The following reflects the comments of the California Chapter of BHA along with numerous hunting and environmental groups advocating for wildlife overpasses to be included in the Brightline West High-Speed Rail project.
The Honorable Gavin Newsom
Governor, State of California
1303 10th Street, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 9581
(Submitted via email to recipients)
Re: Directing Caltrans to Add Necessary Wildlife Overpasses to Brightline West High-Speed Rail Project
We write to request that your administration ensures that the proposed Brightline West High-Speed Rail Project (“Project”) includes three wildlife overpasses, which are necessary to avoid the permanent blockage of critical California wildlife corridors resulting from the Project’s concrete barrier walls.
Caltrans holds jurisdiction over the Project right-of-way, and has existing authorities to ensure the Project proponent includes these wildlife overpasses in the Project design, making the Project consistent with your commitment to protect biodiversity including desert bighorn sheep and mountain lions.
Time is of the essence to resolve this matter, as the Project proponent hopes to complete financing on the project within the next six months. We support the findings from your Caltrans and Department of Fish and Wildlife scientists that have identified the three wildlife overpasses as necessary to protect our world- class wildlife in the fragile California desert. Wildlife species of special status whose movements will be inhibited by this Project include the desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, Mojave ground squirrel, mountain lion, desert kit fox and Merriam bobcat, just to name a few. Wildlife overpasses preserve the movement of wildlife and provide for genetic diversity, connecting populations and allowing individual species to move between habitats, which will be increasingly essential in the face of climate change.
Desert wildlife such as the bighorn sheep are of tremendous cultural significance to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and many other desert Native peoples.
Brightline, the Miami-based owner of the Project, is proposing the more than $8 billion project, requesting hundreds of millions in tax-exempt bonds from California, expected to have an annual operating profit of nearly $1 billion,i and proposing a project that – as currently designed – will have devastating impacts to California’s wildlife. Therefore, requiring Brightline to construct the wildlife overpasses is not only the right thing to do, but is financially reasonable and feasible.
Through the inclusion of the overpasses into the Project design, California can continue to demonstrate its commitment to protecting its rich biodiversity. We ask for your leadership to secure this outcome.