Safe passage for wildlife across Montana’s roads - Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative

Safe passage for wildlife across Montana’s roads

When habitats are connected with minimal barriers, animals are more likely to breed, feed and succeed on the landscapes they call home. A big part of Y2Y’s approach involves working with partners across Montana and beyond to ensure habitat stays connected and protected.

However, highways pose a big threat to these connections.

Roads threaten wildlife’s need to roam

Deer crossing road
According to a 2018 State Farm insurance report, Montanans are the drivers second most likely in the United States to experience hitting a deer, with a 1-in-57 chance of colliding with one. Photo: Shutterstock

Montana is blessed with wide open vistas and rugged mountains, abundant wildlife, and easy access to the natural wonders of Glacier and Yellowstone national parks.

It’s no wonder that year-round, residents and visitors alike take to the highways, setting out on wild adventures as they wind through forest-covered Rocky Mountains and the rolling hills that line the horizons.

However, these breathtaking views are all-too-often accompanied by roadkill of all sizes, found on the shoulders of Montana’s highways. These unfortunate sights are more than eyesores; the crashes that cause them are a risk to human safety and wildlife movement.

As the west gets busier, the growth of communities, roads and industrial development in Montana threaten the state’s wildlife.

Not only this, but wildlife-vehicle collisions can also cause lasting physical and mental impacts on drivers and their passengers. Within a split second, a summer road trip can take a terrible turn simply because an animal had no other route to take other than one that is crossed by a road.

Impact of roads on wildlife

Species such as deer, pronghorn and grizzly bears are impacted in major ways:

Photos: Karsten Heuer, Shutterstock

What can be done?

Montanans are dedicated to improving highway safety while protecting one of the most valued elements of living in the state:  the incredible wildlife that they share space with.

Wildlife don’t cross roads, roads cross their habitat — and they can only move safely across these roads with peoples’ help. Strategies such as fencing, especially if used near wildlife crossings including over- and underpasses, animal detection systems, driver education, and signage are extremely effective ways of helping reduce the frequency of wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Wildlife don’t cross roads, roads cross their habitat — and they can only move safely across these roads with peoples’ help. Photo: National Park Service

Crashes are expensive so this can also have positive implications for the economy. Each year across the United States we could save an estimated $6 to 12 billion a year by preventing wildlife-vehicle collisions. These savings would be seen in costs associated with law enforcement, emergency services, road maintenance crews, wildlife managers, and vehicle repairs.

Together, we can create stronger, connected habitat for wildlife while making Montana’s roads safer for people, too. Now is the time to build on scientific evidence and community momentum to ensure wildlife migrations, specifically around highways, are protected.

Y2Y is finding solutions for Montanans and wildlife

With key partners we are working to reduce the danger roads represent to wildlife and connectivity, while making roads safer for both wildlife and people.

By working collaboratively with state agencies seeking to improve safety and wildlife connectivity, together we can create safer roadways and highways in Montana that also set up a brighter future for impacted wildlife.

“Together, with state agencies, engaged communities and knowledgeable scientists, our ultimate goal is to improve the safety of Montana’s amazing landscapes where wildlife roam, and where people live and play. Our work to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions in Montana will help us achieve that.”

Jessie Grossman, Landscape Connectivity Manager

Building off growing community support and interest in cost-effective solutions that safeguard Montana’s rich natural heritage values, Y2Y is working to:

  • Support communities seeking safer roadways and become advocates for wildlife and human safety;
  • Build political support for road ecology considerations;
  • Identify potential actions to help improve wildlife migration and connectivity;
  • Seek and fill gaps in knowledge;
  • Advance policy and practice such that consideration of safe wildlife passage becomes normalized
  • Help lead the Montanans for Safe Wildlife Passage coalition to coordinate and advance solutions to wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Moving ahead on priority projects and partnerships

As a member helping lead Montanans for Safe Wildlife Passage, Y2Y is working with state agencies such as Montana Department of Transportation and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks as well as other stakeholders to address the growing issue of wildlife-vehicle collisions in this part of the Yellowstone to Yukon region.

In December 2018, Y2Y helped plan and sponsor a summit that included a diverse set of more than 160 attendees interested in improving safety for wildlife and the public on Montana roads.

This statewide initiative is growing community and agency support to coordinate solutions to wildlife-vehicle collisions in the locations that will have the greatest impact. Y2Y’s role is to advance solutions for safer wildlife movement in priority places for landscape level wildlife connectivity.

Through decades of working on policy, planning and creating projects to help wildlife move safely in other parts of the Yellowstone to Yukon region, Y2Y has the knowledge and connections to make this future a reality.

You can help 

Make wildlife crossings safer

Support our work including making highway travel safer for people, and movement for animals easier.

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Who we are working with

Through collaboration with state agencies, scientists, grassroots coalitions and citizens, and local communities, Y2Y and various other stakeholders are teaming up to protect biodiversity and safer highways. As members of the Montanans for Safe Wildlife Passage group, we are working with a number of partners such as:

  • Montana Department of Transportation
  • Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

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