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Are Wildlife Crossings Coming to WNY?

The NY Wildlife Crossings Act has made it through the New York State legislature. If Governor Hochul signs it into law, New York will be poised to build wildlife crossings that will aid animals and people alike. The bill requires the state Department of Transportation and the state Thruway Authority “to identify sites along all highways, thruways and parkways where wildlife crossings are most needed to increase public safety and improve habitat connectivity.”

We view wildlife crossings as a vital component of our ongoing work building the WNY Wildway, our ambitious, long-term plan to protect, connect, and restore the largest habitats in our region so that plants and animals can roam freely as climate changes. Connectivity is crucial for plant and animal migration, and we're already thinking ahead to the day when wildlife crossings can be built—doing the research necessary to have local data.

Marcus Rosten, the WNY Wildway Director, is overseeing the project. He says, “Without other researchers in the region collecting this data, there is a large gap in observational studies for wildlife occupancy in the area. Without the data, it is harder to make the case for where wildlife crossings are needed.”

That's where we come in. We are collecting data on how animals navigate our landscapes by installing 45 game cameras at strategic locations throughout our eight-county region. This groundbreaking work is part of a unique collaboration between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Department of Transportation, and New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Funding for this work has been provided by The Nature Conservancy.

We are already seeing results (see images of a black bear and fisher at undisclosed locations in the study).

Wildlife crossings can take many forms, from expansive bridges to narrow underground tunnels, depending on what animals they are meant to aid. They provide animals a safe passage across otherwise unpassable terrain, such as four-lane highways, and allow them to migrate from place to place—thereby increasing their chances of survival.

For humans, wildlife crossings cut down on costly and dangerous highway collisions with animals. The most famous system of wildlife crossings in North America is in the Banff National Park in Canada, and the data there indicates that animal-vehicle collisions have been reduced by 80%, saving lives and taxpayer dollars.

If you'd like to learn more about wildlife crossings, be sure to read conservation journalist Ben Goldfarb's seminal book on the topic, Crossings: How Road Ecology is Shaping the Future of Our Planet, and join us on August 28th at Trinity Episcopal Church in Buffalo for An Evening with Ben Goldfarb.


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