New funding opportunities for improving wildlife connectivity

New funding opportunities for improving wildlife connectivity
By Kaitlin Kozlowski
Jan 23, 2024
Federal funding opportunities for wildlife connectivity projects are increasingly available under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

Improving connectivity for wildlife, such as through building wildlife crossings and making other modifications to linear transportation infrastructure, is often a costly endeavor. While the benefits of these mitigation actions ultimately outweigh the costs, the initial monetary investment can present a barrier to project planning, design, and construction. 

Wildlife must navigate a human-dominated landscape of highways that are difficult to cross—and often deadly. In the U.S., over one million wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) occur each year and result in the deaths of around 200 people

A number of new policies, laws, and regulations require federal agencies to promote and incorporate wildlife connectivity concerns into their processes. But sufficient funding is needed to ensure that these projects are built in a timely manner and that they reflect the best available science in order to effectively contribute to ecosystem resilience. 

One such funding source is the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. IIJA provides new and expanded federal funding opportunities for a variety of projects, including those that benefit wildlife movement and connectivity. 

What is the IIJA? 

The IIJA, signed into law by President Biden in 2021 , designated $1.2 trillion between fiscal years 2022 and 2026 for U.S. infrastructure projects. $110 billion of this funding is devoted to investing in roads, bridges, and other major projects to build safe, equitable, and resilient transportation systems. 

Additional infrastructure funding categories under the IIJA include power and grid, passenger and freight rail, broadband, water infrastructure, resiliency, airports, ports/waterways, public transit, electric vehicles and buses, and safety and research. These funding areas are more broadly categorized as transportation; climate, energy, and the environment; or broadband . 

What IIJA programs support wildlife connectivity? 

Terrestrial wildlife connectivity projects are eligible for a number of new, expanded, or existing funding programs. These include: 

  • Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program
  • Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability & Equity (RAISE)
  • Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program
  • National Culvert Removal, Replacement & Restoration Program
  • Bridge Investment Program
  • Tribal Transportation Program Safety Fund
  • Nationally Significant Federal Lands & Tribal Projects Program PROTECT
  • Pollinator-Friendly Program
  • Bridge Formula Program
  • Highway Safety Improvement Program

Eligible applicants vary by program and can include federal land management agencies, tribes, state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, local governments, and groups composed of these entities. Applicants can apply for funding, and can partner with additional entities including foundations, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and other federal, tribal, regional, or state government entities. 

Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program

Among these listed programs, the Federal Highway Administration’s $350 million Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program is the only program wholly focused on providing funding for projects that both reduce WVCs and improve habitat connectivity of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. The goal of the project is to make roads safer for both humans and wildlife by preventing WVCs, while also promoting ecological connectivity. 

Of the $350 million total, at least $210 million must be awarded to projects that occur in rural areas, where drivers are at an increased risk of WVCs. In addition to projects that result in construction of a crossing, those that qualify for funding also include non-construction planning, research, outreach, and feasibility analysis projects. Research topics can range from safety innovations, mapping, and tracking tools, to the design and construction of overpasses and underpasses.

With various federal funding sources available for wildlife connectivity improvements, including funds designated solely for these types of projects through the Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program, the IIJA provides a valuable resource for nationwide wildlife connectivity efforts

Meet the author
  1. Kaitlin Kozlowski, Biologist
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