Gov. Polis unveils Colorado’s new plan to keep wildlife, drivers safe

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GOLDEN, Colo. (KDVR) — Colorado is taking new steps to protect the state’s wildlife habitat, and Gov. Jared Polis outlined how new partnerships and reprioritizing funding is going to help them accomplish this goal.

In 2019, Polis signed an executive order that supports wildlife, their habitat and migratory routes while keeping people safe at the same time.

The roadmap identifies places where there are the greatest safety issues. An example would be a 2011 project along U.S. 6 from 19th Street to Heritage Road, where the state had a grant to put wildlife fencing along the whole corridor.

“There was actually about 20 crashes per year leading up to that project,” CDOT Region 1 Transportation Director Paul Jesaitis said. “We had an elk herd that comes down form the mountains, they cross over to Fossil Trace Golf Course and then they come back across the highway.”

The state didn’t have the funding for a full overpass, but the half million dollar investment brought those yearly crash numbers down to one crash per year with wildlife.

There are roughly 4,000 crashes in Colorado involving wildlife every year. Unsurprisingly, most of these crashes are focused in mountain and western slope counties from Eagle to Garfield and La Plata. Douglas, Jefferson and Pueblo counties are the Front Range counties with a high number of wildlife vehicle accidents.

So far, the state has built 40 wildlife underpasses, two wildlife overcrossings and installed high-gear fence along 400 miles of state highway.

The state has already installed roughly 30 miles of wildlife fencing along the I-25 south gap project, including four under crossings with game cameras to track the wildlife.

CDOT also plans to construct a 400-foot long, 200-foot wide overcrossing along the gap that will be one of the largest of it’s kind in North America.

Along I-70, CDOT plans on putting two wildlife crossings to help herds move safely along the busy mountain corridor: one at Genesee and another at Empire.

Polis was joined by CPW Director Dan Prenzlow, CDOT Region 1 Director Paul Jesaitis, Colorado Wildlife Federation Executive Director Suzanne O’Neill and Bianca Martinez, program director of Hispanics Enjoying Camping and Hiking in the Outdoors.

You can watch the event on FOX31 NOW in the player below.

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