Road Ecology

WTI’s Road Ecology program provides national leadership in understanding the interaction between roads, natural resources and the ecological environment. The solutions we develop and implement address concerns of road ecology including wildlife migration near highways and animal-vehicle collisions.

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19 Projects

Fish Passage Research (Phase 2)

Started August, 2019

The purpose of the research program is to characterize fish swimming performance and behavior, to enhance the design and operation of fish passages, and to develop new methods that improve landscape connectivity for fish and other aquatic organisms.. .

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Highway Passages for Small Terrestrial Wildlife – Summary and Repository of Design Examples

Started April, 2018

The two objectives of this research are to: 1. Gather and summarize existing information on road passage structures and exclusion barrier systems,
including specifications, monitoring techniques, lessons learned, and synthesize the information to identify knowledge gaps for small terrestrial mammals, reptiles, and amphibians; and 2. Develop a navigable report linked to a central repository of case studies, including plan sheets and other supporting documents for user friendly access by state DOTs.

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ARC Solutions Technology Transfer Initiative

Started July, 2015

The objective of this project is to educate and engage science and engineering professionals working in conservation, natural resources, and transportation in order to build support for the development of innovative wildlife crossings.. .

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Fish Passage Research

Started March, 2015

The purpose of this research project is to increase knowledge and understanding of factors influencing the design and operation of fish passages to improve landscape connectivity, which has been fragmented by instream physical barriers to fish movement.. .

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19 Projects

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138 Projects

Federal Lands Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Data Coordination Project Phase 2

Started March, 2019

As described in the final report, Phase 2 of the project developed three recommendations for preliminary national standards for WVC data collection systems – 1) A standardized national species list, 2) a spatial accuracy requirement for observation locations, and 3) a means for expert review of the species identified in each observation via a geo-synched photo. In phase 2, the research team also made recommendations to modify the ROaDS survey so it is shorter, easier to use and more efficient. In addition, the team also determined that the ROaDS survey can simultaneously capture the observer’s survey route and link each individual observation to the route taken

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Hotspot Analyses for Large Mammal-Vehicle Collisions in California

Started June, 2017

The final report provides guidance on the implementation of mitigation measures aimed at reducing collisions with large wild mammals along all state managed highways in California, with an emphasis on mule deer. These analyses identified the road sections that had the “highest” concentration of deer-vehicle crashes and mule deer carcasses. The hot spots were prioritized based on parameters related to human safety, biological conservation, and economics

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Evaluating Management Options to Increase Roadside Carbon Sequestration II

Started April, 2017

As described in the final report (which summarizes results from Phase 1 and Phase 2), the research team estimated the amount of carbon sequestered along Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) roads and tested 3 different highway right-of-way (ROW) management techniques to increase carbon stocks. Using Geographic Information System techniques, the total ROW acreage owned by MDT was found to sequester 75,292 metric tons of carbon per year and to consist mostly of grasslands (70%). From 2016-2018, researchers tested 3 ROW management techniques to increase carbon stocks- increase mowing height, plant woody shrubs, or add legumes to reclamation seed mixes of disturbed soils – at 3 sites (Three Forks [3F], Bear Canyon [BC], and Bozeman Pass [BP]) along Interstate 90 in southwestern Montana

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Effectiveness of Nighttime Speed Limit Reduction in Reducing Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions

Started December, 2016

As described in the final report, the research team conducted an experiment in which posted speed limits were reduced from 70 mph to 55 mph during dusk to dawn hours in key deer activity seasons at six sites in southwestern Wyoming. Drivers reduced their speeds in response to the posted speed limit reduction, but the average reduction was only 3-5 mph. At winter sites, where the reduced speed limit was in effect for seven months, there was no evidence of any reduction in wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs).  At migration sites, where the reduced speed limit was in effect for two months at a time, there was some evidence of fewer WVCs, although it was not clear that this could be attributed to the reduced speed limit.  The researchers recommended that a reduced posted speed limit is not an effective measure to reduce WVCs on high-speed rural two-lane highways.

