Elk Network‘Bridge to Nowhere’ Dream about to Come True for Late RMEF Member

General | February 29, 2024

It was Carl Wilson’s idea. And he tried to push it across the finish line the final decade of his life.

The goal focused on a bridge abandoned for 50 years, a “bridge to nowhere” if you will, that still stands over Interstate-90 near the small North Idaho community of Osburn and transform it into a wildlife crossing to protect animals above and drivers below.

“A local guy, one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet, who really had a dream and a vision, and he bugged people for a good decade,” Kirsten Voorhees, an Osburn resident and civil engineer who specializes in bridges and animal crossings, told KREM-TV. “He said, ‘I need you to promise me that you’re going to finish this thing if I don’t make it.’”

Unfortunately, Wilson, an avid hunter and former member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, passed away in late 2022. Some 14 months later, Vorhees continues to carry the torch but now does so with a load of support and a realistic eye toward making that project a reality.

In late 2023, RMEF announced the reinforcement of a long-standing partnership with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) to support the conservation of western big game migration corridors. RMEF’s $400,000 commitment will be matched by a WAFWA ratio of at least 3-to-1, resulting in $1.2 million for the effort.

The funding goes toward shovel-ready projects in 11 states and six WAFWA-member states that support landscape-scale movements of elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and other wildlife. On that project list is an Idaho reference to “repurpose an obsolete vehicle overpass into a big game crossing.”

That RMEF announcement was in conjunction with a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announcement with further details about the project between the Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe National Forests that includes two miles of fencing to funnel wildlife to the overpass and 10 one-way gates, again to facilitate migratory movement. The cost-effective effort will complement an underpass structure along the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River to improve habitat connectivity for many species ranging from grizzly bears and wolverines to fishers.

“He came to me in, like, 2008, when it was just a twinkle in his eye. It just lit a fire under him,” Kip McGilvery, Osburn mayor told the Spokesman Review. “It’s good to see his dream, that he worked on so hard for all those years, come to fruition.”

Pending environmental review and approval, the project may take up to two years to complete.

Click here to view a news report about the project and here to visit the Osburn ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ Animal Corridor Conversion Project Facebook page.

(Photo credit: KREM-TV)