Silver Summit resident starts online wildlife petition
August 5, 2016
Whenever Jim Clark drives out of his Silver Summit neighborhood on to Interstate 80, he cringes at the thought of what he might see.
The Silver Summit resident said he is "sick and tired," like most of his neighbors, of driving past moose carcasses scattered across the Interstate. Clark said he has counted about six within the last month.
"The irony kills me because the moose is our symbol in this city and I bet our population has been cut in half," Clark said. "It kind of says something when we have a symbol of our community lying dead on the highway when you drive in."
Clark is a member of the local nonprofit organization Save People Save Wildlife, which has been fighting for the installation of fencing to reduce wildlife and vehicle collisions between Parley's Canyon and Jeremy Ranch. Group members were seen protesting several times last month.
Clark recently started an online petition through Change.Org calling for an end to the "senseless slaughter of wildlife on I-80." The petition mentions Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, the Utah Legislature and the Utah Department of Transportation, including John Gleason, a public information officer. As of Wednesday morning, it had gained more than 1,900 signatures.
Most of the comments supporting the petition implore UDOT to provide an immediate solution. One comment stated: "You never know how awful it is to lose a parent or hit and kill a moose until it happens to you. One is inevitable- the other is preventable. Build the fence." Others highlight the impact of the collisions on the area's wildlife population: "the only moose I've ever seen have been the dead ones along I-80."
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"We felt like UDOT was kind of dragging their feet," Clark said. "They made a big mistake, and they know it, by only taking the fencing up to Parley's and putting in those concrete barriers. I don't want to demonize them or make them the bad guys because they've done good with the fencing they have put in. I really kind of fault the state of Utah because it seems it is not a priority that animals are getting killed."
Clark said he intends to leave the petition up until it gains nearly 10,000 signatures, adding that "I don't think we have even scratched the surface."
"People have known this is a problem for a really long time and I will leave it up until it gets a response, hopefully, from the governor's office," Clark said. "I'm going to fight this until it's done. If I have to go out and put fencing up myself and get arrested I would do it."
Save People Save Wildlife members have been meeting regularly with representatives from UDOT over the last several months over the issue. Lorelei Combs, who lives in the Hidden Cove neighborhood and is also a member of the nonprofit, said members are demanding that UDOT provide a start date for a wildlife fencing project before the end of 2016.
"We basically told them that Summit County residents are standing up, speaking loudly and lighting a fire," Combs said. "We've told them we are willing to donate to the state and will continue to fundraise in order to get these fences up as soon as possible.
"We want it as soon as the snow starts to fall and want it no later than Oct. 1," Combs said.
John Gleason, a public information officer with UDOT, said he appreciates the passion the members of the organization have shown. He said it is "great to have public involvement," emphasizing that "their voice has been heard."
"This is definitely something that is on our radar and we are working to find long-term solutions," Gleason said. "Safety is important for all of us and something we want to get right."
However, Gleason said a fall project to install fencing is unlikely even though UDOT recently requested $5 million from the Utah Transportation Commission for wildlife mitigations. He said the money won't be available until 2018 and is already attached to a project in that area.
"What we are trying to do right now is move the beginning of that project to the 2017 construction season so we can begin to reduce the wildlife/vehicle collisions in that area," Gleason said. "We just can't guess at a solution. We are working with wildlife experts to determine what makes sense and how we can make that money go as far as we can."
Gleason said it boils down to this: we all want the same thing– safety on our roads.
"We want these crashes to not happen and we are charged with finding the best long-term solutions that are really going to have an impact," Gleason said. "This is one of our top priorities and we share the concerns and that is why we have requested this money for wildlife mitigation near Parley's. This is money that we have taken from other priorities and allocated it for a wildlife solution."
To view the petition on Change.Org go to https://www.change.org/p/utah-governor-stop-the-senseless-slaughter-of-wildlife-on-i-80..