The House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee held a hearing on Friday morning adopting a resolution to protect and restore wildlife corridors in Utah. The resolution is sponsored by House Republican Mike Schultz from Hooper. A Park City local on the board of Save People Save Wildlife gave her testimony at the hearing.
HCR 13 passed unanimously out of the house committee and will proceed through the legislative process to the house floor for a vote. Erin Ferguson is one of the founders of the Park City based grass roots organization Save People Save Wildlife. She and other SPSW members were instrumental in convincing the Utah Department of Transportation to build a wildlife bridge on Parley’s Summit.
“My late husband was instrumental in getting the wildlife bridge at Parley’s Summit in place. It's made a huge difference and much to the delight of scientists and everyone involved in the project the wildlife are using it much sooner than expected.”
The results of a statewide vehicle/wildlife collision study revealed that Summit and Wasatch Counties have five of the 10 most deadly spots in Utah. An elk herd migrates daily across the busy SR 224 corridor, which can see up to 42,000 vehicles a day during busy times. The winter range, which includes the McPolin Farm and Round Valley, is bisected by 224 where a two-mile stretch creates dangerous conditions for motorists and wildlife. Ferguson told the committee that protecting wildlife corridors is about human safety, economics and wildlife preservation. She says fencing animals off from their migratory routes hurts genetic diversity and threatens the future sustainability of the herd.
"It is a shame to see these resources rotting roadside after wildlife vehicle collision. To incur the cost of the motorist hitting the vehicle, insurance, medical teams responding, law enforcement responding, the people paid to remove the carcass from the road, it's a safety issue as well as a resource management issue.”
UDOT Deputy Director Jason Cramer showed his support of the resolution and says they value the relationship they have with the Utah DWR and private groups like SPSW.
“We’ve installed over 50, mostly underpasses but a couple overpasses as was mentioned. The Parleys overpass has been hugely successful and it's really interesting to see the multitude of different animals from bobcats to mountain lions, bears and finally a few moose are starting to use it.”
Last year UDOT dropped the speed limit from 55 miles per hour to 45 on SR 224 near the McPolin farm where wildlife crosses back and forth to Round Valley. Cramer says he’s not aware of a plan to change it back to 55 they’ll continue to monitor the area. Considering the Wasatch County developments in the pipeline, UDOT has wildlife tunnel projects planned for US 40.
“Adding some under crossings near the Deer Crest development there as that develops out. Then, down there by Deer Creek, we just recently installed an undercrossing there between the Wallsburg turn-off and Rainbow Bay.”
Along with Save People Save Wildlife and UDOT, DWR, Rocky Mountain Elk Hunters and Utah Sportsmen’s Fish and Wildlife Association stated support of the resolution.
HCR 13 goes to the house and senate and if approved, on to the Governor for a signature. It will not be codified into state law but will be printed in the annual session laws as it expresses the position of the legislature on protecting and enhancing wildlife migration routes. A link to House Continuing Resolution 13.