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2020-3-9

Bill to manage wildlife collision rate passes General Assembly

By Macy Pressley, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- The General Assembly recently passed a measure that will create a plan to reduce wildlife-related vehicle accidents, though opponents tout the bill as an example of wasteful government spending.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, directs the Virginia departments of Game and Inland Fisheries, Transportation, and Conservation and Recreation to conduct a study to identify areas where wildlife habitat is fragmented by human development and roads with a high wildlife collision rate. 

Marsden said the measure, known as the Wildlife Corridor Action Plan, is intended to help prevent wildlife related car accidents. There were 61,000 such collisions reported in 2016, according to VDOT.

“People get killed in wildlife collisions, mostly with deer,” Marsden said. 

There were 211 deaths from such collisions in the United States, according to State Farm, which tracks deer-related insurance claims across the nation.

The bill would give the DGIF two years to complete a study. Marsden said that after the study is done, the General Assembly will look into building wildlife overpasses along roads identified as problem areas. He said wildlife overpasses were successfully implemented in Charlottesville. 

“They tried this on I-64 in Charlottesville and reduced wildlife collisions by 98%,” Marsden said. 

Ryan Brown, DGIF executive director, said the bill addresses a complex issue and is intended to protect wildlife in two ways. 

Brown said his department will work with other agencies to identify places where development has fragmented wildlife habitats and address the work needed to avoid human and wildlife conflict.

“Wildlife moves around and they don't read road signs,” Brown said. 

The agencies will identify wildlife corridors and study migration routes of native, game and migratory species using existing state data. They will assess human barriers such as roads, dams, power lines and pipelines and determine areas with a high risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions. The study will contain maps to detail such wildlife corridor infrastructure, as well as recommendations for creating safe wildlife crossings. Brown said options might include fencing along problem roads and bridge-like structures to assist wildlife with safe crossing.

Brown said this issue is likely to get worse over time. 

“As wildlife habitat becomes more and more fragmented in an urbanizing Virginia, that makes it difficult in terms of management of wildlife population,” he said. 

Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, voted against the bill. He said the measure would be too costly. 

“ I do not believe the legislation is needed and it will end up creating another bureaucratic process that will cost time and money for no real benefit,” Cole said in an email. “The government is very good at establishing needless bureaucratic hurdles.”

Marsden said the legislation is worthwhile, considering Virginia is one of the top states for wildlife collisions. In 2018, Virginia ranked 12th for deer collisions, with drivers facing a 1 in 99 chance of hitting a deer, according to data from State Farm.

“It’s good for the animals and the drivers,” Marsden said. “It’s worth the effort to save property and save lives.”

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

Walmart provides funds to Jackson-Feild for an Online Curriculum

 

 

The Emporia Walmart store celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2020 serving Emporia and its environs. In recognition of this special milestone a special ceremony was recently held where checks were presented to local charities. Jackson-Feild was one of the beneficiaries.

The funds from Walmart will be used to purchase a one-year license to use ICEV for online vocational education training in a wide range of vocations.  The courses are designed to educate students for career readiness from a wide range of vocational education courses. The goal of this effort is to complete the course and help them pass certification tests from nationally recognized certification bodies to attest to their knowledge in a specific trade to prepare them to enter the working world.

The use of these online courses is a game changer for the students and teachers at Jackson-Feild. The program provides for automatic grading giving student’s instant feedback in real-time to help them adjust and modify their work. It also allows teachers to track student’s proficiency and identify areas that need attention and improvement.

ICEV is a national leader in online vocational education. The students, faculty and staff of the Gwaltney School at Jackson-Field are very grateful to the Walmart Foundation and to management and associates of the Emporia Walmart store for supporting vocational education at Jackson-Feild

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