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Transportation Bill is Vital for Refuge System Success

Recently, a group of Friends members came to Washington D.C. to lobby in support of Refuge System funding and other issues. One of the issues they lobbied in support of is the reauthorizations of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) program, also known as the Transportation Bill. Reauthorization of the bill is also one of the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s Legislative Priorities for FY15. We are urging Congress to reauthorize MAP-21 with $100 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including Refuge System roads and transportation infrastructure.

What is MAP-21/Transportation Bill?

MAP-21 is a two-year surface transportation bill passed in 2012 that authorized transportation improvements funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among other agencies, through September 2014. The Service Transportation Program supports improved public access to and within Fish and Wildlife Service lands. A robust, safe, accessible, multimodal transportation system is a fundamental component of achieving the Service’s mission.

Where does it stand in Congress?

Senator Wyden (D-Ore) recently called for a three month extension (until December 31) of the transportation reauthorization bill.  Although Senator Wyden has previously said he is opposed to a temporary transportation funding measure, he called his three-month proposal an “imperative first step” toward a long-term fix. His proposal calls for transferring around $9 billion from other areas of the federal budget to carry U.S. transportation funding until Dec. 31. The current transportation funding measure is scheduled to expire at the end of September.

Complicating matters further, the Department of Transportation has said that its Highway Trust Fund will run out of money in August if Congress does not act to prevent it.

The traditional funding source for transportation projects has long been revenue collected from the federal gas tax, which is currently priced at 18.4 cents per gallon. Receipts from the gas tax have been outpaced by infrastructure expenses by about $16 billion annually in recent years.

Why is this bill important?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service depends on transportation funding to provide safe access to refuges for almost 5 million visitors each year. The funding also allows staff, volunteers, and partners to protect, conserve, and restore habitats and wildlife populations.

Ocelot Male 279 found dead July 9, 2014 due to a vehicle strike. He could not get across State Highway 100 due to the concrete barriers.
Ocelot Male 279 found dead July 9, 2014 due to a vehicle strike. He could not get across State Highway 100 due to the concrete barriers.

At Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in southern Texas, transportation dollars could go towards saving one of the only two remaining breeding populations of ocelots known to occur in the United States. It is estimated that at least 20 ocelots have died in road accidents in recent decades – unfortunately, one just this week. Funds allocated to transportation would allow the refuge to build crossings for the endangered animal which could prevent further fatalities.

At Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, black bears, brown bears, caribou, and moose have all been hurt or killed as a result of road collisions. The refuge is working with Alaska Department of Transportation to develop wildlife-mitigation structures, partially funded by transportation dollars.

At Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge’s Nulhegan Basin Division, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, and many more, refuge staff are working with state agencies to develop transportation plans using funds from the MAP-21 to improve the safety of the wildlife and visitors to the refuge. Learn more here.

Clearly this bill is extremely important to the future of the refuge system, and the Refuge Association is doing all that we can to make sure it is reauthorized. Stay tuned for further updates.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2014/07/transportation-bill-is-vital-for-refuge-system-success/

2 comments

  1. Pat cunningham says:

    Re authorize this bill!!

  2. Dave says:

    If you have train tracks running through or near your refuge, I strongly encourage you to look for animals killed by trains. At the Pierce NWR in Washington state, I have found the remains of at least 55 large animals (elk, deer, turkey vulture, coyote, etc.) along the tracks. A state highway runs parallel to the tracks (100-300 feet away) but I have found only a handful of carcasses there. For some reason there are way more animals killed by trains vs. vehicles on the nearby highway.

    And to add insult to injury (or death in this case), in our area there are proposals to export coal and crude oil, which will increase the train traffic to 30 times the current traffic, which will almost certainly kill even more animals.

    Here are some photos of the carcasses: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjMC95Jt

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