With the increase of vehicular traffic across the United States, and most other countries, many habitats have or are becoming forever divided, damaged, and broken due to the construction of a road, highway, or interstate.
Much of these habitat disturbances leave wildlife separated from their native territories, and in grave danger when crossing roads, highways, and interstates. In response to the increased threat to wildlife, designers in the Netherlands, during the 1950s, proposed and implemented what is credited as the first “wildlife crossing.” The crossing was a bridge that spanned a two-way highway, allowing cars to pass under, and wildlife to pass over, without the two interacting. This architectural model continues to be implemented today, with design ideas that expanded to tunnels, parabolic bridges, and even waterways crossing waterways.
Wildlife crossings serve 4 purposes:
- Increase wildlife safety;
- Allow for natural wildlife migration;
- Decrease animal related vehicular accidents;
- Weave together separated landscapes.
However, few realize that Green Bridges were conceived, designed, and implemented in Maryland nearly two decades before the 1950s model was constructed in Europe. In the outskirts of Fair Hill, Maryland, William DuPont designed bridges, in the 1930s, which funneled wildlife, horses, and foxhunters, over roadways that ran through his 8,000-acre parcel. With the use of a “super-fence” bordering the roadways, the bridges subsequently stitched together his 8,000-acre parcel of land so no wildlife had to set foot on the road.
Today, wildlife crossings are becoming more common, especially with the onset of competitions such as the ARC wildlife crossing competition. The competition’s goal is to raise “international awareness of a need to better reconcile human and wildlife mobility through a more creative, flexible and innovative system of road and habitat networks in our landscapes.” Dynamic designs from Landscape Architects Valkenburgh & Associates, the Olin Studio, and others, highlighted unique methods of safely and effectively transporting wildlife across a Colorado highway, while weaving together the native landscape.
With increased awareness, creativity, and modularity of wildlife crossings, what do you think the next level of crossings will look like?