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Mapping the Wolverine Way: Identifying Conservation Corridors and Transboundary Linkages in the Canadian Crown of the Continent Region

Started October, 2016

The final report summarizes the 3-year sampling effort in the CCoC, which in turn completed a larger 6-year effort over a vast area of the central and southern Canadian Rockies. In 2016, the research team surveyed the last unsampled portion of the Alberta Rockies (south of Kananaskis Country to Highway 3) in addition to a substantial portion of the East Kootenay region of the British Columbia Rockies (BC; >9000 km2). This follow-up effort allowed the team to complete an entire ecoregion-wide wolverine survey in the Canadian Rockies ecoregion, from the US-Canadian border north to Banff and Yoho National Parks

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Federal Lands Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Data Coordination

Started September, 2016

The final report summarizes the Phase I effort to develop a Federal Lands Wildlife-Vehicle Collision (WVC) Database for the National Park Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service. The agencies are seeking to coordinate the use of a WVC Data Collection System with other federal land management agencies (FLMAs) and with non-federal transportation agencies and other organizations and entities. Phase 1 of this project developed a pilot WVC system using an existing commercial mobile device application and its data storage and serving capabilities; this commercial system is available to all Department of Interior (DOI) agencies, but not to most other potential partners. It was customized for Phase I to collect WVC roadkill observations

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Federal Lands Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Data Coordination

Started September, 2016

The final report summarizes the Phase I effort to develop a Federal Lands Wildlife-Vehicle Collision (WVC) Database for the National Park Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service. The agencies are seeking to coordinate the use of a WVC Data Collection System with other federal land management agencies (FLMAs) and with non-federal transportation agencies and other organizations and entities. Phase 1 of this project developed a pilot WVC system using an existing commercial mobile device application and its data storage and serving capabilities; this commercial system is available to all Department of Interior (DOI) agencies, but not to most other potential partners. It was customized for Phase I to collect WVC roadkill observations

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Evaluating Measures to Minimize Blanding’s Turtle Road Mortality Along Nebraska Highways

Started April, 2016

The final report summarizes the evaluation of the effectiveness of existing turtle fences through collecting and analyzing turtle mortality data along U.S. Hwy 83, in and around Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, Nebraska, USA. The report also discusses the investigation of the level of connectivity for turtles provided through the culverts that were originally designed to pass water through a capture-mark-recapture experiment

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Evaluating Management Options to Increase Roadside Carbon Sequestration

Started October, 2015

As described in the final report, the research team estimated the amount of carbon sequestered along Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) roads and tested 3 different highway right-of-way (ROW) management techniques to increase carbon stocks. Using Geographic Information System techniques, the total ROW acreage owned by MDT was found to sequester 75,292 metric tons of carbon per year and to consist mostly of grasslands (70%). From 2016-2018, the team tested 3 ROW management techniques to increase carbon stocks- increase mowing height, plant woody shrubs, or add legumes to reclamation seed mixes of disturbed soils – at 3 sites (Three Forks [3F], Bear Canyon [BC], and Bozeman Pass [BP]) along Interstate 90 in southwestern Montana

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Mapping the Wolverine Way

Started November, 2014

The objective of this project is to understand the effects of human activity on wolverine distribution, connectivity and gene flow in the southern Canadian Rockies.. .

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Evaluation of Effectiveness and Cost-Benefits of Woolen Roadside Reclamation Products

Started February, 2014

This research project developed three types of products for study: woolen erosion control blankets (ECBs), wool incorporated into wood fiber compost at a 40:1 ratio (compost to wool, by weight), and wool incorporated into silt fence. The project compared the wool products’ performance to roadside reclamation products commonly used for revegetating cut slopes: straw/coconut (coir) ECB, wood fiber compost and woven plastic silt fence.

