October 22nd, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 41
Biologists propose wildlife crossings for Highway 3 through Crowsnest Pass
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Higway wildlife overpass
Pass Herald Reporter
Highway 3 is vital to transportation through the Crowsnest Pass but it’s a deathtrap for wildlife.
In a presentation to council on October 14, conservation biologist Dale Paton said there are over 150 collisions between wildlife and vehicles on Highway 3 every year.
The majority of incidents have been with deer but there have also been collisions with elk, bear, bighorn sheep, moose, cougar, lynx, bobcat and wolf.
These collisions are not only deadly for wildlife, they’re costly for humans. According to Paton, in 2007 collisions in the Pass involving elk, deer and moose cost tax payers almost $55,000 per kilometer of road per year.
These costs include vehicle repairs, human injuries, emergency services fees and cleanup.
A series of wildlife crossings across Highway 3 – similar to the ones built over and under the Trans-Canada Highway near Banff – would reduce the number of wildlife vehicle collisions.
The crossings would also allow animals to travel more widely in search of members of the opposite sex, which would increase the genetic health of the species.
Paton identified 31 sites along a 180 kilometer stretch of Highway 3 where mitigation efforts would be especially helpful to wildlife.
Nine sites are located in Alberta and six of them are especially important. These sites include Rock Creek, Leitch Collieries, Crowsnest West, Crowsnest Lakes, Crowsnest East and Iron Ridge.
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With the planned twinning of Highway 3 scheduled by the Department of Transportation, the province invested $3.7 million on two parcels of land totalling 410 acres near the Crowsnest Pass for wildlife corridors to encourage biodiversity.
Representatives from Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) announced the purchase to council on March 25.
But transportation corridors are a long-term solution that will need to be built in tandem with the twinning project. The province first unveiled plans to twin the highway in the late 1970s, but construction has yet to begin.
“It’s really hard to get a definite answer out of the province as to timeframe for when this is all going to happen,” said Mayor Blair Painter. “Ultimately the goal is to have it twined from Medicine Hat and the Saskatchewan-Alberta border all the way to the Alberta-B.C. border in the Pass.”
“But realistically that’s a lot of money to spend so it’s not going to happen all at once,” he said. “But they are committed to starting on the west end in the Crowsnest Pass.”
Paton said short-term solutions should be implemented. They include fencing along the highway, warning signs and replacing road salt, which can attract animals, with de-icing agents.
Council proposed a motion to support Paton’s transportation corridor project on Oct. 21.
According to the Miistakis Institute for the Rockies, the Rock Creek Corridor, which runs north-south through the Pass, has the highest rate of wildlife mortality of any portion of Highway 3 between Highway 22 and the B.C. border.
October 22nd ~ Vol. 84 No. 41
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