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Wyoming wildlife crossing projects press forward

LA BARGE, Wyo. (KIFI/KIDK) - Two Wyoming agencies have committed a combined $2.5 million to help install wildlife underpasses along US 189 to help reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve safety.

It is the first phase of the Dry Piney wildlife crossing project north of La Barge. It will ultimately be a $5.5 million plan that will begin with underpasses and fencing along a 5-mile stretch of the highway between mile-markers 86 to 90. 

The work will focus on the Dry Piney wildlife crossing project north of La Barge. The Wyoming Transportation Commission and Wyoming Game and fish Commission will each put up $1.25 million. The agencies are already considering additional underpasses and fencing.  

WYDOT has applied for $18.8 million in additional funding to help with subsequent work in the Dry Piney corridor. That work will include underpasses with fencing.  Altogether, the state plans a three-phase project that will cost somewhere between $12 and $36.5 million.   

"We are committed to ensuring the state's roads are as safe as possible for the traveling public," said WYDOT Chief Engineer Shelby Carlson. "The work will provide safe passage for wildlife to cross under US 189, keeping motorists safer. These underpasses allow wildlife to cross the roads without encountering traffic or fences and allows them to travel their historic migratory routes." 

On US 189, between mile-markers 77 and 105, about 117 vehicle-wildlife collisions are reported annually.  It has one of the highest rates of mule deer-vehicle crashes in the state of Wyoming.  

Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioner Patrick Crank said the wildlife crossing issue is vital to address.  "Wildlife-vehicle collisions endanger our citizens, cost millions of dollars in property damage and waste our important wildlife resources," Crank said. "We hope the Commission and WYDOT can work to raise additional funds and get these underpasses completed as soon as possible."

One way the state is raising money for the crossing project is a new wildlife conservation license plate.   The initial application is $180 and $150 of that goes to wildlife conservation. So far, the state has issued 1,082 of the plates.  

A public open house has been scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 12 at the La Barge Town Hall. WYDOT, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Federal Highway Administration will share information on the US 189 wildlife connectivity project and accept public feedback.


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