San Antonio, Texas Unveils Largest Highway Crossing for Wildlife in U.S.
As the coronavirus pandemic has kept many people apart, two sides of a Texas park have finally come together.
The Robert L.B. Tobin Land Bridge, which connects San Antonio's Phil Hardberger Park across a six-lane highway, opened Friday afternoon for people and animals alike. A project ten years in the making, the bridge is now the largest completed wildlife crossing of its kind in the U.S.
"For many years, the Robert L.B. Tobin Land Bridge was only a dream. Thanks to overwhelming community support of the 2017 Bond, the generosity of donors from across the city and the hard work and dedication of so many, the vision is now a reality," former San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger said in a City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation press release. "I am honored to invite San Antonians to come experience the Land Bridge and hope it will offer them an escape from the stresses of this year — a place where they may spend time with family and friends and connect with the natural world."
The Robert L.B. Tobin Land Bridge is united! The trail over the Land Bridge is now open! You are invited to come e… https://t.co/Stl7q6zgF0— Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy (@Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy)1607713512.0
The idea for the bridge first emerged in 2010, before the park had even opened, KSAT reported. Park planners knew that the park would be bisected by Wurzbach Parkway, interrupting park goers' experience and putting animals at risk.
Hardberger, who was the leading official behind the idea for the bridge, said that animals would often try to cross the highway.
"Even though you do put up barriers, they'll get across or start to get across. Right now, it's six lanes, TxDOT says it will eventually be eight lanes," Hardberger told KSAT. "We've had some accidents between cars and deer especially, and some of the smaller animals as well."
The problem of animal and vehicle collisions is bigger than one park in Texas.
"Over the most recently reported 15-year period, wildlife-vehicle collisions have increased by 50 percent, with an estimated one to two million large animals killed by motorists every year," Rob Ament, Western Transportation Institute road ecology program manager, told National Geographic in 2019.
In the U.S., 21 threatened and endangered species face extinction partly because of traffic accidents, among them Florida's Key deer and Alabama's red-bellied turtles.
Wildlife crossings — either above or below roadways — have emerged as an effective solution to this problem ever since France constructed the first one in the 1950s.
"You can get reductions of 85 to 95 percent with crossings and fencing that guide animals under or over highways," Ament told National Geographic.
The San Antonio bridge is notable for its size and the fact that it accommodates people as well.
"The land bridge is 150 feet wide and approximately the same distance across," a parks department spokesperson told HuffPost. "It's designed at that size to accommodate both people and animals, and we believe it is both the only and the largest built for this dual purpose."
Animals in the 330-acre park who could benefit from the bridge include ringtails, squirrels, coyotes, lizards, raccoons and deer. Construction crews already observed some of them making use of the bridge before its official opening, KSAT reported.
As of 1 p.m. Friday, people were able to enjoy it as well. It is now open sunrise to sunset, in keeping with park hours. In addition to safeguarding animals and providing new recreation opportunities, the bridge will serve as a habitat for native plants.
"The Land Bridge connects people with nature in the heart of San Antonio. I look forward to watching the landscape grow and mature with native trees and plants and observing wildlife through viewing blinds designed by local artists. The bridge is an amazing achievement," current San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in the parks department press release.
Private donations and a 2017-2022 bond program approved by San Antonio voters helped fund the bridge, which cost $23 million, KSAT reported.
"The words that come to mind are unity, understanding, caring and a little bit of mystery to wonder what's on the other side of that bridge,' I think I'll walk across there, find out what's going on,'" Hardberger told KSAT. "I like all of those words that describe a bridge because it helps unite San Antonio, this is a common gathering place."
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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