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Summit County Safe Passages for Wildlife:

A County-wide Connectivity Plan


The Summit County Safe Passages Plan (October 2017) is the product of a
year-long effort among agencies, local governments, non-profits, The Safe Passages Plan
community groups, landowners and other interested parties that provides provides a vision for
a common vision and specific recommendations for protecting wildlife creating safe passages
movement corridors and reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions. The plan for wildlife and
identifies areas for wildlife movement across Summit County and reducing wildlife-
specifically, the need for wildlife to move across highways. This plan is vehicle collisions in
designed to be a guide to help decision-makers across agencies and Summit County.
organizations to integrate wildlife movement needs into transportation
projects, land use and land management in Summit County.

Healthy, connected wildlife populations provide many ecological, social and economic benefits in
Summit County. Roads and traffic are barriers to wildlife movement, preventing animals from accessing
the resources they need. Wildlife-vehicle collisions are a safety concern for motorists, and result in
property damage, injuries and fatalities, at a cost to society of $53.7 million per year in Colorado.

The Safe Passages Plan:


Summit County Safe • Creates a common vision for multi-species landscape connectivity in
Passage Partners Summit County based on existing data and expertise;
• Recommends the best locations for crossing structures for different
USDA Forest Service  types of wildlife, and compatible land management actions in wildlife
Colorado Department of movement areas;
Transportation  Colorado • Brings together stakeholders from state and federal agencies, the
Parks and Wildlife  county, towns, ski areas, recreation interests, private landowners and
Summit County  Town of other parties to work together across boundaries.
Breckenridge  Town of
Dillon  Town of Frisco  Seventeen wildlife linkage areas were identified along state highways in
Town of Silverthorne  Summit County. These linkage areas were prioritized based on wildlife
Vail Resorts  Arapahoe and biological values, safety hazards, threats to connectivity, and the
Basin  National Forest opportunity to implement mitigation and conservation measures. Site
Foundation  Rocky visits with stakeholders and engineers were conducted in the Summer of
Mountain Wild  Friends 2017 to review recommendations for wildlife crossing structures in high
of the Lower Blue  Lower priority linkage areas. The stakeholder group provided input on the
Blue Planning Commission engineering feasibility of constructing a wildlife crossing structure at
specific locations; identified additional land use challenges and
 Friends of the Dillon
management needs at each location; and highlighted the highest priority
Ranger District
and most feasible locations for wildlife-highway mitigation.
The stakeholder group identified three priority linkages in which to commence implementation efforts
via locally-formed linkage teams and a centralized coordination and communication committee.

Lower Blue River – State Highway 9 (mileposts 109-118.8)


The Lower Blue linkage area is a broad, mostly flat valley
through which the Blue River winds north. The landscape is
composed of extensive agricultural fields, rural residential
development, aspen and sagebrush steppe. This linkage
provides important winter range and transitional habitat for
elk and mule deer. Dispersing moose and large carnivores are
also common throughout the linkage area. Four wildlife
crossing structures are proposed along a 4-mile stretch in the
northern portion of the linkage (mileposts 114.8 – 118.3), including a wildlife overpass, an arch
underpass, and two bridge replacements over the Blue River. The private lands surrounding the
proposed crossing structures are protected by conservation
easements.

Upper Blue River – State Highway 9 (mileposts 80.1-85.6)


The Upper Blue River linkage is a wide riparian valley with
extensive willow complexes and riparian systems along the
Blue River, with forested habitat along either side. This
landscape provides habitat for moose, deer and elk
movements, as well as dispersing Canada lynx. Extensive
residential development confines wildlife movement through
this linkage. Ongoing development, alongside increasing traffic volumes and recreation activity will
continue to limit wildlife movement through this linkage areas.

Vail Pass – Interstate 70 (mileposts 190-194)


The Vail Pass linkage area extends from Copper Mountain Ski
Resort to the top of Vail Pass. I-70 through this linkage is a
divided highway with a wide, natural, open median. Five large
span bridges are present under the eastbound highway lanes;
however, there is only one bridge under the westbound lanes
and no direct connections between these bridges exist to allow
for wildlife passage beneath both the east and westbound lanes
of the interstate. Three crossing structures are recommended
across the westbound lanes to improve connectivity for
wildlife, including one of the few known breeding populations of Canada lynx outside of southwest
Colorado, as well as elk, moose, mule deer and other fauna.

For more information and to get involved


contact Ashley Nettles 970-262-3457 or anettles@fs.fed.us