Friday, May 10, 2024

Pass The New York Wildlife Crossings Bill

The New York State Senate just passed the New York Wildlife Crossings Act (S.4198A/A.4243A) by a landslide margin of 55 yeas to 4 nays. This bill enjoyed widespread and bipartisan support from all corners of New York State. Senator Dan Stec, Republican from Queensbury, who represents much of the Adirondack Park, was one of just four members who voted no. Senator Stec was also the lone “no” vote in the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee that had earlier voted 9-1 to approve this bill.

This legislation is sponsored by Senator Leroy Comrie and Assembly Member Robert Carroll, and directs the Department of Transportation (DOT) to identify sites along highways, thruways and parkways in the state where wildlife crossings are most needed to increase public safety and improve habitat connectivity. This legislation enjoys broad, popular support across the environmental community. It’s now time for the State Assembly to follow suit and pass this bill. Two key North Country Assemblymembers, Billy Jones, Democrat from Franklin County, and Matt Simpson, Republican from Warren County, support this bill.

The bill requires DOT to assess roadways “in the state for potential wildlife crossings to improve wildlife habitat connectivity, reduce wildlife vehicle collisions, and increase public safety for New York motorists.” DOT will use its assessment of roadways to create a list of the top ten priority wildlife crossings sites in the state according to an established set of criteria. Additionally, for the top five project sites, DOT will also identify federal grant funds that are available for those projects.

The Biden Administration has made $350 million dollars available for wildlife crossings as part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Law enacted in 2021. In December 2023, the federal government announced that it had awarded $110 million dollars of federal funds for wildlife crossings. New York can better position itself to take advantage of these available federal funds by passing the Wildlife Crossings bill.

Wildlife crossings are structures, such as overpass bridges, underpass tunnels, culverts and directional fencing, that enable wildlife to safely cross roads and other barriers. Not only will wildlife crossings help to improve public safety by reducing vehicle collisions with wildlife, they will also improve the survival rate of wildlife moving throughout, and across the boundaries of, the Adirondack Park and surrounding areas. Having safe opportunities for road crossings are critical for many species of wildlife in and around the Adirondack Park that have large territorial ranges, such as moose, deer, bear, wolves, and bobcats. In addition, foxes, fishers, martens, and other smaller species of wildlife, plus reptiles and amphibians, need safe means of passage across large roads that impact their habitat and their ability to search for food and breeding grounds.

One of the most successful wildlife overpass projects is in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada, on the Trans-Canada Highway (shown above). This overpass is one of dozens of overpasses and underpasses on the highway. A 2014 study found that this project was helpful to maintaining the health of wildlife populations by not artificially separating wildlife populations. The Banff wildlife bridge has been in operation for more than 20 years. Another highly successful example of use of a variety of wildlife underpasses and overpasses is on US Route 93 in Montana.

Along this highway there are 122 wildlife travel accommodations, including fencing that channels wildlife travel patterns to overpasses and underpasses. More than half of the wildlife facilities are on the section of US Highway 93 that passes through the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal lands. The tribes insisted on these facilities, which after they were developed, and were proved successful, were used in other areas of the highway outside the reservations. One study that looked at 15 underpasses on Highway 93 found two dozen animal species used them. Automobile-wildlife collisions have also dropped dramatically on this section of highway.

Safe crossings that allow wildlife to travel from one location to another is even more important as climate change continues to impact natural habitats and drives wildlife migration, mostly in a north-south direction. One key roadway that needs to be prioritized for wildlife crossings, even though it prevents wildlife travel in an east-west direction, is the Adirondack Northway (I-87) because of its high rate of travel, and its dissection of the Adirondack Park from critical habitat in the northeast. There are a couple of existing crossings under the Northway, such as in the area north of Schroon Lake, but these were installed decades ago and are undersized and under-utilized. New, properly designed crossings over and under the Northway are needed to allow for adequate wildlife movement.

A statewide plan for wildlife crossings is a modest step, but an important one that will boost wildways and the movement to preserve and connect biologically important areas in the Adirondack Park and beyond. Isolated habitats need to be connected to preserve habitats for sensitive and wide-ranging animals like bears, otters, wolves, big cats, raptors, songbirds, and butterflies. Large interconnected wild areas will provide wildlife with the basics for sustenance – food, mates for reproduction and genetic viability, cover, and new habitats.

