Highway Mitigation from the Pass to the Elk Valley

If you drive to Alberta along Highway 3 this month, you’ll probably have to slow down when you come up to Emerald and Crowsnest Lakes.

You might sigh and mutter something under your breath about construction, but this is no ordinary road construction. Alberta Transportation is installing wildlife fencing that will span both east and west of Emerald Lake on both sides of the highway. This will be the first highway mitigation construction of its type outside of the National Parks in Alberta.

The purpose of this fencing is to funnel wildlife, especially Bighorn Sheep, under Highway 3 through an existing underpass, preventing animals from crossing the highway or lingering on the shoulders. This fencing will significantly reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions, as it will keep animals off the highway. Should an animal manage to find their way onto the highway, there will be “jump outs” which are a type of ramp that allow animals to get back over the fence away from the highway.

The Crowsnest and Emerald Lakes area is extremely important habitat for Bighorn Sheep, but Highway 3 has threatened their numbers and reduced wildlife connectivity. In a single season up to 10% of the population of resident Bighorn Sheep have been killed in wildlife-vehicle collisions. Further, this stretch of highway sees approximately $25,500 worth of damages from wildlife-vehicle collisions every year. By keeping Bighorn Sheep off the highway there will be significantly fewer animals killed needlessly every year and will save money in the long run.

This kind of action did not happen by chance; it took the involvement of the Miistakis Institute, Y2Y, Road Watch in the Pass, Western Transportation Institute, local scientists and many concerned community members to get this ball rolling.

They worked together to record data on wildlife sightings, write letters to the government, publish reports and advocate for improvements.
Due to the success of these organizations, a similar program called RoadWatchBC has been launched in the Elk Valley. The end goal is the same: to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions through proper highway mitigation. The first step to accomplish this is to collect data on where animals tend to migrate along the highway and determine where appropriate sites for mitigation would be. In order to do this, they are asking for people to help participate in the program.

Participation is easy – all that is required is that people report any wildlife they see along Highways 3 and 93. Passengers in vehicles can do this on-site using the RoadWatchBC mobile app, available for free from the Play Store and App Store.

Drivers can report wildlife at a later date using the online mapping tool available at www.roadwatchbc.ca.

For anyone interested in learning more about the program, the local project coordinator, Beth Millions, is hosting several Science Cafes at The Valley Social (562 2nd Ave, Fernie) on the following dates and times:

September 14 – 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
October 3 – 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
November 1 8 to 9:30 a.m.
November 22 from 2 to 3 p.m.

Come chat with Beth and learn more about what is being done in the Elk Valley to make our highways safer! She’ll be wearing a green shirt!