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Bird's-eye view of Highway 97 in Okanogan County

Posted by Jen Watkins at Aug 27, 2011 10:20 AM |

In a recent flight with Lighthawk, Conservation Northwest's Jay Kehne soared high over Highway 97 in Okanogan County and a key east-west corridor for wildlife between the Cascades and northeast Washington. Proposed near Riverside are a twin set of wildlife underpasses that would protect mule deer and other wildlife. This stretch of highway is one of the top 10 deer-vehicle collision locations in the state. Animal crossings would help protect wildlife from road kill.

Bird's-eye view of Highway 97 in Okanogan County

View of Highway 97 and surrounding landscape from the sky. As one of the state's worst deer-vehicle collision areas, it's ripe for a discussion about wildlife crossing structures.

Yesterday, Conservation Northwest staffer Jay Kehne, along with two other passengers, took flight over the Highway 97 corridor in Okanogan County.  This corridor provides a key north-south connection for freight and travelers in Central Washington, but it bisects an east-west connection for wildlife between the Cascades and northeast Washington.

The Washington Department of Transportation has proposed a twin set of wildlife underpasses north of Riverside on this stretch of highway to improve connectivity for wildlife, while creating a safer highway for travelers.  This stretch of highway is one of the top 10 deer-vehicle collision locations in the state.  As the state considers the appropriate location and design of any potential underpasses, they hope to engage the local community before any further design work occurs or funding is sought.

As the community discussion begins this year, we decided what better way is there to take a look at the proposal than from the air?  With the generosity and partnership of Lighthawk and their volunteer pilot Hunter Handsfield, we boarded a plane with Ron Knapp of Mule Deer Foundation and Okanogan County Commissioner Andy Lampe to take a look at the landscape and highway from the sky.

"Looking at Okanogan County's landscapes from the air is a great experience.  It really helps you understand the place we live and the places occupied by people, wildlife and how it is all connected," Jay said.

Now that the flight is over, discussions and field trips from the ground will continue until another set of passengers is ready to take a look at this proposal from the sky on a clear day.

 

 

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