New Mexico’s Wildlife Corridors Act was signed into law in 2019, and directs New Mexico Department of Transportation and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to work cooperatively in developing a prioritization plan that identifies wildlife corridors and potential wildlife-vehicle collision mitigation projects. Funding was not attached to this bill and the legislation recognized private property rights. These two political concessions allowed for passage of this bill.
The Cabinet Secretary of New Mexico Department of Transportation agreed to set aside funding for development of New Mexico’s Wildlife Corridors Action Plan (Action Plan). A Request for Proposal was advertised for development of the Action Plan. The Contract was awarded to a local consulting firm that partnered with experts from Arizona and Montana.
The Action Plan identified wildlife-vehicle collision hotspots using ArcGIS’s Optimized Hotspot Analysis Tool. Wildlife corridors were also identified using habitat modelling, GPS collar data, and other methods. Two (2) rounds of public meetings were held during development of the Action Plan. Input from other agencies and tribes were also solicited. Field reconnaissance was performed on the top wildlife-vehicle collision hotspots and the top wildlife corridors to tentatively identify measures for providing safe wildlife passage. These top areas were prioritized based on adjacent landownership, public and stakeholder input, constructability, predominate wildlife species in the area, anticipated effectiveness and other factors.
Wildlife passage research performed under contract with Arizona Game and Fish Department has provided invaluable data for implementation of the Action Plan. This research has provided tentative recommendations on dimensions of effective wildlife crossing structures. It has also identified on-the-ground issues that can inhibit wildlife passage rates.
Efforts are currently underway to design the first Action Plan wildlife passage project consisting of multiple crossing structures. We are also attempting to obtain construction funding for Action Plan implementation in collaboration with non-government organizations (NGOs) and other agencies.