Teton County commissioners have unanimously approved a new wildlife crossings plan that says where crossing structures could improve motorist and wildlife safety.

Commissioner Natalia Macker said that while the adoption represents the culmination of a lot of work, it’s also just the beginning.

“We have to look at opportunities for funding, opportunities for how can we partner with WYDOT and private property owners, as well as keeping our eye on the changing nature of technology and what tools are available to us to accomplish these goals,” Macker said.

The town and county’s 2015 Integrated Transportation Plan calls for such a wildlife crossings master plan. In 2016 the county hired Western Transportation Institute to create the report for $100,000.

The report focuses on wildlife-vehicle collisions as a threat to human safety as much as a conservation issue, giving both equal weight.

It provides a cost-benefit analysis of adding wildlife crossings around the county, a process to rank which crossings should come first, and a scientific investigation of the effectiveness of various methods, like underpasses and overpasses, signage or at-grade crossings. The report’s authors make the case that investing in wildife crossing structures can be less costly in the long run than letting wildlife-vehicle collisions continue.

The intersection of Wyoming highways 22 and 390, Highway 22 west of Coyote Canyon, and Camp Creek along U.S. 191 are listed as top priorities reviewed by consultants and a local advisory group.

The adoption of the report drew praise from stakeholders.

“This plan is going to make a very big difference in making our highways safer for our families and wildlife, so I thank you all for that,” said Chris Colligan of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation Director Jon Mobeck was also grateful for adoption of the plan.

“It demonstrates the county’s commitment to wildlife, which as you know has long been highly valued by the community in our Comp Plan and throughout our history in Jackson Hole,” Mobeck said. “It’s nice to see this kind of commitment come from the county, to not only invest in such a plan but now to begin the process of implementing the plan where it’s feasible and appropriate to do so.”

The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance’s engagement manager, Marisa Wilson, called the plan’s approval a “huge milestone”: “As a community, we rank protecting and preserving our area ecosystem as our highest priority, and this plan is a step toward doing just that.”

The county has included $150,000 in next year’s budget for planning the wildlife crossings.

Contact Allie Gross at 732-7063, county@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGcounty.

Allie Gross covers Teton County government. Originally from the Chicago area, she joined the News&Guide in 2017 after studying politics and Spanish at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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