Wolcott, Vt. – As part of Governor Phil Scott’s “Capitol for a Day” initiative, he toured a wildlife underpass project along Route 15 in Wolcott on lands owned by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. The project promotes safe movement of wildlife under the road and is being completed through a partnership with VTrans, Vermont Fish & Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and the town of Wolcott.
The Wolcott Wild Branch Project will include a wildlife shelf under the Route 15 bridge that encourages wildlife to pass safely under the bridge, in addition to tree plantings on the surrounding lands along the bridge that will allow wildlife to safely approach the underpass. The project also includes the removal of a nearby bridge owned by the town of Wolcott. The bridge abutment sits in the water acting as a barrier to both water and wildlife and had causes dangerous ice jams in the winter.
“This project is an example of effective government in action, with multiple agencies in state government working together with local government and the private sector to benefit both wildlife and people,” said the Governor. “Through this work, we continue to uphold the commitments made by the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premieres to maintain healthy and connected forests and waters as a regional response to climate change. In addition to improving the safe passage of wildlife under the road to reduce risks to motorists, this project increases flood resiliency and improves water quality.”
Governor Scott was joined by Julie Moore, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources; Joe Flynn, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Transportation; Phil Huffman, director of government relations and policy for The Nature Conservancy; and John Austin, lands and habitat manager for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
“Wildlife increasingly needs to move across the landscape to find the resources they need as a result of pressure from climate change and forest fragmentation,” said Jens Hilke, conservation planning biologist for Vermont Fish & Wildlife. “Our strong partnership with VTrans to provide solutions to connecting blocks of habitat in Vermont has resulted in many successes like this one. These projects have multiple benefits to wildlife and people, making roads safer, water cleaner and reducing flood risk.”
The Nature Conservancy raised $225,000 for the project through a grant from the Canaday Family Charitable Trust and is managing the project. Other funding for the project came from a $30,000 grant from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.
“Science shows that climate change is forcing species to move as much as 11 miles north and 30 feet higher in elevation each decade. To do this, they need to be able to move freely throughout the landscape,” said Huffman. “The Nature Conservancy is excited to be working with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and Agency of Transportation, along with other public and private partners, on habitat connectivity projects to achieve this goal. In Wolcott, we are thrilled to be able to offer the funds we raised from the Canaday Family Charitable Trust to complement critical state investments in conservation work.”