Legislature approves wildlife-crossing zones | AspenTimes.com

Legislature approves wildlife-crossing zones

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – A bill designed to reduce collisions between vehicles and wildlife on state highways was passed by the Colorado Senate and House in the waning days of the legislative session.

The bill will allow the Colorado Department of Transportation to create up to 100 miles of special wildlife-crossing zones on roadways after consulting with the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado State Patrol. Nighttime speed limits will be reduced in the wildlife zones, and fines will be doubled. There will also be special signs designating the wildlife crossings; the signs will be similar to those used in school crossings and construction zones.

The intent is to alert drivers about high-frequency wildlife-crossing areas and to slow speeds to boost reaction times.

The bill was sponsored by the two legislators for the Roaring Fork Valley, Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and Rep. Kathleen Curry, an independent from Gunnison.

Curry said Thursday that Schwartz salvaged the bill by snuffing an amendment that would have made the bill meaningless. The Senate Transportation Committee voted April 27 to establish a study area for a wildlife-crossing zone on Highway 82. Curry said earlier that the amendment was a ploy to make the proposal useless.

When the entire Senate voted on the bill May 7, the committee amendment was eliminated. “She talked to the members and addressed their concerns,” Curry said. “She worked hard at it.”

The La Plata County commissioners supported the bill. That helped sway some Senate votes, though not the senator from their district, Curry said.

The bill was altered slightly from a version approved by the House, so it came back for another House vote and squeaked by on Tuesday on a 34-31 votes. Curry said she is uncertain why the bill generated a high level of opposition.

The bill grants the transportation department the ability to establish the zones but doesn’t require it. Parts of Highway 82 might be a candidate for wildlife-crossing zones although the state has erected miles of wildlife fencing in the midvalley.

Curry said the zones could be useful on highways in the southwest and northwest parts of the state. “There are plenty of segments where they could try,” she said.