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Wildlife Slaughter Ground Ended



August 13, 2010 – Comments (7)

Here is a different perspective on one of the projects highlighted as "stimulus waste" in the "Bankrupting America" video bouncing around. I can't wait to learn more than the video tells about the drunken Chinese prostitutes.  

Here in Washington, there’s a small group of out-of-touch lawmakers who make a habit of trivializing and mocking animal issues, such as when Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) made light of legislation to halt the trade in primates as pets—even though a woman in Connecticut had just been horribly disfigured by a pet chimpanzee. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is now holding up that bill in the Senate, and he’s targeted yet another project included in the federal stimulus package: a $3.4 million tunnel for turtles.

But when you look under the shell, the Florida highway project dubbed the Lake Jackson Ecopassage, which will help turtles and other animals cross a busy and deadly stretch of U.S. Highway 27 in Tallahassee, is not a fleecing of taxpayers. It’s a wise solution to a pressing problem that makes the highway unsafe for drivers and a slaughter ground for wildlife. The community-based project is supported by local citizens, public officials, and the state Department of Transportation. It has been 10 years in the making and now, thanks to federal stimulus money, has the potential to not only help animals, but also save human lives.

Here’s how the story really began: Ten years ago, a Florida State University graduate student named Matt Aresco noticed a proliferation of dead turtles—some weighing 20 pounds—littering the side of Highway 27.

When he got out of the car to take a look, he picked up 90 dead turtles in a third of a mile stretch of highway. Through painstaking research, he documented the highest rate of turtle mortality on any road in North America—more than 2,000 turtles per mile per year. Ninety-eight percent of the turtles who try to cross, Aresco found, get killed.

Highway 27 was constructed before there were rules about protecting wetlands, and it sliced Lake Jackson, a state aquatic preserve, into two. The turtles—and alligators—follow the same route they’ve traveled for thousands of years, but now it’s a death sentence. Sixty-two species of reptiles, amphibians, and mammals have been found attempting to cross Highway 27.

“I got sort of callous finding the dead turtles,” Aresco told the St. Petersburg Times. “But it's the live ones you see die right in front of you that get to you. In seconds, they are in pieces. Some of these turtles are 30 years old.”

Aresco was the first person who ever tried to do anything about the problem. He started a citizens’ group to advocate for the Lake Jackson Ecopassage. Joined by scores of local schoolchildren, the citizens brought the problem to the local county commission, which agreed immediately to do something to ensure traffic safety and wildlife protection. The county commission brought it to the regional transportation planning agency, which brought it to the Florida Department of Transportation, and after a decade of discussing, voting, planning, and designing, the project is ready to go. In federal stimulus-speak, it is “shovel ready.” A private donor purchased the additional right-of-way needed for the project for $370,000 and donated the land to the state—a perfect example of a public-private partnership that benefits the entire community.

Who would second-guess a community’s very deliberative and measured solution to a problem that has gone on far too long? And who would want to hit a 400-pound alligator, or a turtle the size of a cinder block, at night while speeding down the highway?

In a state like Florida where development is rampant, people and wildlife are being pushed closer together. In Florida alone, there were 46 human fatalities when motor vehicles crashed into wildlife between 1994 and 2003. In one case, in 2005, a 6-year-old girl was killed by a car when she darted onto a Florida highway to help a crossing turtle.

The ecopassage can’t come too soon for people or animals. It will be a series of carefully engineered tunnels to connect the lake underneath the roadway, and a one-mile barrier wall to funnel wildlife safely underneath. Wildlife will be able to safely cross, reducing the danger to themselves and to motorists.

Similar projects already have a proven track record of reducing wildlife mortality, and helping to preserve imperiled species like the Florida panther and black bear. In Gainesville, an ecopassage under a highway that bisects the 18,000-acre Paynes Prairie wetland has been a huge success. Road kill there “has dropped to a dribble,” according to wildlife biologist David O’Neill.

