Corridor Design Blog

News and views on wildlife corridors, linkages, and connectivity

Posted by
Dan Majka
on Dec 16 2009

$8 million to be spent on wildlife crossing structures north of Tucson, Arizona

It's easy to get frustrated doing conservation GIS. Sometimes it feels like you spend week after week working through models, maps, and reports, only to have them end up in a sucking black hole. And then there are those days when you find out that What You Do Really Matters, and it makes things all worth it.

Mockup of proposed wildlife overpass, courtesy of Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection

Last Thursday, Regional Transportation Authority of Pima County, Arizona, approved $8.2 million to build two wildlife underpasses and one overpass, the largest such wildlife overpass in Arizona, and first overpass built specifically for deer. The money is the first of $45 million which will be spent throughout the county on wildlife crossings. According to an article in the Arizona Daily Star,

The work will be done in conjunction with a widening of Oracle from four to six lanes for a six-mile stretch, between Tangerine Road and the Pinal County line. The wildlife crossings will be about 190 feet long by 150 feet wide. Doing the crossings at the time of the widening keeps the state from having to retrofit the road later at more expense, said Siobhan Nordhaugen, an Arizona Department of Transportation special-projects manager.

"We'd like to make highways more permeable to wildlife," said Ray Schweinsburg, research program supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. That agency, along with ADOT, the RTA staff and five environmental groups, spent several years planning the crossings. "Part of what makes Arizona so unique are its wildlife values. We don't want to lose that," he said.

"It's also a safety issue. We don't want motorists hitting animals."

While efforts to protect this linkage date back to 1996, our recent report, which modeled potential linkages for multiple species between the Tortolita, Santa Catalina, Tucson Mountains, helped with the effort. The Daily Star quotes from the report:

"In our work on 16 linkage designs in the state, we have not seen rates of development of natural land similar to what we have seen in this linkage. Future urbanization should not occur on private or state land" within this area, the NAU report said.