Dry Piney wildlife crossings are ‘impressive’


Joy Ufford photos

SUBLETTE COUNTY – It was a small but cheerful group of state officials and wildlife lovers, donors and employees that gathered in the sharp wind and chilly rain off Highway 189 on Thursday morning, Oct. 12, for the Dry Piney wildlife-crossing ribbon cutting event.

The $15-million project between Big Piney and LaBarge was completed in just over a year, with Wyoming Game and Fish and Wyoming Department of Transportation spearheading the much needed design and construction to protect mainly deer and pronghorn that use the range year-round. The wide-open landscape is still intact although with 34 miles of big-game fencing on both sides of the highway to funnel wildlife – and the occasional cow – to nine underpasses connecting one side to the other.

The rate of vehicle collisions with wildlife is expected to drop dramatically with the Dry Piney project’s completion, said those in attendance.

Past Sublette County commissioners Mack Rawhouser and Dr. David Burnett were instrumental in bringing local attention to that area’s high rates of wildlife losses during migration and use of the range.

No current Sublette County commissioners attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, perhaps due to bad weather.

On hand to make quick acknowledgments of the accomplishment were WYDOT Interim Director Darin Westby, Game and Fish Deputy Director Angi Bruce and Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Director Bob Budd, originally from Big Piney.

Others there represented Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, Wyoming Transportation Commission, The Wyldlife Fund, Mule Deer Foundation, Muley Fanatic Foundation and McMillen Construction.

Westby, Bruce and Budd called the Dry Piney project “impressive” and representative of how agencies and organizations can work together to make wildlife crossings part of future highway construction.

Seven underpasses and 8-foot-high fencing along a 13.5-mile stretch of Wyoming Highway 30 west of Kemmerer resulted in an 81 percent reduction in deer-vehicle collisions after three years. Another project on U.S. Highway 191 near Pinedale with underpasses, fencing and two overpasses eliminated pronghorn collisions after three years, and mule deer collisions dropped by 79 percent, according to WYDOT.

Wyoming has identified 240 projects statewide to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.