COLUMN: Section 1123 of the Highway Bill would greatly benefit West Virginia motorists, wildlife


The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act, also known as the Highway Bill, is a comprehensive piece of legislation aimed at repairing our nation’s outdated roadways and other needed infrastructure. One specific component of this broad legislation would target and have a significant impact on wildlife resources throughout the country. Section 1123 of the Highway Bill includes funding and additional resources for wildlife crossings along highly critical stretches of roads throughout the country – places like big game migration corridors and other high-risk areas for wildlife-vehicle collisions. 

The West Virginia Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers strongly supports including Section 1123 within the Highway Bill, which passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee with bipartisan support. We thank Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the committee’s ranking member, for her leadership in the inclusion of the wildlife crossing program. 

West Virginia is ranked No. 1 in wildlife-vehicle collisions, as motorists have a 1-in-37 chance of hitting an animal on an annual basis. Further, the most likely time for deer-vehicle collisions is between October and December, coinciding with the rut and the height of our hunting seasons. The wildlife crossing program would help secure funding to determine the best approach to mitigating wildlife-vehicle collisions through actions like well-placed crossings, such as fencing, which can funnel animals to strategically placed box culverts for safe passage, or the implementation of early warning systems along roadways as often seen in the western U.S.

We also see wildlife crossings benefitting our fledgling elk herd. With the first introduction in the Mountain State from 2016-2018 plus subsequent additions, including 15 calves in the summer of 2020, we would like to see proactive steps taken to protect this growing population from vehicles in the southern part of the state. Additionally, deer collisions – especially around more frequented highways such as the 196 miles of Rt. 50 – may become more frequent as the herd grows due to the state’s significant drop in doe harvests and a slight decline in buck harvests over the last decade. This is despite 2020’s increased harvests, likely due to COVID-19.

Join our chapter in thanking Sen. Capito for supporting wildlife crossings and her leadership in advancing the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act through committee. Call her Washington office at (202) 224-6472 and her Charleston office at 304-347-5372.