Nevada Should Boost Funding for Wildlife Crossings, Pew Says

Already a leader in reducing vehicle-animal collisions, state could go further to help nature and saves lives

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Nevada Should Boost Funding for Wildlife Crossings, Pew Says
A bighorn sheep crosses a two-lane highway as a truck rounds a curve in the road and heads in its direction.
A bighorn sheep attempts to cross U.S. Route 95 near Walker Lake in Nevada.
Cody Schroeder Nevada Department of Wildlife

On roadways throughout Nevada's Great Basin, a struggle has simmered for years: wildlife-vehicle collisions, which leave thousands of animals dead every year and pose significant risks to human safety. Recent research by the Nevada Department of Transportation in September 2022 found that vehicle damage, medical expenses, and lost hunting value bring the average nationwide cost of a deer collision to $19,089 and an elk collision to $73,196. Fortunately, there’s a solution, and one that Nevada has already had success implementing: wildlife crossing infrastructure.

With roadbuilding and other development causing significant fragmentation of wildlife habitat—and interrupting millennia-old big-game migration routes—state legislatures throughout the West are taking action to address this important issue. On June 4, The Pew Charitable Trusts testified in front of the Nevada Legislature’s Joint Interim Standing Committee on Natural Resources on the need to secure more dedicated state funding for the construction of new wildlife crossings.

Numerous studies have shown that dedicated crossings reduce habitat fragmentation while safeguarding biodiversity and making roads safer for people and wildlife. These structures—typically an over- or underpass with features that mirror or mimic natural habitat—also can bolster Nevada’s reputation as a national leader in wildlife connectivity and crossing efforts. The forthcoming 2025 legislative session presents Nevada legislators with a crucial opportunity to prioritize a bill that would dedicate consistent, ongoing funding for wildlife crossings.

Effective solution to habitat fragmentation

Wildlife crossing infrastructure has demonstrated unparalleled success in reconnecting fragmented habitats and reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions. These structures provide safe passages for animals, thereby safeguarding biodiversity and lessening the threat impenetrable features—such as busy highways—impose on migrating wildlife populations.

Proven return on investment

Further, the long-term benefits of wildlife crossings far outweigh the costs. Studies have consistently shown that wildlife crossings yield substantial returns on investment by reducing collision rates, preventing property damage, and saving human lives. Given advancements in the design, construction, and siting of crossings, it often costs states more to do nothing than it does to install these structures. By allocating dedicated funding for these projects, Nevada can capitalize on this cost-effective solution.

Sense of urgency

Statistics show why it’s vital that Nevada address wildlife-vehicle collisions now. According to the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), motorists report 500 wildlife-vehicle collisions annually, costing the state close to $20 million. But state transportation officials also note that collisions with big game animals are notoriously underreported, and they estimate that less than 10% of collisions are reported in Nevada. Thus, actual numbers may be as high as 5,000 wildlife vehicle collisions annually—with commensurately higher economic costs, NDOT said. Crossings often reduce collisions by 80% or more.

Maximizing federal funding opportunities

Dedicated state funding for wildlife crossings would enhance Nevada's competitiveness for federal grants such as those from the Wildlife Crossing Pilot Program. By leveraging state resources to match federal funds, Nevada can build more and better wildlife crossings—and do it faster.

Build on existing momentum in Nevada

Nevada has already taken strides toward addressing this challenge by funding and building 79 animal crossings, including six overpasses. The establishment of Nevada's Wildlife Crossings Account in 2023, coupled with continued efforts to map wildlife corridors, exemplifies the state's dedication to this issue. By securing additional dedicated funding, Nevada can build on its legacy of leadership in conservation and set a precedent for other states to follow.

Predictable, long-term funding for new wildlife crossing projects will enable Nevada to protect its wildlife, connect habitat, enhance public safety, and bolster its already strong reputation as a national leader on this issue.

Nic Callero works on The Pew Charitable Trusts’ U.S. conservation project.

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