Lawmaker proposes study to help protect New Mexico drivers, wildlife

Politics - Government

A bill hit the Senate floor Monday afternoon aiming to find ways to protect wildlife from drivers and vice versa. The bill’s sponsor says thousands of accidents between cars and big game happen every year. 

Sen. Mimi Stewart says the reason why she’s asking state agencies to look into this is that she wants to better protect wildlife and people’s lives. 

“It’s about 1,200 crashes a year, and in 2016 we had almost 1,700. That yearly cost is about $20 million for cars, roads and wildlife, so it’s a significant problem,” Sen. Stewart said. 

Senate Bill 228, sponsored by Majority Whip Mimi Stewart, would require the Department of Transportation and the Department of Game and Fish to find out which existing highways pose a risk for wildlife and drivers. 

Sen. Stewart says she hopes to see if barriers and corridors like underpasses and fencing would help keep wildlife out of the way of oncoming vehicles. 

Senate Republicans think this bill’s intentions are good but worry it would be costly to fix the problem. 

“If we are going to make an overpass for an animal to cross the highway, how do we keep the livestock from crossing the same place? I really want to see the engineering. The devil is in the details,” Sen. Pat Woods said. 

Sen. Stewart says this would only apply to roads the Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over, and the DOT always asks for community input on major projects like this. 

The bill did get some resistance on the Senate floor but passed 24 to 18. The bill is asking for $500,000 for the study.

Each year in the United States, 200 people are killed in accidents with animals and property damage is estimated at $1 billion. 

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