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2013 Environmental Excellence Awards

Environmental Research

Project Title

Wildlife Crossing in Utah: Determining What Works and Helping to Create the Best and Most Cost-Effective Structure Designs

Agencies Awarded

Utah Department of Transportation

  • Monte Aldridge, Chet Johnson, Shane Marshall, David Stevens, Rebecca Stromness, Randall Taylor, Paul West, Brandon Weston

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

  • Bruce Bonebrake, Rhett Boswell, Ashley Green, Pam Kramer, Doug Sakaguchi

Utah State University

  • Dr. Patricia Cramer, Robert Hamlin, Megan Schwender, Dr. Kevin Womack

Project Contributors

Utah Transportation Center - Utah State University

  • Dr. Kevin Womack (now with USDOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration)

The Wildlife Crossing in Utah project is a statewide environmental research study led by Dr. Patricia Cramer at Utah State University (USU), with the support of the Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The study monitored wildlife use of wildlife crossing culverts and bridges, and existing structures, to craft design recommendations aimed at reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions statewide. The study used camera traps across Utah to observe wildlife reactions at 38 structures, 15 of which were specifically designed wildlife crossing culverts and bridges, in order to determine the best designs for passing mule deer, elk, moose, and other wildlife under and above roads. The project's recommendations, such as ideal culvert lengths and optimum wildlife exclusion fencing design, have become part of Utah's standard operating procedure for wildlife crossings. By investigating ways to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, the study stands to offer the State of Utah substantial cost savings in the coming years.

Beyond the State's borders, the project enhances state-of-the-practice knowledge of transportation's effects on the natural environment across the country. This research project continues to advance tools to support integrated approaches for transportation decisionmaking, including new methods for wildlife monitoring and best practices for the design and placement of wildlife crossing structures. The environmental research efforts of Dr. Cramer and USU and their partners demonstrate the practicality of incorporating wildlife considerations into the transportation planning process.

Photo of an elk under a  bridge.
Bull elk use a new wildlife arch bridge under Interstate 70.
Photo: USU

Updated: 7/23/2013
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