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Wildlife crossing

A deer crosses U.S. Highway 93, as seen from a trail camera posted at a wildlife crossing.

CARSON CITY – A joint Nevada Department of Transportation and Nevada Department of Wildlife initiative to install roadway safety crossings in northeastern Nevada has received the Federal Highway Administration 2019 Environmental Excellence Award.

The biennial awards are given to national leaders who go above traditional transportation projects to make outstanding contributions to environmental stewardship.

The award recognizes nine safety crossings installed on Interstate 80 between Wendover and Wells and U.S. 93 north of Wells in northeastern Nevada to reduce potentially dangerous vehicle-animal collisions.

The wildlife overpasses are covered with native soil and vegetation to replicate the natural environment and encourage crossing by mule deer and other animals. In total, roughly 60 miles of eight-foot-high wildlife fencing was installed on both sides of the roadway to help direct animals to the crossings.

NDOT and NDOW partnered to identify the most critical deer migration and roadway crossings points, including GPS collars installed by NDOW to track the migratory movements of hundreds of deer.

The crossings improve regional traffic safety and habitat connectivity by reducing collisions as deer cross the roadways while migrating between the Jarbidge and Pequop mountain ranges. In recent years on I-80 alone, one motorist death, 12 injuries and more than 200 wildlife-vehicle collisions have been reported to NDOT in the area, representing half of all reported wildlife-vehicle collisions along the entire length of I-80 in the state.

Studies show that wildlife crossing structures with fencing can reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions by up to 95%. Research conducted by the University of Nevada, Reno found that, during the first four years in which the U.S. 93 safety crossings were installed, more than 35,000 mule deer used a safety crossing during their seasonal migrations; keeping them off the road and helping prevent potential collisions with vehicles.

“It has been an honor to be part of such a dynamic team and it is amazing what we have accomplished in such a short time. We should all be very proud to be a leader in the field,” said NDOT wildlife biologist and mitigation specialist Nova Simpson. Simpson was involved in each phase of the wildlife projects and traveled to Minneapolis to receive the award on behalf of NDOT and their partners.

“NDOW is extremely proud to have been a partner with Nevada Department of Transportation in receiving this prestigious award,” said NDOW Staff Specialist Mike Cox. “Initial brainstorming and collaboration started in 2006 among NDOT engineers and environmental staff, and NDOW biologists in seeking solutions to the state’s highest deer-vehicle conflict area involving biennial mule deer migrations of over 100 miles each way. With tremendous synergy our team of engineers and biologists built a landscape-scale blueprint with trust, mutual respect, and shared vision.”

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