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Social media contest asks students to draw attention to first wildlife overcrossing east of Snoqualmie Pass

PrintToday the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition and the Washington State Department of Transportation launch a social media contest asking students to show that they “Heart I-90 Wildlife” on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

The contest is part of our annual Bridging Futures project, geared towards educating youth about safe wildlife passage along the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass corridor.

Students grades K-12 interested in entering are asked to visit the contest web page, choose one or more species from a list of native Cascade Mountains wildlife, illustrate the wildlife, take a photo of their art, and post it to Instagram using the hashtag #iHearti90Wildlife.

Awards will be given in several categories, including best group collection, best mammal or bird, best amphibian, reptile, or mollusk, most creative entry, and people’s choice. Prizes include GoPro HEROs, customized #iHearti90Wildlife T-shirts, and REI gift cards.

The contest runs from March 25 to May 11, 2015. Winners will be announced in late May.

WSDOT will start building the wildlife crossing over I-90 this summer. The structure will be located 10 miles east of Snoqualmie Pass as part of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project.

Watch a short video on the contest by clicking on this image.

Watch a short video on the contest by clicking on this image.

Links for more information:

  • 2015 Bridging Futures #iHearti90Wildlife contest:  http://i90wildlifebridges.org/bridging-futures-2015/
  • 2015 Bridging Futures #iHearti90Wildlife contest promotion video:  https://youtu.be/ktCeiWxp2sc
  • I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I90/SnoqualmiePassEast/

I-90 project remains a funding priority in Olympia

Last week, the Senate Transportation Committee in the Washington State Legislature released a transportation $15 billion transportation package along with an incremental 11.7 cent gas tax increase over three years.  It is a complex package including 11 bills total, including eight reform bills, a bond bill, a revenue bill and a spending bill.  The lawmakers described the package as a compromise, which is ready for public discussion and dissection.

The package proposes funding for specific projects, including enough funding to complete the entire 15-mile I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.  The package provides just over $426 million to the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project to fund the remaining eight miles including a series of wildlife underpasses and a wildlife overpass at Easton Island.  The dollar figure accounts for the anticipated inflation over the duration of this package from passage to project construction.  This funding level is an increase over the amount that was included for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project in the Governor’s transportation proposal Lets Move Forward late last year.

Thanks to the leadership of Senator Curtis King and Representative Judy Clibborn, Interstate 90 has been recognized as a high priority in transportation discussions to date as the major east-west transportation corridor in our state.  They worked with project supporters to ensure that savings from the construction of Phase 1 of the project were kept on the project to keep it moving forward, which provided funding for Phase 2A that breaks ground later this year (and includes the first wildlife overpass).  We hope they continue to work together as these transportation packages are discussed and evolve to ensure that the funding level in the Senate proposal to complete the I-90 project is upheld.

New video on citizen monitoring highlights efforts along I-90

Screenshot from Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project video.

Screenshot from Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project video.

Conservation Northwest, a member of the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, just released a video on the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project that we join together to implement annually in the Cascades.  This video not only provides a background to the program and a great series of wildlife photos from the remote cameras in the field, but features why monitoring in the I-90 wildlife corridor is so important.

View this new video and learn more about what citizens in Washington are doing to document wildlife around the state and along I-90.

Wolverine tracks recorded 8 miles north of I-90

Wolverine.  Credit:  US Fish and Wildlife Service

Wolverine. Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Both agency researchers and citizen scientists have been working together in recent years in complementary efforts to document the recovery of wolverines in Washington’s Cascade Mountain Range.  Recent work by the US Forest Service and Washington Department of Transportation found highly credible wolverine tracks in the snow just 8 miles north of I-90.  It’s exciting for our coalition to imagine this incredible species utilizing the wildlife crossing structures in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project in the future to safely roam between the north and south Cascades.

Learn more about this recent news in a posting from our coalition partner Conservation Northwest.

See a King 5 story following US Forest Service biologist Aja Woodrow into the field to set up research stations to capture wolverine photos (and catch a glimpse of some of the results).

And, keep reporting the wildlife that you see from I-90 when traveling between North Bend and Easton at www.i90wildlifewatch.org

Governor Inslee includes Phase 2 of I-90 project in transportation funding proposal

Yesterday, Governor Jay Inslee announced a 12-year transportation improvement plan entitled Lets Move Forward that recognizes the high priority of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. The investment plan introduces proposals for new funding mechanisms to invest in our states transportation system, while identifying high priority transportation projects that need to keep moving forward – including Interstate 90.

According to the Governor, the plan “charts a path forward by building on the bipartisan spirit of past efforts and offering a good-faith compromise to spark action in the next legislative session. And it introduces a paradigm shift to breathe new life into this effort. Rather than raising a gas tax on everyone, our worst polluters will pay instead. This market-based carbon pollution fee, along with other bonds and previously agreed-to fees, will raise $12.2 billion over 12 years to pay for balanced investments across the state — the equivalent of the amount of revenue generated by a 12 cent gas tax increase, without the tax.”

