Below is a news release from the Wyoming Game & Fish Department. While the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supported this specific project, it also provided funding support for widespread wildlife mapping efforts to help conserve and identify movement corridors in Wyoming and across the West as well as additional financial support to accelerate western big game migration corridor conservation.
In a victory for transportation safety and wildlife, the Wyoming Department of Transportation will receive a $24.3 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to complete a wildlife crossing project south of Kemmerer.
The grant will be used for the Kemmerer Wildlife Crossing Project on U.S. Highway 189 in southwest Wyoming. The project will consist of five underpasses, one overpass and fencing improvements along a 30-mile stretch between Evanston and Kemmerer.
“This project exemplifies Wyoming’s leadership in demonstrating a collaborative approach where we work together to solve problems,” Governor Mark Gordon said. “Through the efforts of our agencies and the involvement of private sector partners and landowners, we’re able to create a safer transportation corridor that conserves our world-class wildlife along a critical migration.”
The project will provide motorists with a safer means of travel while ensuring wildlife can continue to migrate between seasonal ranges. Along U.S. 189, an average of 80 deer-vehicle collisions are reported annually — although this number is likely underreported. Traffic is expected to increase on this stretch of road in the coming years as a nuclear power facility will be constructed near Kemmerer. Once completed, this project is anticipated to eliminate 80-90% of wildlife-vehicle collisions.
“This is a great triumph for the state,” said Darin Westby, WYDOT director. “Our mission is to provide a safe and effective transportation system for all of Wyoming, including its wildlife. This wouldn’t be possible without all of the external and internal partners involved, including the Transportation Commission, WYDOT’s grant writers in Cheyenne, WYDOT’s crews in southwest Wyoming and anyone who has donated time, resources or their hard-earned dollars in support of Wyoming’s wildlife. This is truly everyone’s project.”
The Kemmerer project will help the Wyoming Range and Uinta deer herds, as well the Carter Lease pronghorn herd.
“Wildlife is valuable to Wyoming and the entire country. This project is an investment that helps preserve the historic and iconic migration of mule deer and pronghorn and aligns well with Wyoming’s commitment to conservation,” said Brian Nesvik, Wyoming Game and Fish Department director. “We are pleased that the Federal Highway Administration also recognizes the value of Wyoming’s comprehensive wildlife crossing plan and the partnerships that are making our state’s plan work.”
The Federal Highway Administration award is part of the $350 million available through the federal wildlife crossing pilot program funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Approximately $112 million was allocated during this first round of awards, with WYDOT receiving more than 20% of the available funding for the Kemmerer project.
The total cost of this project is expected to be $37.4 million. In addition to the federal grant and $4.2 million in WYDOT formula funds, the Wyoming Transportation Commission, Game and Fish Commission, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust and partners contributed $8.8 million to fully fund the project. The project will go out to bid in early 2024 and is expected to take 2-3 construction seasons to complete.
This project would not be possible without the support from public, private and nonprofit partners including the WYldlife Fund, Transportation Commission, Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, the Wyoming Legislature and Wyoming’s Congressional delegation.
“I am thankful and excited to have had the opportunity to work with WYDOT, Game and Fish, industry, foundations, and nonprofit organizations to secure this incredibly important funding source to conserve Wyoming’s incredible iconic wildlife,” said Chris McBarnes, president of the WYldlife Fund. “Wyoming is showing the power of public-private partnerships which will continue to produce positive results for wildlife and advance the overall prosperity of our state.”
The following donors helped accrue nearly $1 million to help fund this project:
- Genesis Alkali Wyoming, SOS Well Services
- Knobloch Family Foundation, Supporters of the annual Golf for Wildlife Outing
- Mule Deer Foundation, Spire Storage
- Muley Fanatic Foundation Blue Ridge Chapter, TerraPower
- Muley Fanatic Foundation Headquarters, The WYldlife Fund
- NextEra Energy Foundation, Williams Energy
- Project West, Wyoming Wildlife Federation
- Rocky Mountain Power Foundation
Early successes of wildlife crossings in Wyoming have made it clear that WYDOT, Game and Fish and partners could cooperatively address the issues of roads and wildlife. In 2017, stakeholders partnered to host a summit to find solutions to wildlife-vehicle collisions in Wyoming. During the summit, the group identified 240 locations statewide to reduce such collisions. Since then, momentum on wildlife crossing projects has continued to build. In 2018, the Wyoming Legislature approved a specialized conservation license plate. Proceeds from the license plates help fund wildlife crossing projects to prevent vehicle/animal collisions. Nearly 3,000 conservation license plates have been sold.
(Photo credit: Wyoming Game & Fish Department)