Infrastructure Bill Passes House, Signed into Law

Infrastructure Bill Passes House, Signed into Law

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684) on November 5, almost three months after the Senate passed the bill, and was signed into law by President Biden’s on November 15. Along with traditional highway and infrastructure funding, the legislation authorizes billions of dollars for habitat conservation projects, infrastructure improvements on federal lands, water conservation and estuary restoration as well as reauthorizing the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. The bill also supports restoration of abandoned mine lands and improvements to culverts to facilitate fish passage. In addition, the bill includes funding for forest restoration projects to reduce hazardous fuels and make forests more resilient to wildfire, and funding for reforestation for wildfire recovery. Notably, the bill includes $350 million over five years for a new competitive grant program to build highway crossings for wildlife.

“By reauthorizing and replenishing the Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund, establishing the Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program, and providing unprecedented funding for hydro connectivity projects and water management, Congress is empowering the creation of thousands of high quality non-exportable American jobs while ensuring programs and policies support the optimization of services that our unique ecosystems provide nationwide for all citizens such as flood attenuation, clean air, and clean water,” said Ron Regan, Executive Director for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “State fish and wildlife agencies stand ready to work with their state and federal agency partners in implementing the important conservation provisions in this historic Act.”

Wildlife crossings have become an increasing priority to improve habitat connectivity and recent construction of overpasses and underpasses is proving to be effective at reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions. In 2019, a workshop hosted by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership brought together wildlife biologists and highway engineers to identify challenges and solutions to the issue. One key finding was that there was no federal highway funding specifically targeted for wildlife crossings. Partners emerged from the workshop working together to direct a portion of infrastructure funding for this purpose.

“Unlike so many issues we face today, we know that there are proven solutions to making our roadways safer for people and wildlife,” said Renee Callahan, Executive Director of Animal Road Crossings (ARC) Solutions in a press release. “Almost 10 years ago, a survey of close to 500 state and federal transportation agency representatives identified funding as the #1 barrier to making a national investment in wildlife crossing structures. Passage of today’s bill, which addresses that obstacle by dedicating $350 million in funding for wildlife infrastructure, is a crucial tipping point in improving human safety, reducing wildlife mortality, restoring connectivity, and creating jobs. I hope you will join me in celebrating this landmark act.”

November 16, 2021