The investment plan dedicates $170,900,000 towards the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project to complete Phase 2 of the total 15-mile project, see a map of the project’s phases by clicking here (and scrolling down to Page 2).  This investment builds off of the cost-savings that were accrued during construction of the first phase of the project, and are being dedicated to building Phase 2A which includes the project’s first wildlife overpass.

Unlike some highway mega-projects in Washington, the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project benefits from a diverse set of supporters statewide and is ready to build.  $390 million is needed to complete the entire project, which seems like a wise investment when looking at our state’s most important east-west transportation corridor.

We are happy to see the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project recognized as a statewide priority in the Governor’s Lets Move Forward transportation investment plan, while we look forward to exploring the opportunity to invest to not only keep the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project moving forward but headed towards completion in the coming session.

47,921 acres of habitat conserved in the greater I-90 corridor

Yesterday, acquisition of 47,921 acres of land  in the Central Cascades by The Nature Conservancy from Plum Creek Timber Company was announced.  These acres include irreplaceable habitat for wildlife, including elk and bear, as well as rare and threatened species such as wolverine and spotted owl. Touching three lakes and adjacent to the Teanaway Community Forest, this project connects some of the most ecologically diverse forests in the world.

“We are incredibly pleased that The Nature Conservancy has made such a huge commitment to conserving important fish and wildlife habitat in the Upper Yakima Basin. This land is a critical connective corridor between the north and south Cascades for hundreds of species, and their acquisition of these checkerboard lands removes the risk of incompatible development. TNC’s approach to managing their lands for ecological integrity will be essential for the long term health of these species. We welcome them to the partnership that is building safe passage for wildlife across I-90 and this landscape,” said Charlie Raines, I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition Director.

Among the many groups that have worked to conserve this great landscape are The Cascade Conservation Partnership, Forterra, Conservation Northwest, Mountains to Sound Greenway, Trust for Public Land, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Rocky Mtn. Elk Foundation, the Alpine Lakes Protection Society, and the many members of our own coalition. The Forest Service, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Washington State Parks, and Washington Department of Transportation are agencies that have made substantial contributions to this effort.

“We are not only thrilled with this announcement of conservation today, but the opportunities for restoration of habitats and watershed health that this presents for tomorrow,” said Jen Watkins of I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition.

View maps of the parcels protected and learn more.

Doris Duke Conservation Scholars visit I-90 corridor

Patty_Craig_DDSatI-90Partners working to maintain and restore habitat connectivity in the I-90 corridor hosted the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars in the field yesterday to help them see what connectivity conservation looks like on the ground and why it is so important.  The Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at the University of Washington brings together a diverse, committed, and exciting group of students from around the country for an 8-week journey from the urban jungle to the old growth forest and back in Washington. They explore why conservation can make a difference, and how they can make a difference in conservation.

On their first day leaving the urban jungle of Seattle, they arrived at Gold Creek pond just east of Snoqualmie Pass to begin their afternoon journey in the I-90 corridor.  They were met by Craig Broadhead (WSDOT), Patty Garvey-Darda (US Forest Service), Jen Watkins (Conservation Northwest and I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition), Aja Woodrow (US Forest Service), and Josh Zylstra (WSDOT).  Over lunch they got an overview on the regional context of how the I-90 corridor is the connective link between Washington’s north and south Cascades, and why connectivity is so important for fish and wildlife today and into a changing future.  Then, the students were taken on a tour through the I-90 corridor that included remote camera checks and visits to the wildlife underpasses already constructed.

Today the scholars moved on to other locations and experiences in the Washington including heading further north into the Cascades, and hopefully now with an understanding everytime they drive I-90 of how important the landscape surrounding them is.

Creative ideas for Snoqualmie Pass wildlife crossings win scholarships for 2 high school students

"The structure I am proposing is a bridge, not unlike a normal highway entrance/exist overpass," said contest winner Connor Gill.  "The more natural look and setting of the crossing should increase use of the bridge by animals."

“The structure I am proposing is a bridge, not unlike a normal highway entrance/exist overpass,” said contest winner Connor Gill. “The more natural look and setting of the crossing should increase use of the bridge by animals.”

Two Washington high school students are earning green for college in a scholarship contest focused on bringing fresh ideas to creating safer passage for wildlife and motorists on I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass.

Connor Gill, a sophomore at Delta High School in Richland, received a $1500 scholarship from the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition and a week-long adventure with the Cascade Mountain School for submitted an essay and artistic rendition of a wildlife overpass that garnered the top votes from our review panel. Second prize went to Sarah Zhou, a junior at Issaquah High School, whose essay and designs allowed wildlife to move both under and over the interstate earning her a $500 scholarship.

