Crossing the People's Way
Roads present a huge impediment to conservation: they inevitably lead to habitat loss and fragmentation, and create major obstacles to wildlife connectivity between landscapes.
Thankfully, there are solutions. And some of those solutions, such as wildlife under- and overpasses, can restore habitat and decrease wildlife mortality even after busy roads are built.
To make the most of that strategy, The People’s Way Partnership, with support from Y2Y, has reconstructed a 56-mile stretch of U.S. Route 93 Highway so that it’s sensitive to wildlife crossings.
Considered the largest such project in the U.S., the initiative is reducing wildlife collisions along the highway by installing under- and overpasses, wildlife fencing and numerous “jump-outs,” which allow animals to quickly jump off the road even if they manage to hop one of the fences.
The project also involves an array of strategically placed video cameras to monitor the many wildlife species using the structures.
Based in northwest Montana on the Flathead Indian Reservation, the reconstruction effort is focused on the traditional homeland of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), one of the project’s main partners.
The partnership is named after “The People’s Way,” a travel route between the Bitterroot Valley and Flathead Lake used for generations by the Salish and Pend d'Oreille tribes (members of the CSKT), which eventually became the north section of the Route 93 Highway.
These wildlife crossing structures have been proven to reduce costly (and in some case, fatal) highway collisions throughout the Yellowstone to Yukon region and beyond.
In Alberta’s Banff National Park, for example, Y2Y-supported crossing structures over and under the busy two-lane Trans-Canada Highway have reduced wildlife collisions by 80 percent.
Y2Y is also working with various partners to improve wildlife crossings along Highway 3, another east-west highway that bisects the Yellowstone to Yukon region through British Columbia and Alberta.
These initiatives are important pieces in a much larger puzzle. They keep wildlife connected at a local scale, but they also form key links along the larger Yellowstone to Yukon landscape.
Take a look at the video below, from The People's Way Partnership, which shows the diversity of wildlife using these structures to safely cross the road: