NY Wildlife Crossings Bill S4198B

thumbnail.jpgNY Senate bill S4198B has been passed by the NY Senate and NY Assembly and is now on its way to Governor Hochul's desk for signing. 

The bill directs the New York Department of Transportation and the Thruway Authority to identify sites along all highways, thruways, and parkways in the state where wildlife crossings are most needed to increase public safety and improve habitat connectivity; and to create a priority list of wildlife crossing opportunity areas where federal grant monies may be available to implement the top five projects identified.

Why this bill is needed: The policy will empower agency staff statewide to initiate projects aimed at enhancing public safety for drivers and ensuring safe passage for wildlife through strategic wildlife crossing construction. This policy, requiring engagement with the public will result public-private partnerships that will help secure federal funding opportunities currently available for this type of infrastructure which NY is currently not taking advantage of.

What this bill is not: This bill does not require the agency to invest resources or funds into actually constructing crossings and is not an unfunded mandate. This bill empowers NYSDOT and NYSTA to pursue additional studies if they wish. It allows the agencies to use its existing wildlife collision data and if the agency should decide to engage in a more in-depth study federal funding from the first round of federal Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program grants is available. 

Why this bill is good for wildlife:

  • NYSDOT cites that there are 65,000 reported collisions annually with deer alone in New York, and studies show that the average cost of a deer collision is between $20,000-$40,000.
  • Wildlife crossings can decrease these collisions by up to 92% when properly sited and with directional fencing.
  • Wildlife crossings can be created affordable in many cases by constructing directional fencing to existing crossing locations at underpasses or culverts.
  • Wildlife crossings help wildlife adapt to climate change and biodiversity loss and have been identified as a key strategy to mitigating the effects of climate change.
  • In the face of the twin crises of biodiversity collapse and climate change, connectivity between landscapes is critical for wildlife resiliency and adaptability.
  • New York’s Climate Action Council Plan identified a need to develop policies and programs that specifically address the risks faced by threatened ecosystems and biodiversity, highlighting a need for the NYSDOT and DEC to improve local wildlife and aquatic connectivity.
  • Another crucial component of this bill is the requirement to update appropriate NYSDOT design guidance, including the Highway Design Manual, to incorporate design concepts for wildlife passage features and related standard plans and specifications as appropriate. This manual update has been done in other states and has saved transportation agencies time and money by having standardized specs, instead of starting from scratch with each engineering design.

 

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