East Vail Pass I-70 Wildlife Crossing
I-70 sees an average of 23,000 vehicles a day creating an extreme barrier for wildlife attempting to access pristine habitat. We flew the highway with stakeholders, CDOT, USFS leaders, Eagle County and Town of Vail representatives, and conservationists examining a project that will create three wildlife crossings in this high priority area.
Summit County has seen wide-spread support in protecting regional wildlife. The Summit County Safe Passages Plan, the outcome of a comprehensive scientific study, recommends three wildlife passages on East Vail Pass -one overpass and two underpasses - across westbound I-70 lanes.
Our overflight examined East Vail Pass, the Plan's focus area that is bustling with cars but surrounded by rugged natural landscapes and some of the Colorado's most important wildlife habitat that provides for threatened Canada Lynx, Rocky Mountain Elk, and mule deer. On the north side of the roads is the Eagles Nest Wilderness area containing over 133,000 acres of undeveloped forest. The south side is undeveloped Forest Service land, which is managed to protect habitat connectivity. The only barrier between the two wildlife areas is I-70, which sees on average 23,000 vehicles a day.
Existing span bridges on the eastbound lane provide passages that wildlife use to get from the forest to the wide median between the lanes, where West Tenmile Creek and the Vail Pass Recreation Trail are. But without a way to cross the westbound lanes, wildlife is cut off from important habitat. The fragmentation has serious impacts on the health and viability of wildlife populations.
Click for geo-referenced photos from the flight- this .kmz file is best viewed in Google Earth