Trust Magazine

Utah Leads the Way on Wildlife Crossings


In this Issue:

  • Winter 2024
  • 2023: Looking Back on a Year of Milestones
  • How States Manage Their Budgets
  • Indigenous Leaders Protects Canada's Boreal Forest
  • Evidence-Based Solutions Led to Milestones in 2023
  • The Beauty of Chilean Patagonia
  • Bridging Divides: A Call for Stronger Leadership
  • U.S. Women Make Gains in Highest-Paying Occupations
  • Utah Leads the Way on Wildlife Crossings
  • Philadelphia's Wage Tax Has Little Impact for Residents
  • America's New Tipping Culture
  • A Roadmap for Managing Wildfire Costs
  • Navigating the U.S. Political Landscape
  • 5 Facts About Hispanic Americans and Health Care
  • Debt Collection Cases Dominate Civil Dockets
  • The Human Impact of Solving Plastic Pollution
  • It's Time to Fix Housing in America
  • Return on Investment
  • The Growing Threat of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria
  • View All Other Issues
Utah Leads the Way on Wildlife Crossings
A rendering shows what Washington state’s Snoqualmie Pass wildlife overpass on I-90 will look like when it’s completed in 2029. These overpasses, like those in Utah and other Western states, connect animal habitats along traditional migration routes, allowing them safe passage.
Washington State Department of Transportation Flickr Creative Commons

Wildlife collisions with vehicles occur frequently in Western states, and they are costly in terms of lives lost—some 5,000 deer and 1,000 elk die each year in Utah, and, more importantly, so do some of the people who hit them. A 2019 study estimated that such accidents cost Utah taxpayers nearly $138 million per year in human injuries and deaths and in damage to vehicles. But wildlife crossings, which are over- and underpasses designed specifically to help animals safely traverse roads, can help alleviate this problem. That’s why Utah approved a $20 million appropriation dedicated to wildlife crossings for 2023; it was the largest dedicated appropriation for wildlife crossings outside of California and will be used to address a collision hot spot near the junction of interstates 80 and 25.

These crossings are often built along traditional animal migration routes, so they also help play a crucial role in maintaining ecological connectivity between natural areas, which can enhance the resilience of wildlife habitat in the face of climate change. Utah built the first wildlife bridge in the U.S. in 1975, located near the town of Beaver on Interstate 15 in 1975, and since then has built more than 50 wildlife crossings.

As Utah lawmakers from both parties gear up for their 2024 legislative session starting in February, The Pew Charitable Trusts’ U.S. conservation project and its partners are working with them to build on the success of the 2023 funding in hopes of securing a reoccurring funding commitment, one that would cover multiple years. “Multiyear funding would be another first for Utah and would enhance the state’s ability to build wildlife crossings in an expedited fashion year in and year out,” said Matt Skroch, who directs Pew’s U.S. conservation project. “It would also be another hallmark of the state’s continued leadership on wildlife conservation and driver safety through investments in this vital infrastructure.”

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A pronghorn stands on a road, looking directly toward the photographer. Yellow prairie grasses extend behind the pronghorn and road.
A pronghorn stands on a road, looking directly toward the photographer. Yellow prairie grasses extend behind the pronghorn and road.

New Utah Laws Provide $20 Million For Wildlife Crossings

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When the Utah Legislature last March approved $20 million to construct new highway crossings for wildlife, state policymakers continued their long and impressive history of investments in this vital infrastructure. Numerous studies throughout the West show that over- and underpasses designed specifically for animals reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions while restoring the migration patterns of deer, elk, and other species.

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