Save People Save Wildlife commends UDOT for expediting wildlife fencing installation
Agency advanced funding to start project earlier
Erin Ferguson, who is a member of the nonprofit organization Save People Save Wildlife, commended the Utah Department of Transportation for expediting the installation of wildlife fencing along Interstate 80.
Monday, Ferguson, along with several other members of the organization, joined representatives from UDOT as crews began constructing the fence along the eastbound lanes of the Interstate near the Pinebrook exit. Earlier this month, crews began removing temporary fencing to prepare for the installation.
“It’s really a tribute to our donors and the concerned citizens, in general,” Ferguson said. “All the support, whether it’s emotional or financial, plays into it and it just accelerates the urgency.
“If we are going to idolize and respect these animals, let’s do it and not let them die on the freeway,” she said.
More than a year ago, Ferguson and other members of Save People Save Wildlife caught UDOT’s attention after displaying a banner near the Jeremy Ranch exit that read “Wildlife Slaughter Row, Shame on UDOT, Wildlife fencing needed.” The organization was formed after several community members raised serious concerns about the frequency of wildlife and vehicle collisions.
The protest set off a series of conversations with UDOT representatives that resulted in the installation of a mile of fencing along the westbound side of I-80 toward Parley’s Canyon. Members of Save People Save Wildlife contributed $50,000 toward the project.
“Just by having the one mile of fencing, wildlife deaths have been reduced. We had 34 deaths at this same time last year and we are down to 22 this year,” said Sharon Cantwell, treasurer of Save People Save Wildlife. “We are excited that it is starting finally. We delivered on our fundraising and they are delivering on the work. I think all of this will make a big difference.
“Twelve may not seem huge, but it does to us,” she said.
The current project will add one mile of fencing along eastbound I-80 and approximately 1,400 additional feet on both sides.
John Gleason said a partnership with any group that helps push the timeline “is a good thing.”
“This is the big priority this year as far as wildlife mitigation concerns go,” Gleason said. “We were going to try and get a start on this in the fall, but we were able to get accelerated funding. It is a great thing and it’s awesome to see something like this from the beginning to where it is now.”
To pay for the installation, UDOT advanced a portion of funding from a $22 million climbing lane project, which included a $5 million grant earmarked for wildlife mitigation to fund construction of a wildlife overpass and three more miles of fencing. The money wasn’t supposed to be available until October 2017.
“We don’t want people swerving to miss wildlife or wildlife getting killed,” Ferguson said. “It speaks volumes to our donors and supporters. This is something they can see and say, ‘My money and my time and my passion’ helped make this happen. It’s just amazing. Let’s protect everything that we can.”
UDOT’s goal with the fencing is to eventually funnel wildlife to the state’s first wildlife crossing bridge. The bridge will be constructed at Parley’s Summit in Salt Lake County. Construction is likely to begin in the spring of 2018.
For more information about UDOT’s projects for Interstate 80, go to http://www.intrepidudot.com/renovate-I-80/demo/project_partners/.
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