By Nicole Rivard

Today marks a milestone for Washington’s wildlife as the state breaks ground on the first wildlife overpass to provide safe passage for bear, elk, foxes and other animals over interstate 90 east of the Snoqualmie Pass. The Seattle Times reports that the 150-foot long structure, scheduled to open in 2019, is part of an ambitious project to convert a 15-mile stretch of interstate into one of the world’s most wildlife-friendly highways. 

When finished the section of I-90 will incorporate more than 20 major underpasses and overpasses engineered partly or wholly with wildlife in mind. Four new underpasses are already open, and cameras are capturing images of deer, ducks, coyotes and river otters moving through.

Friends of Animals is thrilled to hear about Washington’s respect for its wildlife and hopes this fosters the same attitude in other states. Human development such as highways can be detrimental to species that require expansive territories. For example, it can hinder recovery of species whose mates are in short supply, and it can reduce the genetic diversity that helps populations survive disease outbreaks, shifting climate and other environmental turmoil, according to the article in the Seattle Times. 

Similar projects have yielded positive results in other states. Thirty species have been documented making more than 20,000 transits a year across an overpass on U.S. 93 in Montana. And thanks to an extensive network of wildlife crossings on the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park, the collision rate between vehicles and wildlife dropped more than 80 percent.