“Connor is an engineer in the making. He did a great job creating a bridge design for wildlife,” said Brian White, Assistant Regional Administrator for Project Development and I-90 with the Washington Department of Transportation after a review of the entries. “Sarah did a wonderful job designing and explaining her wildlife crossing concept. She obviously did her homework about the dangers I-90 poses to wildlife.”

In the 2014 Bridging Futures Scholarship contest co-hosted by the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, high school students from across the state were asked to provide concepts that tackle the same problem WSDOT engineers are solving: Building a wildlife crossing over I-90. The crossing had to be similar to the structure scheduled to be built in 2015 near the Price Noble Creek Sno-Park and temporary rest area. The wildlife crossing is part of the second phase of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project.

Entries were reviewed by coalition and WSDOT staff to select the winners. “Connor and Sarah showed a real grasp of the challenges when wildlife encounter highways, and suggested creative solutions to insure safe passage for the animals as well as vehicles on I-90.They both incorporated elements to insure the passages are effective for a wide variety of wildlife species. We are pleased to be able to help further their education,” said Charlie Raines, I-90 Wildlife Bridges Director.

"I-90 is dangerous to many species of wildlife such as deer, elk, coyotes, and bobcats who want to move freely between habitats on both sides of the highway," said runner-up Sarah Zhou in her essay.

“I-90 is dangerous to many species of wildlife such as deer, elk, coyotes, and bobcats who want to move freely between habitats on both sides of the highway,” said runner-up Sarah Zhou in her essay.

In addition to wildlife crossings that help reconnect habitat in the central Cascades, WSDOT is improving I-90 by building a new six-lane freeway from Hyak to Keechelus Dam. This project:

  • Replaces deteriorated concrete pavement in the existing lanes and shoulders for a smoother ride
  • Stabilizes rock slopes to reduce the risk of rocks falling onto the roadway
  • Extends chain-up and -off areas to improve safety
  • Straightens sharp curves to improve visibility
  • Replaces the snowshed east of Snoqualmie Pass with new avalanche bridges
  • Adds lights, traffic cameras and variable message signs.

WSDOT received funding from the 2005 gas tax package to design and construct this project. The first five miles of improvements are scheduled to be complete in 2017.

Hyperlinks within the news item:

  • I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Web page: www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I90/SnoqualmiePassEast/
  • I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition: www.i90wildlifebridges.org/
  • Connor Gill’s winning entry:  Essay and artistic design
  • Sarah Zhou’s runner-up entry:  Essay and artistic design

Bridging Futures has been an annual contest since 2006 co-hosted by Washington Department of Transportation and I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, click here to learn more about its history.

 

 

 

First terrestrial crossing under Gold Creek underpass

Credit:  WSDOT

Credit: WSDOT

The image may be a little blurry, but it is historical.  On May 19, 2014 a deer was caught on one of Washington Department of Transportation’s remote cameras placed underneath one of the completed Gold Creek underpasses in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. 

This photograph was complimented by a report from a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife employee who witnessed two deer walking through the same underpass.

You may remember our cameras in the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project captured a swimming mammal last year under one of the Gold Creek underpasses, and now we have our first terrestrial safe crossing.

Stay tuned as the story continues to unfold, and more safe crossings happen through these underpasses.

 

CWU opens exhibit on I-90 crossings – April 17th

Cougar.  Credit:  WDFW

Cougar. Credit: WDFW

Central Washington University’s Museum of Culture and Environment will host an opening reception for its latest exhibit, How did the Cougar Cross the Road: Restoring Wildlife Passages at Snoqualmie Pass, at 5:30 p.m. April 17.

Refreshments will be served as visitors explore the brand new exhibit that tells the story of wildlife connectivity corridors linking animal populations formerly divided by Interstate 90. Follow in the footsteps of native fauna over a recreated wildlife overpass and discover how the cougar crosses the road, and how humans are helping.

A series of speakers including Yvonne Prater, author of Snoqualmie Pass: From Indian Trail to Interstate; Al Aronica (Kittitas Band of the Yakama Nation), Brian White (WSDOT), Jason Smith (WSDOT) and Patty Garvey-Darda (USFS) will discuss their knowledge and research concerning the history of Snoqualmie Pass and its wildlife passages. For more information, go to www.cwu.edu/museum.

The Museum of Culture and Environment is at CWU on the first floor of Dean Hall, 1200 N. D St., in Ellensburg. The museum is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Parking is free on the CWU campus after 4:30 p.m. and on weekends. For more information, email Museum@cwu.edu or call 963-2313.

Press contact: Sarah Jane Johnson, Central Communication Agency, 253-350-7322253-350-7322, johnsonsar@cwu.edu