Coalition pushing wildlife overpass near Vail Pass |

Coalition pushing wildlife overpass near Vail Pass

Wildlife advocates are seeking funds to build an unprecedented overpass that wildlife can use to safely cross Interstate 70 west of Vail Pass summit.Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop is heading a coalition of local and regional wildlife advocates that are trying to secure $4.5 million in federal funding. U.S. Rep. Mark Udall has agreed to seek the funding and the coalition is seeking support from other members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, according to Wilderness Workshop Executive Director Sloan Shoemaker.The site at Vail Pass was selected because it connects two important chunks of public land that serve as wildlife habitat, Shoemaker said. The overpass would provide an important corridor where big game and other wildlife could move between those expanses of public land.I-70 presents such a impermeable hurdle for wildlife that conservationists call it the Berlin Wall.The conservationists hope federal funds are allocated to the Colorado Department of Transportation in time to start the project in 2007.In addition to providing a safe corridor for wildlife, the special overpass could reduce vehicle-wildlife collisions.Between 1993 and 2003, there were 83 wildlife-vehicle collisions reported between milepost 190 at Vail Pass and milepost 176 at the town of Vail, according to the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project, a Denver-based conservation group conducting statewide analyses on wildlife linkages. In those crashes, 11 people sustained injuries and 72 reported property damage. The wildlife killed in those crashes included coyote, deer, elk, and two of Colorado’s recently reintroduced Canada lynx.Shoemaker said the key to getting wildlife across a busy roadway is to provide multiple options. The proposed overpass would be landscaped to make it more attractive to wildlife. It would complement existing underpasses. Extensive fencing would require wildlife to use those crossings.

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