Like the old video game “Frogger” or the newer “Crossy Roads,” the highways and byways America has created have led to tremendous challenges for wildlife. Simply put, they’ve raised the death-defying question: How do mountain lions, elk, badgers, deer, coyotes and other animals move safely from habitat on one side of the road to the other while cars speed along their way?
This is no small issue. With the construction of roads, plus fences, cities, strip malls and more, we have carved up wildlife habitats into smaller and smaller pieces, further threatening biodiversity that is steadily in decline around the globe. In particular, roads present a dangerous challenge for obvious reasons -- cars and trucks barrel toward wildlife and can crush and kill them.
There’s a name for this: Roadkill.
If we want wildlife (and their genes) to move more freely, we have to first see the landscape through their eyes and then solve for the dangers of moving vehicles. The federal infrastructure bill, which passed the U.S. House today, and the $350 million it allocates to wildlife crossings, provides grants for states to do just this. The bill passed the Senate earlier this summer and now heads to the President's desk.
With this money, states can do something akin to what’s being considered to protect Southern California’s mountain lions. Cutting through the heart of a few of the state’s mountain chains, U.S. Highway 101, which expands to 10 lanes at certain parts, is a beast to cross, with traffic day and night. Mountain lions have a choice: stay on one side of the road, in a too-small habitat, or attempt to cross the freeway at their own peril. Of course, a much better option is a wildlife crossing -- a bridge over or tunnel under a freeway.
This is precisely what has been proposed. Once built, it will reconnect the cougars in the Santa Monica Mountains with habitat in the nearby Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains. Read and see more in the recent Environment America Research & Policy Center report here.