It’s time for the State Assembly to pass this legislation.

Picture courtesy of the Montana Department of Transportation.

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.




49 Responses

  1. Joan Grabe says:

    Perhaps those would work but in Florida along Alligator Alley those wildlife corridors go under the roadway. Seems safer and saner to me.

    • Boreas says:

      “Wildlife crossings are structures, such as overpass bridges, underpass tunnels, culverts and directional fencing, that enable wildlife to safely cross roads and other barriers.”

      I would assume the type of crossing design will be site-specific.

    • Susan Hendler says:

      The choice of crossing could depend on the species that it’s targeted for. Some animals might be hesitant to use a dark underground passage (deer) whereas other species (reptiles, amphibians) might prefer it.

  2. Ethan says:

    Curious about what Senator Stec’s rationale was for a “no” vote?
    Grateful there were 55 voices of reason voting “yea”.

    • Bearclaw says:

      Great concept and I wholeheartedly support the effort, unfortunately I have very little confidence in the state succeeding. Their incompetence runs deep. It will most likely be another boondoggle..

  3. Joy says:

    Sorry to hear Dan Stec cast a no vote on this incredible initiative! These bridges and tunnels for wildlife crossing are long over due.

    Maybe Mr. Stec has to hear more from his constituents.

    • Smitty says:

      Hey Senator Stec, “What the hec?”

      • Smitty says:

        I couldn’t resist the rhyme. But seriously, it seems to me like crossings like this should be an integral part of any planned or existing major highway. Busy or 4-lane highways are a total barrier to wildlife movement and dangerous to motorists as well, especially in otherwise wildlife friendly areas like the Adirondacks.

        • Boreas says:

          With the push for regional wildlife corridors, crossings are going to be very important to minimize road-kills and vehicle damage.

    • Boreas says:

      Unfortunately, this may be why he voted no. There is “hearing more from your constituents” and there is “hearing from MORE of you constituents”. We need to let him know what we want, as we are all his constituents. But I don’t recall him asking anyone – at least not me!

    • Bearclaw says:

      Maybe he recognizes the state will most likely not be successful. The incompetence here is breathtaking and it’s doubtful the state will get it right. I truly support the concept though and hope the state will prove me wrong. Time will tell. If these structures span public lands, then maybe people can hide some cell cams and capture its success or failure. It’s doubtful the state would pursue this logical idea upon completion of projects..

      • JohnL says:

        This has boondoggle written all over it. Money will be spent, most will be wasted, and little of the intended results will be accomplished. It’s no wonder New Yorkers have the highest overall tax burden of the 50 states (see attached). We need to find ways to NOT spend more money. This would be a good start.
        P.S. If I was a few years younger, I’d be gone from this state in a flash. It’s no surprise people are leaving NY in boatloads. Sadly, that just makes the tax burden on those of us left even greater. We’re circling the draiin, I’m afraid.
        https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-highest-lowest-tax-burden/20494

  4. francis belge says:

    so glad to see the NY state senate approve the wildlife crossing bill. Decades overdue. Thankyou Peter, and all others who helped with this!!

    • Rob says:

      Yeah let’s waste it taxpayer dollars got his so a chipmunk, frog, snake, deer, etc doesn’t get hit by a car. But let’s not worry about roads & bridges that need to be repaired. Makes perfect sense.

  5. Worth Gretter says:

    I recently drove across the Canadian province of New Brunswick on the Trans-Canada Highway/NB-2. A large portion of the road has fences, with periodic one-way gates (so if a moose somehow gets to the road, he has a way to get out). I also saw at least one very large wildlife underpass that was built, conveniently, where a stream need to cross under the road anyway.
    This whole design benefits the wildlife, but also the humans. You really don’t want to hit a moose with your car. They are so tall that in a collision they usually come over the hood and through the windshield. Bad news for both you and the moose.

  6. Grant says:

    Senator Dan Stec, Republican from Queensbury -What’s wrong with this that you would vote against it?

