World’s Longest Wildlife Bridge Will Help the Buffalos Roam

The bridge will cross the Mississippi River so that wild bison can graze on prairies on either side.

Jul 13, 2021

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Bison, Wildlife
World’s Longest Wildlife Bridge Will Help the Buffalos Roam | The bridge will cross the Mississippi River so that wild bison can graze on prairies on either side.

What do you do with an old interstate bridge? You can tear it down or you can transform it into  a unique national park that is a bison bridge connecting to prairies on both sides of the Mississippi River. The choice seems like a no brainer.

Today, the bridge on Interstate 80 that connects Illinois and Iowa carries 42,000 cars according to ABC News, but the transportation departments are currently exploring plans that include replacing the 55-year-old bridge.

Environmentalist Chad Pregracke , the founder of the Living Lands and Waters conservation organization that cleans rivers wants to raise funds to turn the bridge into the Bison Bridge. He wants to transform the westbound lanes into a grassy meadow and the eastbound lanes into  a pedestrian and bike path so people can watch the buffalo – what they previously were called – play.

The plan also calls for reintroducing bison into the area so they could again roam the bridge and 100 acres of restored prairie. “The bison could essentially graze their way over to Iowa and graze their way back to Illinois,” Pregracke told ABC News.  

Pregracke is a local hero and he hails from the Quad city, a 300,000-person metropolitan area that spans both sides of the river according to The Guardian. The area is named for Moline and Rock Island in north-western Illinois and Bettendorf and Davenport in south-eastern Iowa.

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Advocates for the Bison Bridge say that repurposing the existing bridge rather than demolishing it would save money, reduce waste, benefit the environment, and turn the area into a tourist must-see site.  “I mean, how could you not stop for bison?” Pregracke told The Guardian.

Pregracke recently founded the Bison Bridge Foundation, a grassroots project to raise the funds necessary to build the national park according to the organization. The bridge could establish the first national park in both Iowa and Illinois. If built, it will be the longest man made wildlife crossing in the world.

Refurbishing existing urban infrastructure into something that benefits the community isn’t a new idea. After all, The High Line in New York City and the Underline Park in Miami are two of the many projects in the US. It’s much easier to upcycle something than to start from scratch.

Kevin Marchek, project manager for the Bison Bridge told ABC News he sees it as “part of a movement, a grassroots effort, to repurpose existing infrastructure rather than just watch it be demolished.”

Pregracke agrees, “I'm not building a bridge –  it's already there. I'm just trying to keep what's already there and utilize it for something much bigger.”

The Bison Bridge idea has been hailed as a way to help the local economy, help the environment and by Native American groups who believe that restoring the bison to the areas where they used to roam free is a way to reconnect the animal to the land.

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Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.