The US Department of Transportation has announced $350 million in funding to combat vehicle-wildlife collisions.
The US Department of Transportation is rolling out funding for wildlife crossings along busy roads.
Studies show than more than 350 million vertebrate animals are killed by traffic in the US each year.
Meanwhile, about 200 people are killed each year in collisions involving wildlife and vehicles in the US, according to federal officials.
Now, Indigenous groups as well as state and local governments will have access to $350 million (€320) to combat the issue.
This amounts to the largest investment in road and bridges in a generation. It’s also the largest single sum ever allocated to address vehicle-wildlife collisions.
The federal infrastructure funds will be used to track animals, build wildlife corridors along roads and add warning signs for drivers.
Federal officials say the first-of-its-kind pilot program will open the door for communities that may not have previously had access to money for such projects.
Which states will tap into the funding?
Many Western states - including Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Nevada - have already invested substantially in wildlife crossings
Since these states have existing legislation on crossings, they are likely to gain access to federal funding to build them, advocates say.
California is among the Western states with new legislation. It broke ground last year on what it bills as the world’s largest crossing - a bridge over a major Southern California highway for mountain lions and other animals hemmed in by urban sprawl.
New Mexico also joined the effort this spring, setting aside $100 million (€91m) for conservation projects. That includes building the state's first wildlife highway overpasses for free-roaming cougars, black bears, bighorn sheep and other creatures.
The funding will be rolled out over the next five years, with the first round of grants being issued this year.
How are the locations of wildlife crossings determined?
To determine the best locations for crossings, some states are tracking local wildlife.
In New Mexico, wild animals are involved in around 900 crashes per year.
Wildlife managers in the tribal community of Santa Ana Pueblo have been collecting data on the movement of animals across the area. They have documented casualties along busy highways that cut through tribal boundaries.
By collaring mountain lions, bear, elk and other species over the last decade, they have collected more than one quarter of a million GPS location points. That data has helped to create maps showing where animals want to cross.
At one point, more than a dozen lions were found to be crossing the area. These included one that travelled more than 885 kilometres from Santa Ana to Mesa Verde National Park and Ute Mountain Ute tribal lands in southern Colorado in search for a new home range.
The development of more crossings will create climate refuges for animals like these, as well as improving safety.
“What we’re seeing is wildlife moving into new areas,” says US Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury, a New Mexico Democrat. “And so projects like this will help wildlife reconnect on the land to historic spaces and the spaces that will sustain them ecologically as they’re facing climate change.”