The Wyoming Department of Transportation is set to receive a federal grant of $14.5 million for a wildlife crossing project in southwest Wyoming.

Designated for the Dry Piney wildlife crossing project, the money will be used for underpasses, fencing and other improvements along a 19-mile stretch of US 189 between La Barge and Big Piney. The work aims to ensure wildlife can continue to use historic migration routes while also making the highway safer for drivers.

"Wyoming has demonstrated leadership in protecting wildlife as they migrate," Governor Mark Gordon said in a news release. "Similar efforts the state has engaged in have not only benefited wildlife, but saved motorists as well."

"Projects like this one draw national attention to our state's efforts to support wildlife health, and also open the door for federal funding of similar projects," Gordon added.

WYDOT Director Luke Reiner said the grant will help reduce vehicle-wildlife collisions, improving highway safety for all. That includes WYDOT workers, who will not have to clean up as many carcasses following collisions.

"Wildlife is valuable to Wyoming, and this project is an investment that helps preserve the historic migration of many big game species," Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Brian Nesvik said. "Underpasses, coupled with fencing, can reduce crashes by 80-90% and ensure animals can safely cross roads to get to seasonal ranges."

The total cost of the project is estimated to be between $12 million and $36.5 million. In addition to the federal grant, the Wyoming Transportation Commission and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission contributed a total of $2.5 million toward the project.

"WYDOT, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and other stakeholders have been studying this issue and have identified several areas in the state where improvements need to be made," WYDOT Chief Engineer Shelby Carlson said. "Dry Piney is one of those areas and this grant will help us make those vital improvements."

Other funding for wildlife conservation projects is headed WYDOT's way, according to Gordon's office. A Casper-area recently donated $25,000 to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, and other donations are pending.

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