Okanogan Wildlife Crossing Campaign

Join us in supporting safe wildlife crossings under Highway 97 in Okanogan County!

More than 350 mule deer a year are hit by cars in one short section of Highway 97 in north-central Washington. Help us create safe passage for deer and other wildlife including endangered lynx by donating to our Okanogan Wildlife Crossing Campaign!

A State Trooper cleans up a road-killed mule deer along Highway 97 near Carter Mountain Wildlife Area. Photo: Jay Kehne

What if you had the power to save a life?

Running alongside the Okanogan River and cutting between the North Cascades to the west and the Kettle River Mountain Range to the east, Highway 97 is a busy transportation corridor that tears through the migration route of Washington’s largest herd of mule deer, and divides critical habitat for Canada lynx and other species.

This stretch of highway has among the state’s highest rate of auto/deer collisions, presenting a huge safety hazard. In fact, more than 350 deer are needlessly killed along just a 12-mile stretch of this highway every year. That’s nearly one deer killed per day…and even that’s a conservative estimate.

These accidents not only cost lives, they also cost a lot of money. Animal-vehicle crashes along Highway 97 alone cost drivers, insurers, and tax payers more than $2,275,000 annually, with an average cost of $6,500 per accident including vehicle damage, Washington State Patrol and emergency medical response, value of the deer, as well as clean up by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). 

We have a plan to provide safe passage through wildlife crossings. You can keep both people and animals safe with a donation.

A graphic rendition of how one wildlife crossing under Highway 97 in the Okanogan Valley would look.

Wildlife Crossings Save Lives

The reality is that highways connect people but divide habitats. Fortunately, wildlife crossings allow animals to cross busy roadways without harm. Deer and elk are the often first to use wildlife crossings but even the most hesitant of animals, like bears and even lynx routinely use them.

Since 1989, Conservation Northwest has worked to connect our region’s most critical habitats via the corridors between them so wildlife can migrate and maintain healthy populations and genetic diversity, even in the face of human development and a changing climate.

 

Check out this video for an overview of our focus on habitat connectivity:

And just look at Interstate 90, which formerly created a bottleneck between Washington’s North and South Cascades. Conservation Northwest spearheaded two successful campaigns—The Cascades Conservation Partnership and the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition—to restore habitat connectivity for the species that call the Cascades home. Wildlife have begun using these newly built crossings to safely get from one side of the busy six-lane highway to the other.

Now, we’re turning our attention to the bottleneck created by development in the Okanogan River Valley, including Highway 97 in central Okanogan County.

Two mule deer use a wildlife undercrossing at I-90 near Snoqulamie Pass. Highway 97 needs similar solutions! Photo: WSDOT

The highway cuts through the path of Washington’s largest herd of mule deer and divides precious habitat for Canada lynx. We aim to secure safe passage for these important species and support habitat connectivity through the implementation of a wildlife crossing under Highway 97 near the Carter Mountain Wildlife Area.

Conservation Northwest has a proven track record of making these life-saving crossings a reality along I-90 and now we need your help to do it again on Highway 97. Donate today to make an new wildlife crossing possible!

We’re working with partners to improve the Cascades to Rockies habitat corridor where it crosses the Okanogan Valley through a collaborative effort called the Working for Wildlife Initiative, facilitated by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and coordinated by Conservation Northwest. A key objective of the Initiative is to create safer passage for people and wildlife on Highway 97 in Okanogan County near Riverside.

A Vital Underpass Along Highway 97

In collaboration with the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT), we have identified a 12.5 mile stretch of this highway where a wildlife underpass is most desperately needed.

The underpass will cost $300,000 to build. Luckily, we are sharing this cost with two key partners, the Mule Deer Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Now we need your support. Please give today!

A sign warns motorists about deer crossing Highway 97 near Carter Mountain. Photo: Jay Kehne

Conservation Northwest is undergoing a campaign to raise our share of the cost—$125,000—by the end of this year. If we achieve that goal, the Washington State Department of Transportation will donate the construction and labor to install an underpass near the Carter Mountain Wildlife Area.

What’s more, the installation of this first underpass will make a great case to the Washington State Legislature to fund additional Highway 97 wildlife crossings project needs in its 2019 Transportation Budget Bill.

This is a rare opportunity to be a part of a tangible solution for safer passage for people and wildlife in north-central Washington. We hope you’ll join us to restore connectivity between the North Cascades and the Columbia Highlands. We owe it to the Mule Deer and Canada lynx whose habitats we’ve divided with a highway, and this is our chance to restore their right of way.

Donate to support Highway 97 Wildlife Crossings today. Your gift has the power to save a life! Learn more about the need for crossings in this WSDOT report or on the SafePassage97.org website.