IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order on Wednesday directing state agencies to research new ways to protect wildlife. This, while also improving public safety and beginning projects to start implementing their solutions.
"We are privileged to live in an incredible, awe inspiring, beautiful state that has no rival when it comes to the outdoors," Polis said before signing the executive order at the Game Check Trailhead.
The focus is on Colorado's big game winter range and migration corridors. The Department of Natural Resources will study where the animals are located and how they are moving around the state. Based on that data, DNR will make recommendations on how to help those animals. The Colorado Department of Transportation will take those considerations when planning for safe passage for wildlife and reducing car crashes. Both agencies will also create a Memorandum of Understanding to meet the requirements of the executive order. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is also working with the other agencies on related projects.
"With increased tourism and people planning visits to our great state," said First Gentleman Marlon Reis. "We must do everything we can to protect our native habitats and the wildlife that moves through them."
Reis was one of the speakers at the signing along with leaders of the various agencies involved in the executive order. The first gentleman has advocated for animals since Polis took office. Some animals in the region are known to travel as far as 150 miles between summer and winter.
There are nearly 4,000 crashes each year involving wildlife, according to CDOT. The cost reaches $80 million and could be avoided with better methods to reduce animals encountering cars.
"Wildlife vehicle collisions are a serious concern and likely to increase more as more people move to and visit our state," said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew.
One concept that has gained attention across the country and is already working in Colorado is wildlife crossings. Bridges or underpasses along with fencing and other protective measures to keep animals away from moving traffic. In Grant County, there are already seven crossings and escape ramps within a 10-mile stretch. Collison are down 90 percent, according to Lew. Another eight crossings around Colorado are already in place or breaking ground.
The governor says these steps will not only reduce damage to cars and injury to animals as well as drivers. The impact will improve traffic in the mountain corridor. There weren't any figures on the cost or the source for funding but the governor said the end result would reduce expenses for the state and residents.
"A key component of Colorado's outdoor recreation economy and our enjoyment in the beautiful outdoors as Coloradans is our relationship to wildlife," Polis said.
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