of mitigation credits for wildlife crossings. This legislation takes it a step further by requiring state agencies to identify and remediate barriers to wildlife movement and prioritize crossings in transportation projects.