The activists from the group Save People, Save Wildlife are reporting mixed results from their current projects. Rick Brough has the details.
KPCW spoke to Erin Ferguson, who represents the group, dedicated to preventing collisions between motorists and unwary animals attempting to cross our local highways.
While wildlife fencing has been set up along Interstate 80 in the west end of the Snyderville Basin, they’re struggling to extend the fencing further east on the interstate.
“We just have to go just past Silver Creek Junction to meet the wildlife fencing that comes out of Wanship Canyon,” said spokesperson Erin Ferguson. “The frustrating thing we’re at right now is that, in these pandemic times, it’s not really viewed as a priority. However,, you’re not going to make a car and put it out on the road to drive with only three wheels. And that’s what’s happening right now. So the wildlife fencing is not complete. And even with existing fencing, you’re still seeing wildlife hit on the roads and motorists are at risk.”
UDOT, aided by federal grant money, completed a multi-faceted project, including an animal overpass on Parley’s Summit, a climbing lane, and a noise wall.
Ferguson said it’s a little harder to get the state to support a project devoted to the fencing.
“Because if we continue at this rate, you know, we’re doing a mile at a time, which equates to a half-mile on each side of the interstate,” she said. “It’s going to be 20 years at this rate before we see that fencing complete, just past Silver Creek Junction. So that’s where we’re at right now. But the successes are, the wildlife bridge is working. The wildlife fencing is working. The animals that are walking the fencing to where it ends, and crossing the freeway—that’s our Achilles’ heel right now.”
She added there are a few individual trouble spots along the Interstate.
“Concerned about that area by the Hi-Ute Ranch. It still has right-of-way fencing,” she said. “The wildlife fencing ends just right there, and we have seen multiple wildlife deaths over this past winters, especially in springs that they cross to go from the Rasmussen side to the Kilby side, and via that Hi-Ute Ranch corridor. Also, the Swaner Preserve is just east of Kimball. Huge migration pattern there crossing I-80 back and forth. So we’re concerned that we need to complete this fencing along I-80. And then hopefully by the time we get that finished, then the studies will be complete on 224, and we can address that area appropriately as well.”
Ferguson said they’ve raised a little over $100,000 thanks to support from the community. To complete the next mile of fencing they need another $900,000. She said UDOT has agreed to receive the money by November, which gives them time to raise the funding during Live PC Give PC and other efforts.
On the positive side, indications are that the wildlife overpass at Parley’s Summit, intended as an experiment by UDOT, has been a success. Animals have acclimated to the crossing sooner than was expected.
“In 2011, the wildlife fencing in Parley’s Canyon, just west of Parley’s Summit, was completed. So the wildlife already had an idea of, “We have to walk from something to get across.” But then it ended, right at Parley’s Summit where the county line is. So putting the bridge in—it may not be the best location for a wildlife overpass. But the wildlife had a few years of experience walking the fence line, and say, “Oh, hey, we have an option right here.”