The two best performing treatments (i.e

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Development of a Sustainable Strategy Supporting Transportation Planning and Conservation Priorities Across the West

Started September, 2013

Featured content of the final report includes:
 results from a questionnaire on transportation professionals’ use of Crucial Habitat Assessment Tools (CHATs) and other state wildlife data;
 best practices for using CHATs and other digital wildlife data to integrate the needs of fish and wildlife into transportation plans, programs and projects;
 a matrix of opportunities to expand the use of CHATs and other digital wildlife data by transportation professionals; and
 a description of how CHATs intersect with Eco-Logical, FHWA’s ecosystem-based approach to transportation planning.. .

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Assessing Feasibility of Mitigating Barn Owl – Vehicle Collision in Southern Idaho

Started August, 2013

The final report summarizes research designed to understand the spatial, road geometric, and biotic (land cover and prey) factors associated with barn owl-vehicle collisions and examine feasibility of mitigation. It provides a literature review of barn owl road mortality and mitigation approaches from North America and Europe. The greatest rates of mortality along I-84 occurred between Bliss and Hazelton, Idaho

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Construction Guidelines for Wildlife Fencing and Associated Escape and Lateral Access Control Measures

Started June, 2013

The final report describes the current state of knowledge and practice regarding the design, implementation and maintenance of wildlife fencing and associated escape and lateral access control measures. The main function of wildlife fencing is to keep wildlife off the highway, but wildlife fencing also helps funnel wildlife to safe crossing
opportunities (at-grade, underpasses or overpasses). It is considered good practice to not increase the barrier effect of roads and traffic for wildlife without also providing for safe and effective crossing opportunities for wildlife

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Oyu Tolgoi Roads and Wildlife Mitigation in the Gobi Desert

Started February, 2013

Recommendations in the final report focus on measures aimed at providing safe crossing opportunities for wildlife, particularly for desert ungulates. The research teamreviewed available documents and literature, visited the OT mine site and surrounding OT roads in February, 2013, and had numerous discussions with experts in the region and OT staff and consultants. This, with the team’s prior expertise in mitigating wildlife impacts of roadways, was used to develop the final report, which contains a summary of the current status of wildlife impacts of the OT roads and planned mitigations, a review of the most promising mitigations and mitigations previously proposed for the OT roads and a set of recommendations specific to wildlife crossing structures on the OT-GS Road

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Procedures and Tools for Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Hotspot Analyses; Using Caltrans District 10 as an Example

Started February, 2013

The final report contains a stepwise approach for the identification and prioritization of large mammal crash hotspots and large mammal carcass hotspots. Mule deer crash and mule deer carcass data from Caltrans District 10 were used as an example. The mule deer crash and mule deer carcass hotspots were ranked based on human safety, nature conservation, and economic parameters

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Evaluation of Deer-Vehicle Collision Rate in West Virginia and a Review of Available Mitigation Techniques

Started January, 2013

WTI compiled a final report providing a summary of DVC mitigation measures and funding mechanisms, including specific mitigation recommendations for West Virginia. The report evaluates various transportation metrics for normalizing state-by-state DVC estimates generated by State Farm insurance for national ranking purposes, including the rural and urban components of the metrics..

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Native Plants for Roadside Revegetation: Influences on Slope Stabilization, Erosion, and Sediment Control and Prevention of Weed Encroachment

Started June, 2012

The final report provides practical information for improving roadway revegetation in Idaho. The overall objective was to monitor vegetation and soil attributes to determine effective means for establishing perennial native vegetation, reducing surface erosion, and preventing weed encroachment. The results provide guidance and recommendations on species selection, seeding methods and site preparation techniques

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Evaluating Wildlife-Vehicle Collision and Habitat Connectivity in the Madison Valley, Montana

Started April, 2012

As described in the final report, all data gathered were analyzed in the context of highway safety, infrastructure, wildlife use, habitat, and connectivity linkage zones, with special attention paid to ungulates and forest carnivores. A major outcome of this project was a GIS database of the study area that has the potential to help the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) and other agencies increase efficiency and effectiveness of transportation and natural resource planning. The fina report presents the results of temporal and spatial analyses of wildlife road mortality data and animal use patterns and exploratory models examining the drivers of carcass locations in the vicinity of the highways

