February 17, 2023

Senate Finance Committee passes wildlife corridors fund

The Senate Finance Committee passed legislation to fund efforts to create wildlife corridors during its Friday meeting.

The committee voted unanimously in favor of SB 72, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque. 

Stewart said about $20 million a year is spent on damages to vehicles and injuries to humans resulting from vehicles hitting wildlife.

“That doesn’t count the cost of losing our wildlife,” she said.

SB 72 creates a new wildlife corridors fund that would be used for studies as well as planning, construction and management of safe road crossings for wildlife.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish have developed 11 priority projects for crossings.

Stewart said if $50 million was allocated to the fund, it would allow the first priority project to be completed. This involves overpasses and underpasses on U.S. Highway 550. The estimated cost for that project is $45 million.

“This is an expensive program, project and problem,” Stewart said.

The bill heads to the Senate floor next.