Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks from the committee hearing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled, “IIJA Investments in Habitat and Ecosystem Restoration, Pollinators, and Wildlife Crossings.”

Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as delivered.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I want to thank the witnesses for coming today and holding this hearing.

“Director Williams, it’s always great to see you, happy birthday. I want to thank you for being always just a phone call away and always eager and ready to help us and our state as we navigate some issues throughout the last several years. So, thank you. I’m deeply appreciative of that.

“Mr. Fouch, I was happy to hear…that you spent some time working at West Virginia Department of Transportation, and living in my home town city of Charleston, West Virginia. So that’s five stars for me. Thank you for your continued public service.

“Today, we are discussing the wildlife provisions that were included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, IIJA.

“I am pleased that the Committee’s surface transportation reauthorization bill was really the foundation of the IIJA. As he said a lot of that was written right in this room.

“One of those provisions was the wildlife crossings pilot program.

“The pilot program provides grants for projects designed to reduce collisions between vehicles and wildlife.

“Last week, the Federal Highway Administration announced grant awards for fiscal years 2022 and 2023.

“FHWA awarded 19 grants at approximately $110 million. And I’m sure you’ll tell us more about that in your statement.

“I’ll be particularly interested in learning about FHWA’s plan to expeditiously get those project grant agreements executed. It’s one thing to say we’re going to grant the money as we know there’s a pipeline then to move that money forward. So we look forward to that.

“It is worth noting that the projects funded under the pilot program may be eligible under some of the existing core highway formula programs, including the Highway Safety Improvement Program.

“Just a few weeks ago, our Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife held a hearing on the challenges and the opportunities to improve migration corridors.

“At that hearing, we heard a lot about how wildlife crossings can facilitate the migration of big game species, particularly in our western states.

“We also learned that there are other federal programs and partnerships between federal agencies, states, and the private landowners to help address these challenges.

“A recent press release from West Virginia’s Department of Transportation noted that according to insurance statistics, my state leads the nation in deer strike accidents. I can attest to that since I’ve had at least two n my lifetime and they’re quite frequent.

“Recently, we spoke with Department staff about this issue.

“The challenges faced in West Virginia are due to the unpredictable nature of these deer strikes.

“We see increases in deer strikes during hunting season from October through December.

“The Department post signs and provides information to the public to increase their awareness about this issue. As a native West Virginian we’re all aware that this is a possibility.

“The Department also balances addressing these collisions with other highway safety challenges in the state.

“As required by federal law, the Department uses a data-driven process to develop a plan that guides its investments to improve highway safety.

“The Department also looks for opportunities to help with species conservation.

“For example, some of the bridges that were built as part of Corridor H project allow species to continue following their natural paths along the ravines.

“The IIJA also included a program that provides grants for activities that benefit pollinators along roadsides and highway rights-of-way. 

“It is my understanding that FHWA hopes to announce a notice of [funding] opportunity for that program in the coming weeks.

“The supplemental appropriations portion of the IIJA also included funding for various regional programs administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“I look forward to hearing from Director Williams on how implementation of those programs is going.

“Thank you again, Chairman Carper, and I look forward to the hearing.”

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