By Steve Hubrecht
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New 70 km per hour limit will take effect this fall, in effort to help bighorns

The speed limit on the Radium Hill will be lowered this fall to give the beleaguered bighorn sheep a break.

The hill, which is just south of the Village of Radium Hot Springs on highway 93/95, has been the site of plenty of traffic-related bighorn sheep fatalities through the past winter, and many concerned about the issue have consistently suggested that reducing the speed limit on the hill from its current 90 kilometres per hour would make things safer for the sheep.

Those pushing for a lower speed limit were delighted to learn last week that the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) has agreed to do just that this coming fall, when the speed limit on the Radium Hill will be dropped to 70 kilometres per hour.

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok announced the measure, telling the Pioneer that  the Minister of Transportation himself confirmed the speed limit reduction on Tuesday, May 31.

“It will happen in the fall,” explained Clovechok, adding that from what he understands the new 70 kilometre per hour zone will begin somewhere around the turn off to Radium Resort and will stretch all the way from there right to the Village of Radium Hot Springs.

Clovechok also told the Pioneer that it appears a long term solution to the bighorn issue is genuinely in the pipeline, saying “all indicators are showing that the wildlife overpass (for the bighorns, over Highway 93/95) is going to get funded. I’m thrilled.”

It’s a definite victory for Radium’s iconic bighorn sheep, and for the local residents who have lobbied on their behalf, said Clovechok, adding specific praise belongs with Rick Hoar and Kent Kebe for tracking the sheep and first taking the issue up with local government officials, and with Help the Bighorn Herd Facebook page founder Nicole Trigg for bringing the issue to national attention. 

Radium has long been famous for its resident bighorn sheep herd, which often can be found right in the village. Unfortunately every year multiple bighorn are killed by vehicle collisions around the village, especially during the fall rut and the spring green-up. In 2021, however, a record number of sheep were killed — 15. This record coincided with a dramatic increase in the sheer amount of traffic coming through Radium as a result of the closure of the TransCanada Highway between Field and Golden in spring and fall. Then in the first month and a half of 2022, eight more bighorns were hit and killed.

Trigg’s efforts snowballed into the Slow Your Roll and Save Our Sheep campaign to get wildlife fencing and a wildlife overpass built to keep the bighorns safe, generating headlines across Canada, and the lowered speed limit is the latest result of this movement. 

“It’s always nice to be heard. Anything to protect the sheep, we are in favour of,” Radium Mayor Clara Reinhardt told the Pioneer, adding she expects that once work starts on the overpass, the construction itself will also help slow drivers down.

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Trigg. “It just goes to show that change can happen, even when change seems impossible. Initially MOTI had maintained that they were going to keep the speed limit at 90, but that’s changed.” She added that she’s delighted that the overpass seems set to go ahead sooner rather than later, and that she’s heard a project manager has been assigned to the issue, and that archaeological work (which must happen ahead of any overpass construction) may even begin as early as this summer.

Trigg gave a presentation at the recent Wings Over the Rockies festival, and, in appreciation, the festival recently donated $200 to the Save Our Sheep campaign.

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