Accidents resulting from wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) cause billions of dollars in damages per year.
The economic cost of WVCs can be separated into private and public costs. Private costs borne by the individual involved in the WVC include the cost of human injury and fatality, and property damage. Public costs include those borne by public entities that manage responses to vehicle collisions and those resulting from the loss of the animal’s life including lost hunting value, lost existence value, and lost ecological value. Wildlife crossings are an effective tool for improving road safety, restoring habitat connectivity, and ensuring the wellbeing of wildlife populations. Across geographies and species type, wildlife crossings have a proven return on investment for road safety and ecological conservation.
Wildlife crossing infrastructure, such as overpasses or underpasses, serves the dual purposes of facilitating habitat connectivity and improving roadway safety. Structures vary in scope and scale, with cost ranging from less than $1 million for a small underpass to $6–7 million for a larger structure such as a double span overpass. Crossings are commonly funded as components of large-scale transportation improvement projects, or through multiple braided, one time funding sources including single one-time legislative appropriations. Despite the important functions they play, investment in wildlife crossing has been limited by a lack of sustained public funding.
However, a new funding opportunity emerged with the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The IIJA allocates $350 million to a new pilot program for supporting wildlife crossings, starting with $60 million in 2022 and increasing by $5 million increments through 2026. Creating dedicated funding for this infrastructure requires support from local, state, and federal government entities as well as effective communication of the benefits to the public. This analysis identifies potential revenue options that can serve as consistent revenue for crossings and can be utilized to leverage funding from the IIJA pilot program.
ECONorthwest’s analysis, commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts, evaluates revenue mechanisms within a framework that acknowledges both the private and public costs (including ecological costs) of WVCs. The traditional economic framework dictates that those that benefit from wildlife crossings should pay for the cost of the new infrastructure. In this analysis, Nexus defines this idea and provides the basis for the selection of the revenue mechanisms.
For this analysis, we group funding mechanisms into two categories: transportation funding and conservation funding, to account for the differences in land ownership and stakeholders across different potential segments of a wildlife crossing. Transportation infrastructure is critical to human connectivity, economic competitiveness, and often represents major financial responsibility for all levels of government. However, roads and associated traffic lead to human-wildlife conflicts in the form of WVCs, which threaten both human safety and ecological sustainability.
The following revenue mechanisms have a high capacity alone, or in combination, as a dedicated source of revenue to fund wildlife crossing infrastructure:
- User fees for wildlife crossings
- Auto insurance premiums
- Optional vehicle/truck title registration fees
- Sales/excise taxes on outdoor sporting goods
- Mandatory parks user fees