NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico drivers got into on average 900 car crashes per year because of wildlife between 2002 and 2018. Lawmakers this year want to do something to cut down on those crashes.
They are proposing a fund that would create “wildlife corridors.” If this fund is approved, it would go towards studies, construction, and maintenance of safe road crossings for wildlife areas that see a lot of wildlife versus car collisions. “It creates a fund to help implement these various identified corridors that we wish to develop,” says Representative Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos).
Senate Bill 72 would call on the New Mexico Department of Transportation to administer the money in the fund; $5 million coming from an appropriation in the House’s funding bill. It passed the Senate Floor two weeks ago and then passed the House Transportation Committee unanimously on Tuesday, Mar. 7.
An expert in that meeting outlined just how costly it could be not to implement this, saying, “DOT estimates that these kinds of collisions cost the state $20 million a year in medical costs, in lost work time, in hospital bills, all of these kinds of things. So, from a wildlife perspective as well as a safety perspective, we want to make sure DOT has the money to implement the projects it has already identified.”
The report states there are six species they are focusing on protecting with this: deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, black bears, and cougars. The bill is scheduled to be discussed Thursday, Mar. 9, by the House Appropriations Committee.