New Sonora Law On Wildlife Crossings 'Encouraging' To Conservationists
Sonoran Congress members unanimously approved an initiative last Thursday making wildlife crossings a part of state law for the first time. Safe passages for animals now have to be included as part of regional planning ordinances that apply to all new state and federal road-building projects.
“The public policy regarding roads are obligated to consider wildlife crossings for different kinds of species, for all types of species," Sonora state congressman Luis Mario Rivera said Friday, after announcing the news during the Jaguar Day Festival in Álamos, Sonora.
Rivera pushed for the legislation, which he called a big step forward in protecting animals and ecosystems in Sonora, including large species like jaguars and black bears that also cross into Arizona.
He said the next step will be working with regional planners to incorporate the new language into their ordinances as soon as possible.
“It’s great news in the context of the Jaguar Festival, and I think it gives hope to everyone here," said Juan Carlos Bravo, director of Western and Mexico programs for Seattle-based nonprofit Wildlands Network.
Wildlands has been pushing for wildlife crossings to be added to Mexico's Highway 2, where it passes through Sonora, just south of the U.S.-Mexico border, and have been working to change policies throughout Mexico to better protect wildlife.
"It’s very encouraging. It’s encouraging to see that legislators are inspired by the work that we’re doing, that they’re inspired by the rationale we’re bringing forward," Bravo said.
He said a turning point in Sonora came after a female black bear was killed on Highway 2 last September. The news raised public awareness about the issue and pressured legislators to act.
Bravo said Wildlands and other nonprofits will work will municipalities as they revise their regional planning ordinances to include language about wildlife crossings.
“The change in law that happened (Thursday) opened up the door and leaves it open for future iterations with more knowledge, with more understanding of wildlife crossings to be incorporated into all of these plans,” he said.