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Assessing the Carbon Sequestration Potential of Roadsides and Roadside Revegetation

Started August, 2011

As described in the final report, the research team’s estimate of roadside acreage available for CCS relied on the concept of the “road effect zone” (REZ), an area defined as 50 m from unpaved roads and 100 m from paved roads. Based on this definition, the team estimated that there are over 17 million acres within the REZ that are available for CCS. To estimate the potential carbon uptake within this area, the team relied on measurements of net carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange from a large sample of globally distributed eddy covariance towers arrayed according to functional vegetation types

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ROCS, Phase 4 – UTC

Started July, 2011

The objective of this fourth phase of the Roadkill Observation Collection System (ROCS) project will be to implement the PDA based version of ROCS from Phase 3 on a Google Android –based smart-phone.. .

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ARC Technology Transfer Initiative – UTC

Started April, 2011

The objective of this initiative is to build on the momentum of the ARC competition and its message: New Methods-New Materials-New Thinking by inspiring transportation and natural resource communities and the next generation of practitioners through a series of activities over the course of twelve months. This initiative intends to acknowledge the virtues of the winning design while celebrating the promising ideas of all finalist designs. It also strives to keep innovation at the forefront of our collective thinking about wildlife crossing structure design.

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Passage in Plains and Prairie Waterways and Predicting Fish Response to Climate Change

Started December, 2010

As described in the final report, the observation and field observations of the leaping abilities of various sturgeon species suggest that sturgeon species Vmax ability
might be under rated. For example, reports of adult gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) leaping 2 m or more above the water are common and adult white sturgeon
(Acipenser transmontanus) is well known to show explosive leaping behaviour when hooked by fisherman. The leaping ability demonstrated by sturgeon species and the observations of shovelnose sturgeon (a relatively small species of sturgeon) from this research suggests that sturgeon may be very capable of attaining high sprint swimming speeds when motivated.

Most fish demonstrate multiple peaks in swimming velocity during their swim

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US 93 Post-Construction Wildlife-Vehicle Collision and Wildlife Crossing Monitoring Research

Started January, 2010

The final report summarizes research conducted between 2002 and 2015. The research focused on the effectiveness of the mitigation measures in reducing collisions with large mammals, and the use of the crossing structures (specifically by white-tailed deer, mule deer, and black bear). In addition, the effectiveness of wildlife guards (similar to cattle guards), wildlife jump-outs and a human access point was evaluated

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US 93 Post-Construction Wildlife-Vehicle Collision and Wildlife Crossing Monitoring and Research – UTC

Started January, 2010

The final report summarizes research conducted between 2002 and 2015. The research focused on the effectiveness of the mitigation measures in reducing collisions with large mammals, and the use of the crossing structures (specifically by white-tailed deer, mule deer, and black bear). In addition, the effectiveness of wildlife guards (similar to cattle guards), wildlife jump-outs and a human access point was evaluated

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Burrowing Mammal Impacts on Paved Highways, Phase 1

Started January, 2010

WTI conducted surveys, interviews, and site visits to determine the extent and nature of burrowing mammal-caused roadbed damage and associated mitigation methodologies.

The objective of Phase I of this study is to characterize the nature and extent of burrowing mammal damage to paved roadways around the state of Montana..

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Evaluation of Swimming Performance of Rainbow Trout and Westslope Cutthroat Trout for Assessment and Design of Fish Passage Structures

Started August, 2009

The primary objective of this research is to determine scientifically valid, volitional swimming abilities of westslope cutthroat trout and rainbow trout that reside in the Rockies Ecosystem.

WTI is evaluating the swimming performance of wild rainbow and westslope cutthroat trout for assessment and design of fish passage structures for highways and roads. The study involves constructing a large-scale research flume and performing fish swimming trials to determine swimming performance – fundamental biological information that current models and designs do not have..

