I was extremely pleased to read Allen Best’s “Dismantling the wall to wildlife in Colorado.” Many of us who drive along Highway 74 through Evergreen think about the issues of wildlife-vehicle collisions every time our tires roll onto the asphalt. I founded a nonprofit organization in December 2019, to tackle this problem. Wild Aware has been working with CDOT and CPW for three years on wildlife-vehicle mitigation efforts on Highway 74.
In 2021, after close consideration for a wildlife underpass, CDOT and CPW informed Wild Aware that, among other things, land ownership along Highway 74 (at least one side of the highway is private property for the entire 7 miles from I-70 to the lake) precluded our community from being a candidate for a structure. We have been successful at requesting and receiving intermittent installations of Variable Message Signs along Highway 74 on six occasions over the past 3 years and CDOT has awarded Highway 74 permanent signs to be installed in 2023.
Wild Aware celebrates the addition of an underpass on I-70 at Genesee and an overpass on I-40 near Empire. These projects will benefit our wildlife tremendously and we congratulate CPW and CDOT for coming together on these projects. There are many more wildlife crossing structures planned throughout Colorado and across the west due to a new appreciation of the problem and funding to support mitigation.
Driving safely on Highway 74 requires a shift in mindset. Rather than the means to an end, Highway 74 is also where we live and is as central to the Evergreen experience as Elk Meadow and Evergreen Lake. Wild Aware encourages us to think of Evergreen as a wildlife park. Over every hill and around every corner, elk could be standing or, as we know, on a slow meander across the road. In 2023, Evergreen lost 58 animals including six bears, 21 deer and 29 elk to Highway 74. That number represents about half of the actual roadkill count.
For more information about our work with CDOT and CPW as well as our current programs including barbed wire removal and Evergreen Lake Wildlife Watch, please visit our website at www.WildAware.org.
Founder and President, Wild Aware, Evergreen