In recent years, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) have developed tools and policy changes that codify relationships developed over multiple careers and remove barriers between agency datasets. Historically, wildlife mitigation projects have depended on passionate agency personnel finding time outside of normal duties to champion mitigation projects to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. This model is flawed in many ways, principal among them being the holes left behind when staff move on in their careers with no guarantee that their replacement will share that passion. This may result in inconsistent application across regions. Additionally, we’ve found that agencies working for the same state are creating redundant datasets without knowing that work has been done already or is happening concurrently. These efforts should be merged to paint a more complete picture of problems areas and their solutions.
The UDOT and DWR recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to solidify practices that once depended solely on relationships built independently between agency personnel. While these relationships are vital for the continued success of agency partnerships, they alone are not sufficient for long-term wildlife mitigation solutions. Some of the key parts of this MOU includes regional quarterly meetings which both agencies attend to discuss wildlife mitigation, a reporting requirement to state legislature including an agreed-upon wish list of future projects that require funding, and a formalized data sharing agreement.
Multiple datasets that have traditionally resided in respective locations without easy access between agencies and limit the decision-making tools available to agency staff. For example, UDOT manages a dataset of crash data while DWR manages the tool for reporting wildlife carcasses. Each type of data shows different angles of the same story, and without looking at both together, conclusions can be distorted or incomplete. Another key piece of information is the spatial information provided by DWR’s Migration Initiative GIS collared wildlife tracking dataset. By comparing heat maps of migration corridors, crash data, and carcass data, a more complete picture arises. Until recently though, finding these intersections of data was complex and unavailable to most decision makers.
These concepts will be demonstrated while using case studies of past and future projects, including the Parley’s Summit overpass near Park City, the Monticello underpass and fencing system, a planned series of retrofitted bridges in Morgan County, and a local government/state government wildlife corridor and crossing partnership in Utah County.