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National Scan of Best Practices for Road Dust Control and Soil Stabilization

Started August, 2009

The purpose of the National Scan is to examine programs and practices employed by different governmental agencies and contractors that result in effective dust control and/or soil stabilization on unpaved roads. The driving force behind this scan is that road dust and/or the additives used in its control pose a myriad of health, safety, economic, regulatory, and environmental challenges..

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Camelina Evaluation for Soil Amendment

Started May, 2009

The objective of this project is to explore the potential uses of Camelina meal (Camelina sativa) for roadside applications, incorporated as a soil amendment or spread topically, to enhance native vegetation establishment and growth for highway reclamation projects.. .

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The I-70 Eco-Logical Field Test

Started February, 2009

The objective of this project is to assist the Center for Native Ecosystems (CNE) with developing a wildlife mortality and habitat connectivity monitoring and evaluation program, and with developing a mitigation plan for the I-70 Corridor in Colorado from Evergreen to Glenwood Springs in portions of the Clear creek, Blue River and Gore Creek Watersheds.. .

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Carnivores and Connectivity in the Cascades

Started October, 2008

WTI worked with the US Forest Service, US National Park Service, WSDOT, and others to assess habitat connectivity and the impact of landscape fracture zones on carnivore populations within and between the I-90, US Route 2, and State Highway 20 transportation corridors.. .

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Evaluation of Wildlife Mitigation Measures Along US Hwy 93

Started April, 2008

Study the effectiveness of eleven wildlife underpasses, 29 jump-outs and two wildlife guards (equivalent to cattle guards) in terms of wildlife movements and wildlife/vehicle collisions on U.S. Highway 93 near Ravalli, Montana. In addition, the effectiveness of other, more isolated, wildlife crossing structures and shorter fencing on other locations along U.S

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Developing a Regional Ecosystem Framework for Terrestrial and Aquatic Resources along the I-70 Corridor, Colorado

Started March, 2008

The objective of this project is to assist the Center for Native Ecosystems (CNE) with developing a wildlife mortality and habitat connectivity monitoring and evaluation program, and developing a mitigation plan for the I-70 Corridor in Colorado from Evergreen to Glenwood Springs in portions of the Clear creek, Blue River and Gore Creek Watersheds.. .

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American Wildlands Road Watch

Started September, 2007

Modification of wildlife reporting system for use by American Wildlands on the Bozeman Pass area of U.S. Interstate Highway 90 between Bozeman, Montana, and Livingston, Montana..

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PDA Data Collection Package

Started August, 2007

Develop hands-free electronic data collection and reporting equipment and procedures to replace hand-written methods for Emergency Relief for Federally Owned (ERFO) Roads Damage Site Reports (DSRs), bridge inspections and field surveys.. .

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Redding Responder, Phase 2

Started June, 2006

To evaluate and prepare for full corporate deployment of the Responder System, an at-scene incident information collection, sharing, and incident support information framework for remote rural areas.. .

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Bozeman Pass Wildlife Linkage and Highway Safety Pilot Study

Started February, 2003

The goals of this study are to address the question of whether or not fences and cattle guards are effective at a) reducing the number of animal-vehicle collisions, and b) re-directing animal movement patterns through existing highway ‘crossing’ structures (e.g., road and railroad bridges and culverts). The proposed study will continue to document the location of animal-vehicle collisions, locations of highway crossings by animals both over the highway and through existing ‘crossing’ structures, and locations of attempted crossings..

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Evaluation of Wildlife Crossing Structures on U.S. Highway 93 Evaro to Polson

Started March, 2002

Phase I of this long-term project involves finalizing the research methodologies and collecting the baseline pre-construction data that will be needed to determine what effect US 93’s reconstruction installation of 42 wildlife crossing structures and fencing in 56 miles of highway have on the frequency of animal-vehicle collisions and successful animal crossings, and to ultimately identify best management practices for future wildlife crossing structure and fencing deployments.. .