    • Bearclaw says:

      Maybe he recognizes the state will most likely not be successful. The incompetence here is breathtaking and it’s doubtful the state will get it right. I truly support the concept though and hope the state will prove me wrong. Time will tell. If these structures span public lands, then maybe people can hide some cell cams and capture its success or failure. It’s doubtful the state would pursue this logical idea upon completion of projects..

    • Rob says:

      Maybe because it is taxpayer dollars that are being used to pay for it. Some organization wants to pay for this fine. Taxpayers dollars should not be used.

  7. Grant says:

    It’s just amazing to me that anyone would vote NO to this.

    They need to drive through states that have this and watch the wildlife find the crossing. Absolutely amazing sight to see, and that the animals are smart enough to find these crossings. Whoever voted no, stays too close to home to get it.

    • Victoria says:

      This is long overdue. I wonder if Senator Stec has any idea what he’s voting on, ever? or is he just always against anything that preserves wildlife and wildlands? If so, he needs to leave the North Country pronto.

  8. He voted no because he know it’s the wolf in sheep’s clothing. It will somehow be against private property owners thru out the park. Are all the crossings on state land

  9. Demon dan says:

    Will there be signs to direct wildlife to the crossings?
    What about squirrels and other small animals that can crawl under the fences?
    While the intent of the bill on its face is well intended it is just another example of monies waisted.

  10. Diana Drake says:

    Every highway should have wildlife over and underpasses -at least one per mile. Bike n pedestrian lanes too. I am sick n tired of vehicles injuring and killing animals and people

  11. Alan says:

    A great thing to see passed. A great need in New York State for this program. In the Adirondacks on Sate land there really isn’t enough wildlife to warrant a program such as this except for Amphibian crossings.

    • Bearclaw says:

      There are specific migration routes deer use every year in the Adirondacks when the snow gets around 7″ deep. Locating where these routes cross roads could help mitigate potential accidents.

  12. COL (R) Mark Warnecke says:

    First, I’m in favor of this, with proper site selection. Particularly when it comes to riparian corridors. I like others here would like to hear what Senator Stec has to say to support his reasoning for a No vote.

    It may be a matter of cost. Politicians and activists are great with the “good idea bus” and even better at making it sound like it won’t cost us anything. Federal funding is still taxpayer dollars. Every time a politician has a good idea, I feel my wallet getting thinner.

  13. Bearclaw says:

    Great concept and I wholeheartedly support the effort, unfortunately I have very little confidence in the state succeeding. Their incompetence runs deep. It will most likely be another boondoggle..

  14. Edward proctor says:

    What a big waste of my money. The American people need to stop the waste that this b/s president is doing..0 to our economy and lives . Why not just ban vehicles and people from traveling the areas of critters gathering and have them wear safety colors so they may be spotted

  15. Nadette Skriabine says:

    Merci de vous investir pour protéger les animaux, j’espère que ce projet pourra se réaliser 🙏

  16. Larry G.Orvis says:

    The cost of these structures would be astronomical and are designed for less than one hundred years of use and would have to rehabilitated or replaced at a very great price. How many existing structures does New York need to be replaced in the future?
    The best way is to educate drivers on how to avoid hitting wildlife and driving not so offensively. I doubt this is taught in drivers education classes.

  17. Boreas says:

    Before everyone gets their undergarments in a pinch, it should be noted this is essentially a study to identify areas that MAY benefit from a crossing site – that may be partially funded by federal funds. It is not a gigantic funding bill approving large numbers of crossings across the state. We have data and studies from other states/countries that have pioneered the strategy to help guide us. But NOT investigating these options because of knee-jerk politics maintains the status quo which has its own costs.

    We abhor taxes, but don’t complain much about auto insurance rates that are skyrocketing – at least due in small part to collision and personal injury claims due to wildlife “interactions”. We all know that roads, speed, wildlife, and distracted drivers can be a costly and deadly combination. We can opt for reducing wildlife numbers, reducing numbers of drivers, closing roads, etc., or we can investigate other options to keep drivers and wildlife safer when both share the same highways.

