One of the most discussed topics regarding animal conservation surrounds the role that humanity plays in the increasing numbers of species going extinct. A lot of this conversation is often attributed to matters such as climate change, which has seen increasing and abnormal temperature patterns. In turn, natural habitats have been facing irreversible damages, relocating various species and killing off others. Though this is one of the common ways the animal kingdom has been negatively impacted, the building of infrastructures within regions densely populated with animals has created a different kind of habitat invasion and forced relocation — one caused by the ever-looming presence of freeways.
The sight of roadkill on the sides of U.S. freeways is a sight familiar to all Americans. Seeing dead animals, no matter how big or small, has become no more than an afterthought. People acknowledge the unfortunate circumstances resulting in these deaths but might believe that there isn’t much to be done about it. However, that is far from the truth. A recent bipartisan infrastructure bill has been passed in Congress that will see the allocation of at least $350 million to fund the development of wildlife crossings called “green bridges” across the country. Though this is undoubtedly a huge sum of money, the benefits both to humanity and animals will outweigh the cost.
The main issue regarding the presence of freeways is that it simply splits the natural habitats of animals into two, restraining individual organisms to one side and making it highly unlikely to cross unscathed — if at all. Of course, this results in many harmful effects, one of them being the limited accessibility to genetic diversity for repopulation. Other issues created also include limited accessibility to natural resources, like water and food.
Critics of this new bill might argue whether this sum of money will generate more benefits than costs, arguing that animals will simply be unaware of the bridges that have been created either over or under freeway passes. However, noting that these bridges will be designed as a continuation of the natural environment should be enough to ease concerns. Though some animals will still attempt to cross busy freeways, a larger majority will naturally move toward more quiet expansions of their familiar environments while abandoning freeway crossings.
Studies have shown that animal deaths and the number of collisions in states where animal crossings have already been implemented have largely decreased. For example, in Arizona, green bridges are believed to have contributed to a 90% decrease in collisions within territories of elk. In turn, this concludes that incorporating crossings easily accessible to animals will prove to be a positive one for animals and humans alike, whose chances of having to pay for collision costs will decrease in tandem with animal deaths.