Nevada sportspeople are celebrating the introduction of a new Wildlife Crossing Fund that aims to improve road safety for wildlife and people alike. The fund was proposed in bill AB112. This bill was presented to the Nevada Assembly Committee on Growth and Infrastructure on March 9th. The committee received testimony from over 20 individuals representing diverse interests, including hunting and conservation groups, livestock producers, road construction, and local government. All testimonies were in support of the proposed fund.
If approved, the Wildlife Crossing Fund will be administered by the Department of Transportation in collaboration with the Nevada Department of Wildlife. The fund will support new and existing projects that allow wildlife to migrate safely across highways. This is essential for preserving the migration routes of several major big game herds in Nevada. Those herds include mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep. These herds traverse over a hundred miles annually and often cross multiple major highways along their way.
According to a Nevada Department of Transportation study, there are more than 500 wildlife-vehicle collisions on the state’s roads annually. These collisions cost over $19 million to drivers and Nevada taxpayers. While Nevada has constructed safe wildlife crossings in several locations, including Interstate 80, Highway 93, and Interstate 11 near Hoover Dam. There are many other locations still require similar projects.
AB112 Looks to Provide Funding
AB112 aims to provide funding for crossing projects that protect both people and wildlife, making Nevada more competitive for federal funding. In 2021, the U.S. Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which directed the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to distribute $350 million over five years through a competitive grant process to projects that reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve wildlife connectivity. Successful applicants will need to contribute matching funds, and AB112 would create a mechanism for Nevada to meet this requirement.
Assemblyman Burt Gerr of the 33rd district expressed his support for the bill during the hearing. The bill was amended to include language calling for consultation with affected parties. These changes include grazing permit holders on federal or state land or private landowners near future crossings.
The committee will likely hold a work session in the future, and the bill will then go to Ways and Means before an assembly floor vote. The state Senate will need to vote to pass AB112 before it reaches Governor Lombardo for signature to become law. Nevada sportspeople are encouraged to continue voicing their support for the bill to ensure its success.
The establishment of the Nevada Wildlife Crossing Fund would not only protect wildlife but also benefit drivers and taxpayers in the state. It would contribute to preserving Nevada’s unique wildlife and natural resources for future generations to enjoy.