    • JohnL says:

      So, in 2023, the Feds say there’s 110 million dollars available to the states for wildlife crossings. That’s 2.2 million dollars available to each state, or more to us in NY because we supply 28 electoral votes every year to the blue Fed gummint, no questions asked. For talking purposes, let’s say we (NY) get 10 million dollars. Factor in waste, corruption, and graft, and we’ll have 1 or 2 million dollars available for actual wildlife crosssings. What’s that, maybe 8 crossings? Like I said above….boondoggle.
      P.S. Between 2021 and 2023, what happened to the other 240 million dollars.

      • Larry G.Orvis says:

        California just built a wildlife crossing that crossed a major through fare and a two lane highway that cost eighty million dollars. Nations debt by 2026 is projected to be forty trillion dollars and by 2050 it could be one hundred fifty trillion dollars. The interest on on the debt in 2050 will be more than the entire nations budget.

        • Boreas says:

          Did CA citizens vote on the crossing? If they are willing to pay for it I see no foul. But the positive and negative effects of the installation should be studied over time to assess if the expenditure was worth it before more are built.

          Some people and states are more concerned about environmental issues than others. I see no problem with taxpayers deciding on where their dollars are spent. Vote like it matters. Wildlife diversity is important.

  18. Lori Iwasaki says:

    Please make this a reality.

  19. Tom Paine says:

    Tax and spend, tax and spend. Add in the corruption and mismanagement that is the hallmark of NYS government. And the taxpayers that are still left get it right between the eyes. A familiar NYS tune.

  20. Paul says:

    It really would have made sense for Peter to include why this senator voted no. He might actually have a good reason that has nothing to do with opposition to the concept of “wildlife crossings” (what everyone is speculating here). You never know unless you get the info.

    • JohnL says:

      Correct me if I’m wrong here Paul. Are you saying someone (author of this article maybe) should present ALL the facts before they publish an article such as this. Maybe try hard to find out why someone that’s actually on the Environmental Conservation Committee and therefore privy to all the information available, would vote NO on a seemingly popular environmental issue, That would be information we could use in our own personal decision making process about this issue. I guess an author might not do that if he didn’t want ANY negative information presented about a pet project. That’s just what I think.

      • Boreas says:

        JohnL,

        Shouldn’t the Peter Bauer mini-bio at the end of every article be enough? I don’t feel he is hiding his professional agenda.

      • Paul says:

        Not really, just saying since there was a bit on the fact that this person voted no, that maybe an interesting note might be why? Maybe he doesn’t like how it would be paid for or something not really related to having a crossing per se. Whatever, it’s all moot now since it passed. You could logically argue here that with crumbling human bridges that maybe we have other priorities?

  21. Alan says:

    Just started reading the Adirondack Almanac a few months ago. Very apparent the author of this article and his other articles never gives all the facts because he doesn’t want his reader to make common sense decisions on these matters. Very deceiving journalism.

    • JohnL says:

      Bingo Alan.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Write something yourself and get it published if you have something to say…

    • Boreas says:

      The author is not a journalist, but rather a frequent contributor. AA will typically publish an article as long as a signature is attached. As Todd Eastman states, feel free to write your own and fill in the facts that you feel were omitted.

      • fJohnL says:

        Looking at Mr Bauer’s bio, it’s apparent that if he’s not a journalist, he’s a lot closer to one than most of us. I’m simply saying, that, like most of journalism today, he’s a man with an agenda and is publishing the things that willl get his agenda passed, including omitting stuff that MAY be relevant, but not supporting of his position. I was just pointing out that if us readers really wanted to know enough to make a reasoned judgement, it would have been nice to have the reason Mr Stec voted no.
        P.S. “AA will typically publish an article as llong as a signature is attached”. That’s a pretty low bar, don’t you think?.

        • Boreas says:

          JohnL,

          “P.S. “AA will typically publish an article as llong as a signature is attached”. That’s a pretty low bar, don’t you think?.”

          Yes, it is. I would also like to see content/articles labeled with OPINION, NEWS, SCIENCE, etc., but that is up to the editors and publication. Preferably SCIENCE, NEWS etc. would need to be accompanied by credentials as well.

  22. Susan says:

    Do I smell more confiscating of private lands for the “public good” in an effort to reach the socialist goal of “30 by 30”?

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