January 18, 2012

Grant Launches McArthur Lake Wildlife Safety Project

Project seeks to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions in North Idaho

Boundary County, Idaho - The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has awarded a grant of $99,268 to fund the McArthur Lake Wildlife Safety Project, an effort to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions on Highway 95 near Bonners Ferry.

The McArthur Lake area has the highest number of wildlife-vehicle collisions in the state. Between 2000 and 2010, there were 321 documented wildlife-related accidents reported on Highway 95 from milepost 478 to 505. The majority of these accidents occurred from milepost 490 to 505, the proposed project area.

During this ten-year time period, two of these accidents caused human fatalities, and 36 more resulted in injuries. All told, these wildlife vehicle collisions cost an estimated $4.9 million, ranging from loss of life to vehicle repairs. In 2011, there was one human fatality between a motorcycle and a deer.

The area is also an important wildlife corridor in North Idaho, connecting the expansive public forests of the Selkirk and the Cabinet mountains. Each year, deer, elk, moose, black bear and other wildlife pass through the area.

The Nature Conservancy will raise nearly $100,000 to match the Foundation funds. The Conservancy will work closely with the Kootenai Valley Resource Initiative (KVRI) to implement the grant. KVRI is a coalition that includes Boundary County, the City of Bonners Ferry, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, state and federal agencies and conservation organizations that work together to solve natural resource issues.

"This grant award will help us protect the safety of our citizens and reduce vehicle damage," said Dan Dinning, KVRI chairman and Boundary County Commissioner. "At the same time, we urge motorists to drive carefully and keep an eye out for wildlife, especially at dawn and dusk."

"Most of the funding will go toward on-the-ground safety measures along Highway 95," said Kennon McClintock, the Conservancy's project leader. Project partners will determine which measures are most appropriate based on a cost-benefit analysis, but could include wildlife fencing or animal detection systems which alert motorists to real-time wildlife hazards.

Here's what some of the project supporters are saying about this effort:

U.S. Senator Mike Crapo:

"This proposed solution to a local problem demonstrates once again the wisdom behind collaboration. KVRI and the Nature Conservancy are to be commended for identifying a solution to a life-threatening issue for both drivers and wildlife."

U.S. Senator Jim Risch:

"I am very pleased to see the collaborative effort taking place to solve a serious vehicle collision problem with wildlife on Highway 95.  All of the project partners are to be commended for working together to protect people and wildlife with solutions that are locally derived.  I wish them success as they move this effort forward."

Idaho Dist. 1 Senator Shawn Keough:

"I appreciate the NFWF awarding this grant.  This corridor is a dangerous stretch of highway for both motorists and wildlife.  In this depressed economic time, private-public partnerships like this project are very helpful to address safety issues as critical as the McArthur Curve. The state will continue to work towards long term solutions in this stretch but in the meantime this grant will help increase safety today."

Idaho Dist. 1 Representative George Eskridge:

"The stretch of Highway 95 adjacent to McArthur Lake has and continues to be a significant safety concern because of the high incidence of accidents involving wildlife and vehicles.  This grant will be instrumental in developing potential solutions for the benefit of wildlife and the traveling public."

Jeff Trandahl, CEO of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

"Preventing interactions between wildlife and traffic in this critical region  is a top conservation priority. We're happy to support the McArthur Lake community to make highways safer for drivers and our native species."

KVRI will coordinate with TNC and others to undertake the cost-benefit analysis in 2012. This analysis will help determine appropriate safety measures to implement with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation funds.