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ARTEMIS Clearinghouse

Started September, 2000

The objective of ARTEMIS is to develop a database that allows other universities, transportation professionals, and interested individuals access to a complete reference source focused on animal-vehicle collisions and mitigation options.. .

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ARC Solutions, International

Started January, 1970

WTI is leading a diverse partnership that encourages the best and most innovative interdisciplinary designs for wildlife crossing structures throughout North America and beyond. In 2014, two workshops and a policy paper will focus on new directions that encourage wildlife crossing deployment, including a review the design parameters for crossings that may be adjusted to reduce costs without decreasing their effectiveness. Online at: www.arc-solutions.org

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Northwest Montana Grizzly Bear Corridors and Roads Evaluation

Started January, 1970

Working with the Sonoran Institute and the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, WTI is seeking to demonstrate to transportation and natural resource planners locations where exurban growth and increases in traffic demand and transportation infrastructure in the next 20 years have the greatest potential to impinge upon wildlife habitat connectivity for forest carnivores in two counties of northwest Montana. .

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Monitoring the Chadbourne Diversion Fish Barrier

Started January, 1970

WTI, in a partnership with Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, is monitoring a newly constructed irrigation diversion on the Shields River in Montana. The structure was designed to improve water withdrawal and to act as an upstream fish barrier to protect native Yellowstone cutthroat trout from non-native trout species. An important product from this research will be an evaluation of existing hydraulic models used to design diversion structures and fish barriers, and the development of a preferred modeling approach for future diversion and fish barrier design

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A Science-Based Decision Support Tool for Prioritizing Mitigation of Road Impacts on Wildlife Corridors

Started January, 1970

Working with the MT Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, MDT, Idaho Fish and Game Department, Idaho Transportation Department and the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, this project aims to provide large landscape practitioners of the U.S. Northern Rockies with a decision support tool for prioritizing conservation action to mitigate road impacts on regional wildlife corridors identified by the state wildlife agencies in the U.S. Northern Rockies

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A Review of Wildlife-Highway Conflicts on US Highway 89 through the National Elk Refuge, Wyoming

Started January, 1970

WTI will evaluate US Highway 89/191/26 between Jackson and Gros Ventre Junction for potential wildlife mitigation sites and measures. The transportation corridor consists of a highway and a paved trail for bicyclists and pedestrians. The road borders the refuge for 5.7 miles and an impermeable wildlife fence is situated between the transportation corridor and the refuge along this section.

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138 Projects

To succeed, our program works to ensure:

State-of-the-art science is applied in the development and restoration of surface transportation systems across the nation;
Transportation policies are developed and programmatically applied to protect the environment;
Road ecology is an established multidisciplinary academic field at Montana State University and other higher education institutions;
Environmentally sound transportation systems are recognized by society as an important component of America’s quality of life.

DEFINITION: Road ecology is the study of the complex interaction between roads and the environment over scales of space and time.

About the Road Ecology Program

In 2001, the Western Transportation Institute launched “Transportation Systems–Wildlife Ecology Interactions” as a research focus area to reflect our growing interest and expertise in the field of road ecology. The program expanded further, beginning in 2005, to include wildlife, aquatic, landscape and plant ecology. We have nine staff dedicated to exploring a diversity of solutions for reducing the impacts of highways on the natural environment.

Today, the Road Ecology Program strives to develop and implement science-based solutions through:

Research, so that state-of-the-art science is applied in the development and restoration of transportation systems across the nation.
Education, to put into action courses, seminars, curricula, programs, and research opportunities for students in higher education, as well as K-12.
Outreach and technology transfer, to share our research findings and expertise with transportation professionals, allied agencies, the private sector, and other constituencies interested in reducing the impacts of surface transportation systems on nature.
Communications, to assure environmentally sound transportation systems are recognized by society as an important component of America’s quality of life.