Originally published June 16, 2007
Wildlife-crossing Structure Designed, But Not Yet Funded

Biologist Matt Aresco's dream of a permanent ecopassage at Lake Jackson grinds forward slowly. The anticipated $4.5-million network of tunnels under U.S. Highway 27 at Lake Jackson is currently under design. But the Florida Department of Transportation, which is funding the $440,000 design, has no money to pay for construction.

"There is federal money available for wildlife-crossing structures," Aresco said. "But right now, we have no commitment from any agency to fund construction."

Aresco has lobbied for an ecopassage since 2000, when he began rescuing turtles trying to cross the highway from Lake Jackson to Little Lake Jackson because a drought had dried up their habitat. Along both sides of the highway, he constructed a temporary ecopassage of netting that discourages turtles from crossing the road.

Aresco said animals representing 60 species - such as turtles, alligators, otters, bobcats and beavers - have been killed trying to cross the road even in non-drought times.

Gerald Ensley

Democrat Senior Writer

Contact reporter Gerald Ensley at (850) 599-2310 or gensley@tallahassee.com.