The Kaibab and Coconino National Forests want to know what you think about a proposal to install up to three new wildlife highway crossings in northern Arizona, pending funding availability. The goal is to keep motorists safe and allow elk, mule and whitetail deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep and other wildlife to safely cross busy roadways. The proposed crossings would be on Interstate 17 south of Kachina Village, on I-17 north of the Willard Springs exit and on I-40 between Oak Hill and Parks.
According to a 2021 Arizona Department of Transportation study, there are about 1,270 reported wildlife-vehicle collisions each year with an average of one human fatality crash, although those numbers are considered underreported. Across the nation in 2021, there were 347,000 reported annual wildlife-vehicle crashes and 202 human fatalities.
I-40 is a barrier to migrating wildlife, including elk. Located in the Grand Canyon-to-Prescott corridor, it is identified in the Secretarial Order 3362 Action Plan to help restore ungulate migrations. An overpass and fencing would reduce collisions and facilitate safe passage.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supplied funding for some pre-crossing prep work at the I-40 site. Thinning up to 50 acres of vegetation north of the overpass site would open an historic corridor to connect grasslands on both sides of the highway once the overpass is complete.
(Photo credit: Arizona Game & Fish Department)