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State Lawmakers to Consider Wildlife Crossings Bill Today


Tuesday, June 28, 2022   

A bill to prioritize wildlife crossings gets a hearing in the state Senate Transportation Committee today.

The Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act would require Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a strategic plan to map out where wildlife crossings are necessary to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and reconnect habitats.

Tiffany Yap - senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity - said the problem is particularly severe for mountain lions in parts of Southern California, which could soon face what's called an "extinction vortex."

"There's a lot of inbreeding occurring in these populations," said Yap. "And if that is occurring, we might start seeing signs of reproductive issues and other health issues. And they could become extinct within 50 years in those areas if we don't do anything to improve connectivity."

She noted that animals need to roam the landscape in order to find unrelated mates and pursue food and better habitat, especially as California experiences more drought and wildfires linked to climate change.

Data from the UC Davis Road Ecology Center show that Californians reported more than 44,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions from 2016 to 2020, resulting in much injury and death - as well as at least $1 billion in damages.

The bill also would require Caltrans to keep wildlife connectivity in mind when designing new roads or making repairs.

Assemblymember Laura Friedman - D-Burbank - is a co-author of the bill and is optimistic that it will pass.

"I don't think anybody's objected to the policy very much," said Friedman. "It's had bipartisan support. And we've made it less expensive because we took out the mandate that said that Caltrans had to do any particular number of projects."

The bill already has passed the State Assembly. The next step would be the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 12.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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