What we have here isn’t a government boondoggle, and shouldn’t be subject to Washington demagoguery. It’s a community-based project that balances wildlife protection with modern life. And the return on our investment will be the lives saved—both human and animal.

7 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On August 13, 2010 at 10:24 PM, devoish (71.21) wrote:

From a Wayne State University press release dated Nov 5th, 2008 - before the stimulus, before President Obama and, I believe, politics as usual.

A $2.6 million grant will help a Wayne State University School of Medicine researcher establish and evaluate whether an alcohol and HIV intervention center can assist in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS among sex workers in China.

Dr. Xiaoming Li, Ph.D., has secured a five-year, $2,629,634 grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health to study the link between alcohol use and the spread of HIV/AIDS among female sex workers in a single southern province in China. The findings could have ramifications for at-risk populations throughout the world.


The sex trade has increased dramatically the last 20 years in China, he said, especially with recent economic reform, and resulting economic disparities. Those not benefitting from China's gradual acceptance of capitalism are often forced to turn to prostitution as a means of survival. Dr. Li said estimates indicate there may be as many as 10 million female prostitutes in China, many of them ranging in age from their teens to their early 20s.

Dr. Li also hopes that the intervention will reduce alcohol abuse, increase condom use and decrease the incidence of HIV/STD infection among female sex workers.

The research findings, he said, will "contribute to our knowledge base regarding the role of social influence and institutional policy in alcohol and sexual risk reduction among various vulnerable and at-risk populations" around the world.

This most recent grant was based on findings from a previous NIH grant to Dr. Li.


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#2) On August 13, 2010 at 10:53 PM, devoish (71.21) wrote:

I cannot find anything on Northwester Universitys website about the robot joke thing. Maybe the reporter is incorrect?

I also cannot find anything about the blackberry to quit smoking  stimulus grant. The American Legacy Foundation has an app to help i-phone users quit but that is as close as I can get.

Help anyone?

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#3) On August 13, 2010 at 10:58 PM, ChrisGraley (28.63) wrote:

A tunnel for turtles under the road is called a pipe.

So congrats on the $3.4 million dollar pipe.

I'm not sure how spending $2.6 million on Chinese prostitutes, (however noble the goal) creates US jobs.

Give me 1 % of your 3.4 million and I think I could build a decent turtle tunnel. China's income is growing enough that  I think they can handle the problems with their prostitutes.

Voters where scratching their heads wondering how all that money being spent didn't create jobs.

They don't have to wonder anymore.

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#4) On August 13, 2010 at 11:11 PM, zymok (27.17) wrote:

If the ecopassage has such great local support, why does it need federal funds and why did it take ten years to get going?

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#5) On August 13, 2010 at 11:53 PM, ChrisGraley (28.63) wrote:

Give me half of what you spent on the tunnel and not only will I build a tunnel, but I'll open up a Starbucks on the other side to give them a place to rest and socialize after the crossing.

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#6) On August 14, 2010 at 2:48 AM, zymok (27.17) wrote:

They've built a few passages, and a wall to funnel the critters to them.  In other words, they're going to be funneling alligators and turtles into the same areas.

This is great for the alligators.  In fact, expect them to permanently colonize the culverts.  Why should they hunt when they can stay put and have their meals come to them?

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#7) On August 14, 2010 at 9:37 AM, devoish (71.21) wrote:


You could not even get your imaginary burger joint floor swept clean without petitioning the Federal Government for rule changes. You cannot handle this project with a pipe (and I do not believe you read your contracts if you cannot even click a link). Clearly you are not the man for this job.

zymok and ChrisGraley,

The best possible solution (for the wildlife) would probably a bridge allowing the turtles and alligators the full 3/4 mile length of the wetland to be crossed or a road that goes around the wetlnd instead of across it. Bet either one costs alot more than 3.4 million dollars making this solution cost effective Democratic government.


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