Getting It Right
Yellowstone National Park may be home to some of your fondest wildlife memories. Perhaps it was when the kids saw a wild bison for the first time; or when you witnessed Old Faithful erupting.
No matter when you arrived in Yellowstone, likely you traveled along one of America’s longest roads – U.S. Highway (Hwy) 20. Stretching from coast to coast, Hwy 20 cuts through Yellowstone National Park. It’s an extraordinary road through rugged and pristine natural areas, but it can also be deadly for wildlife needing to cross it.
"Hwy 20 is the first major road that animals encounter as they roam west out of Yellowstone and a critical region for continental wildlife connectivity," says Kim Trotter, Y2Y’s U.S. Program Director. Along this stretch, studies have shown that nearly one in four accidents are caused by wildlife, a rate that’s almost five times the average.
Something had to be done—for driver safety and wildlife connectivity alike.
Because of your crucial support, Y2Y is leading efforts through the Henry’s Fork Legacy Project to seize a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"We are at a unique transportation planning intersection," suggests Trotter. "Both the state and district planners are beginning their multi-year plans to improve the highway, and we are getting out ahead of their decision-making process to gain public support and influence their plans to include wildlife-friendly changes."
"Too often wildlife are an afterthought when roads are planned," says Trotter. "But the best way to make Hwy 20 safer is to consider wildlife at all stages of the upgrade project—from early planning and budgeting to design and building."
The collaborative effort to guide planning for Hwy 20 involves a myriad of strategies for reducing wildlife collisions, including research to identify wildlife corridors and the most effective crossing structures for each area.
Beyond working closely with key decision makers, it’s essential to engage local voices, who understand the cost of wildlife-vehicle collisions and have a strong personal passion toward increasing road safety.
"The reality is that many of those costly collisions can be prevented," says Trotter. "It just takes some foresight and a conscious effort to consider wildlife movement when designing our highways."
If done right, planned improvements to historic Hwy 20 could serve as a positive example for countless other roadways, both in this region and beyond.