U.S. Highway 20 is Idaho’s gateway to Yellowstone National Park. This important thoroughfare for both Idahoans and tourists alike bisects a wildlife-rich area that provides important habitat and migration routes for Yellowstone’s wildlife. Without the implementation of specific measures to protect people and wildlife from highway collisions on Targhee Pass (near Island Park), both the motorists and the wildlife will pay the price.
Take Action Now!
The Idaho Department of Transportation (ITD) wants your input on the Targhee Pass Environmental Assessment (EA). Alternative #2 of the EA includes the construction of wildlife overpasses and fencing on Targhee Pass. Please ask ITD to choose to implement Alternative #2 – the alternative that reduces wildlife collisions by more than 80% – so that we can keep our roads safe for vehicles and wildlife. Through our partners at the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, you can easily submit a comment online. Comments will be accepted until Feb. 1, 2019.
Wildlife and Highway 20
Given Highway 20’s proximity to the western side of Yellowstone National Park, it should come as no surprise that the region is teeming with wildlife. In fact, this section of Highway 20 has been identified by Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) as a priority area for wildlife migration because of the safety issues caused by wildlife-vehicle collisions with elk, deer, bison, moose, bears, antelope and wolves. The Sand Creek, Blacktail and Madison elk herds all cross Highway 20 to get to their winter ranges. If they can’t cross the highway, we could eventually lose these important herds.
Collisions between cars and wildlife threaten human and vehicle safety, disrupt animal migrations, and injure/kill wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the largest intact temperate ecosystems in the world. Almost 20% of accidents on this section of Highway 20 between 2010 and 2014 were wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs). According to IDFG, "these statistics are remarkable because US 20 is a major freight corridor … and wildlife collisions with heavy trucks are less likely to be reported." (Targhee Pass EA Wildlife Technical Report). This report goes on to conclude, "the best performing tools to reduce WVCs include wildlife crossing structures accompanied by fence …"
Alternative #2 Is the Right Choice
The Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Targhee Pass project, which will reconstruct the roadway in that area, was released this January. ITD’s own study shows that Alternative #2, which includes fencing and three wildlife crossings, clearly works: it improves driver safety, allows animals to migrate across the highway, and is cost effective over the long run. If wildlife fencing were used, ITD would preserve pedestrian and vehicle access to public and private lands.
Based on ITD’s analysis, Alternative #2 is clearly the alternative that best meets the purpose and need of the Targhee Pass project to improve driver’s safety and allow for safe wildlife movement.
ITD’s preferred alternative (Alternative #3) includes an animal detection system, but does not include wildlife crossings or fencing to physically prevent wildlife from entering the roadway. The best available science shows that the effectiveness of animal detection systems for reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions varies wildly (33%-97%). The higher effectiveness rates are only reached by using the detection system in conjunction with other methods, such as wildlife fencing. Moreover, these systems are costly to maintain and only last for about 10 years.
We all want safe roads and healthy animals. So speak up to ITD and support Alternative #2!