Support wildlife corridors
Recently, a friend gave me the standard Michigan farewell, “Goodbye everyone, and watch out for deer.” It’s such a common phrase I didn’t think much of it, until the next day when I went to work.
You see, I’m a nurse. I see people with all kinds of ailments, and in various stages of injury and recovery. And I’m all too familiar with the growing issue of wildlife and vehicle collisions on our roadways.
In fact, last year was the worst year for deer collisions in the past decade, with over a 20 percent increase from collisions compared to just a decade ago. Michigan ranks fourth worst in the nation for collisions between vehicles and wildlife.
And this isn’t just a danger to Michiganders. Each year roughly two million automobile collisions with wildlife occur, resulting in over 22,000 injuries and approximately 200 hundred human deaths. As a nurse, I know we must do more to prevent these tragedies.
One proven solution is ‘wildlife-friendly infrastructure.’ Bridges and tunnels can be installed to help wildlife safely cross roadways, reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions by up to 90 percent. Two years ago Congress took a great first step by dedicating $350 million over five years to assist communities and Tribes in building this infrastructure.
However, wildlife-friendly infrastructure is more than just road crossings. It includes things like conservation, wildlife-friendly fencing, and connecting the places where wildlife needs to migrate safely.
Farmers and landowners I’ve spoken to want to help, but the voluntary programs that already exist, for example in the Farm Bill, have definitions that are far too narrow to accommodate this growing need.
Thankfully we can fix this, without spending more money. We just need more flexibility within existing programs to make it easier for farmers and landowners to support wildlife corridor connectivity. Let's come together to solve this problem before even more damage is done and lives lost.