Roaring Fork Safe Passages launches fundraiser to reduce wildlife vehicle collisions across valleys |

Roaring Fork Safe Passages launches fundraiser to reduce wildlife vehicle collisions across valleys

The view from McClure Pass along the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway on Colorado Highway 133.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

An advocacy group is currently raising funds to study, mitigate and reduce wildlife collisions with vehicles along the Roaring Fork Valley.

“Animals need infrastructure, and where it has been properly built and designed, there is great success in minimizing WVCs (wildlife vehicle collisions),” said Cecily DeAngelo, director of Supporting Roaring Fork Safe Passages, in a news release.

DeAngelo is spearheading the non-profit after growing up in the valley and having concern for the prevalence in wildlife death from collisions. 

She said she realized there were more ways to reduce these kinds of collisions and that the Colorado Department of Transportation was not prioritizing spending on collision mitigation in the near future for the Roaring Fork or Crystal river valleys.

When it became clear that Highway 82 was not in CDOT’s prioritization plan, DeAngelo jumped in to spearhead the effort to get a valley-wide plan that is “shovel ready,” the release states. 

Roaring Fork Safe Passages hopes to raise $150,000 by June 1 for an initial study on collision reduction strategies for Colorado highways 82 and 133. 

The study will help to pinpoint ideal spots for tunnels, bridges, fencing, technology or optimization of existing structures. It will also help to connect wildlife with territory they are currently unable to reach. 

One of the greatest problems the valley faces is that elk populations in the Roaring Fork Watershed have declined 30-50%,the release states.

Calf elk survival on average has dropped to nearly 30 calves per 100 cows. 

“Supporting Roaring Fork Safe Passages was an easy decision: less roadkill, fewer collisions and more momentum for a group of motivated and compassionate locals,” said Hannah Berman, Supporting Roaring Fork Safe Passages senior manager of sustainability and philanthropy.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is currently involved in a study to learn the cause of the low calf survival, but the study will take a few more years and the Roaring Fork Safe Passages group hopes to find more solutions sooner. 

The fundraiser is aimed at building money toward creating a valley-wide study and mitigation plan for vehicular collisions. This will help bring urgency in restoring the elk population along with other wildlife. 

Connecting large swaths of habitat is equally important, and highway overpasses for elk that involve just an acre or two can open up thousands of acres of good but currently inaccessible or underutilized habitat, the release states.

Aspen Ski Company’s Environmental Foundation presented Roaring Fork Safe Passages a $10,000 grant to support the launch of the group.

While there are state and federal funds available, it will take strong community involvement and a dedicated organization like Roaring Fork Safe Passages to enact real change, the release states.

These efforts go hand in hand with another group called the Watershed Biodiversity Initiative. The WBI already began a valley-wide study for science-based strategies for the protection and restoration of natural biodiversity and habitat connectivity in both the Roaring Fork Valley and along Highway 133. 

The WBI is an acting sponsor and helped accelerate the initiative for the RFSP non-profit launch. This initiative was accelerated under the wing of the WBI, led by Director Tom Cardamone.

This Prioritization Study and Mitigation Plan is a necessary step to receive state and federal funding to construct the mitigation structures, the release states. 

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