It was a blustery day with thunderstorms threatening but it did not dampen the spirits of a number of agencies called together along Highway 89 in Sierra County south of Sierrville to unveil a $2.8 million project of the State Highway 89 Stewardship Team to increase driver safety and decrease wildlife mortality by reducing wildlife/vehicle collisions. A construction project has been awarded and will commence soon just north of Sagehen Summit on Highway 89 in Sierra County. The project planned to start within the week is the construction of two wildlife undercrossings and construction of 1.3 miles of wildlife fencing along both sides of the highway adjacent to the undercrossings.
As the busy traffic on State Highway 89 passed by, a project groundbreaking ceremony was conducted on Monday, May 2 at the site of the project with twenty guests and agency representatives in attendance. Members of the Highway 89 Stewardship team were present as were representatives from Caltrans, Cal Fish and Wildlife, US Forest Service, Sierra County, California Highway Patrol, UC Field Station at Sagehen, UC Cooperative Extension, Trout Unlimited, and California Deer Association. A brief welcome from Caltrans Deputy Director Tom Brannon, standing behind a custom log podium and under the project banner showcasing a coyote accessing an undercrossing, led into a statement from Tim Beals representing Sierra County and the ceremony rounded out with statements from USFS Ranger Quentin Youngblood, USFS Biologist and Stewardship Team leader Sandra Jacobson, and Jeff Brown, Director of the UC Sagehen Field Station.
This project will complement the existing underpass project to the north at Kyburz Road where state, regional, and international recognition has been developing as the Highway 89 Stewardship Team sets a new standard for wildlife protection, driver safety, and efficient and safe movement of all forms of wildlife. The cost of wildlife/vehicle collisions on an annual basis is a staggering amount.
Supervisor Peter Huebner, a long-standing member of the Stewardship Team, stated “I am so proud to be a part of such a dedicated organization and to see projects developed to protect wildlife and the traveling public”. He went on to state the “Projects like this make it all worth while and I am so appreciative of the support from the other members of the Board of Supervisors”. Supervisor Huebner grabbed a ceremonial shovel and gathered the autographs on the face of the shovel from all of the Highway 89 Stewardship Team members for presentation to the Board of Supervisors at its meeting the following day-obviously portraying a source of great pride to him for the County.
Sandra Jacobson-Chair of the Highway 89 Stewardship Team and USFS Sierraville District Ranger