Originally published on January 30, 2024 in The Albuquerque Journal: https://www.abqjournal.com/opinion/decisionmakers-need-to-come-to-their-senses-over-mexican-wolf-recovery/article_fb452862-bed0-11ee-8711-e7b35cbe7516.html
Kudos to Gov. Lujan Grisham, Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces-Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Department of Transportation for creating a wildlife crossings program to reduce the thousands of wildlife vehicle collisions a year – invariably fatal to the critter and likely to dent the driver’s vehicle and wallet. …
As an advocate for restoring lobos — Mexican gray wolves — I know that only natural causes and poaching kill more of this endangered icon. Unfortunately, highways can be zones of death for New Mexico’s wildlife following natural travel corridors.
One great thing about the current program is that since 2019 it grew gradually and thoughtfully from an initial study to the present $50 million appropriation. With measured steps, the department, with extensive public input, identified priority wildlife corridors and problem areas; in 2021, the governor provided support through her “30×30” executive order; last year the Legislature funded signage and fencing and a start on crossing structures. It turns out that some animals can be funneled into new or existing culverts and underpasses while others are claustrophobic and prefer overpasses.
Another plus for this program is that it is inclusive and provides benefits throughout the state: Current projects planned or under construction include collision “hot spots” near Ruidoso, Silver City, Taos, Cuba. These are just a few of the areas identified in a comprehensive 756-page plan. See nmdotprojects.org. With further evaluation and public input, the program will go where the need — both wildlife and human — is greatest.