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Innovative partnerships that address highway impacts to wildlife habitat connectivity in the Northern Rockies

  • Author(s): Davidson, Deborah K.
  • et al.
Abstract

The U.S. Northern Rocky Mountains are comprised of three large and sparsely populated states. They are also exceedingly highway-oriented places, with one of the highest rates of rural travel in the country. High volumes of traffic along transportation corridors can block, deflect, or delay daily, seasonal and lifetime wildlife movements. Highways and the vehicles that travel upon them are resulting in habitat fragmentation, habitat loss and direct mortality to the region’s signature species, such as the grizzly bear, elk and lynx. American Wildlands’ Corridors of Life program has used scientifically defensible methodologies to identify over 100 wildlife migration corridors with the highest potential to serve as conduits of wildlife movement between the U.S. Northern Rockies’ core protected areas. U.S. Interstates or state highways bisect the majority of these potential wildlife corridors.

In order to address the impacts that highways have upon habitat connectivity in the Northern Rockies, American Wildlands has organized an innovative multi-disciplinary working group to improve wildlife movement and human safety in a potential wildlife corridor in Montana. This working group has representatives from federal, state and county agencies as well as land trusts, independent biologists, conservation groups, and university researchers. The Bozeman Pass Working Group is focusing on a 30-mile stretch of I-90 in western Montana that serves as one of the only corridors between the Greater Yellowstone and the Northern Continental Divide ecosystems. The goal of the Bozeman Pass Working Group is to address factors that limit wildlife movement across the landscape, improve highway safety, protect key parcels of private land and ensure public lands are managed in a way that promotes habitat connectivity. The members of the Bozeman Pass Working Group have developed scientific studies, using GIS and field biology tools with the objectives of identifying the highway’s impacts on wildlife. The findings from these scientific studies have been incorporated into private and public lands conservation efforts and highway mitigation initiatives. The Bozeman Pass Working Group has successfully secured funding for mitigation projects that will improve wildlife movement and human safety along I-90.

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