In 2018, the Utah Department of Transportation completed the state’s largest wildlife crossing, which traverses six lanes of traffic on Interstate 80. The crossing structure made the news again last week, when research footage captured deer, moose, elk, bears, bobcats and a variety of smaller mammals using the bridge. In news coverage by Smithsonian Magazine, “Animals are Using Utah’s Largest Wildlife Overpass Earlier Than Expected,” WTI Road Ecologist Rob Ament is quoted regarding the high percentage of collision reductions that typically occur after the installation of crossing structures. Rob’s quote is also included in a similar article by Nature World News.
The U.S. Forest Service has released a new report authored by wildlife crossing experts from WTI, ARC Solutions, and other partner research organizations, which compiles key guidance information that may lead to the installation of more wildlife crossing structures.
Wildlife crossing structures are one of the most effective means of reducing animal-vehicle collisions on highways, while facilitating essential animal movement across the landscape. Yet the widespread implementation of such structures, especially wildlife overpasses, has been hindered by cost concerns. In 2014, WTI hosted a workshop in partnership with ARC Solutions and prominent wildlife crossing experts from Canada and the United States to determine whether there are design parameters and construction techniques that could be added, changed, or adjusted to reduce costs, while maintaining or improving the effectiveness of wildlife overpasses.
Concepts identified during the workshop were developed into specific strategies. This document presents 32 potential cost savings considerations, which were consolidated into three categories:
- design and construction
- procurement, delivery method, and cost accounting considerations
Citation: McGuire, Terry M.; Clevenger, Anthony P.; Ament, Robert; Callahan, Renee; Jacobson, Sandra, eds. 2020. Innovative strategies to reduce the costs of effective wildlife overpasses. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-267. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has released Guidelines for Conserving Connectivity through Ecological Networks and Corridors, an international resource with best practices for maintaining, enhancing, and restoring ecological connectivity among and between protected areas. These Guidelines also include 25 case studies that demonstrate current approaches to conserving ecological connectivity and ecological networks for different ecosystems and species. One of the authors is WTI Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament, who has worked in partnership with IUCN for several years on wildlife connectivity issues as part of the organization’s Transport Working Group.
CITATION: Hilty, J., Worboys, G., Keeley, A., Woodley, S., Lausche, B., Locke, H., Carr, M., Pulsford, I., Pittrock, J., White, J., Theobald, D., Levine, J., Reuling, M., Watson, J., Ament, R., Groves, C., and Tabor, G. (2020). Guidelines for Conserving Connectivity through Ecological Networks and Corridors. Gland, Switzerland; International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). DOI: https://doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.CH.2020.PAG.30.en
When Road Ecology issues are in the news, so are our researchers!
The Revelator interviewed WTI Research Scientist Tony Clevenger for the article “Road to Nowhere: Highways Pose Existential Threat to Wolverines.” The interview primarily focuses on Tony’s study on the impact of the Trans Canada Highway on wolverine movements and gene flow in the Canadian Rockies. The full report is available on the Mapping the Wolverine Way webpage.
The Jackson Hole News and Guide recently published “Slashing speed limits doesn’t slow roadkill, report says,” an article about a study in Wyoming to evaluate the impact of lowering night-time speed limits by 15 mph to try to reduce the number of collisions between vehicles and wildlife. The study was led by P.I. Marcel Huijser and Corinna Riginos, who is interviewed in the article. The final report for the Effectiveness of Night-time Speed Limit Reduction project is available on the WTI website.
Finally, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News recently featured an opinion piece entitled “Corridors for migrating wildlife work to bring us all together” on the potential benefits of federal and state wildlife corridors legislation. The author cites the WTI Wildlife Vehicle Collision Study, which included the average costs resulting from wildlife vehicle collisions.
One of the country’s leading newspapers consulted a WTI researcher and several of our road ecology publications for a national feature story on wildlife crossings. “Retrofitting busy highways to let wildlife travel safely, too” explored national and state initiatives to identify wildlife corridors and enhance crossing structures such as underpasses and overpasses. The Post interviewed Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament, who discussed the potential long-term genetic consequences of highways that restrict wildlife movement and connectivity. The article also cites WTI/Montana Department of Transportation research on wildlife crossings on US 93 in Montana, and a cost-benefit analysis study that documented the direct and indirect costs of collisions with large animals.
WTI is conducting a research on behalf of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) to explore mitigation options for reducing wildlife vehicle collisions along Interstate 25 in central Wyoming. WYDOT and WGFD would like to explore the possibility of funneling large mammals, particularly mule deer and pronghorn, through the existing underpasses on this section of road rather than building new ones specifically designed for wildlife.
As one of the research steps, project researchers Marcel Huijser, Amanda Warren, and Elizabeth Fairbank collected preliminary data on wildlife use of existing structures under I-25 which were not originally designed for wildlife. Based on an eight-month monitoring effort in 2018-2019, the research team found that the structures are predominantly used by mule deer and white-tailed deer, but almost never by pronghorn. More details are available in the interim report (“Preliminary Data on Wildlife Use of Existing Structures along I-25, Kaycee, Wyoming, USA”), which was recently published and is available on the project page of the WTI website.
WTI Research Scientist Marcel Huijser traveled to Jackson, Wyoming on July 18, where he was invited to speak on Road Ecology research and advancements at the Teton Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
The WTI road ecology team has previously led projects in this region. Read about the Teton County Wildlife Crossings Master Plan.
The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) has a new webpage dedicated to facilitating collaboration among the many partners working to reduce animal vehicle collisions and enhance wildlife connectivity.
In December 2018, the Montana Wildlife & Transportation Summit (Summit) was held at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. It was co-convened by the Montana Governor’s office, Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), Western Transportation Institute (WTI), and Montanans for Safe Wildlife Passage (MSWP). The purpose of the Summit was to bring stakeholders together to strengthen working relationships and share information. The long-term goal is to develop strategies to plan and implement wildlife accommodations, reduce animal-vehicle collisions, and protect wildlife and their movement across state highways. The emphasis of this first meeting was to build common ground among stakeholders around wildlife and transportation issues in order to build a foundation to engage additional stakeholders and partner on collaborative initiatives.
To encourage and promote future engagement, MDT has created the “Montana Wildlife and Transportation” webpage. It provides more information about the Summit, including presentations by WTI researchers Marcel Huijser and Rob Ament, and a link to the Montana Wildlife and Transportation Summit Final Report. It will also provide updates on the ongoing activities of the Summit partners, such as committee meetings, guiding documents, and informational resources.
The business website Quartz (www.qz.com) has published a feature article on the international use of wildlife crossing structures. “Wildlife overpasses that protect animals are spreading globally” discusses WTI Road Ecologist Tony Clevenger’s findings on the types of crossings preferred by different species of animals, based on his research on the Trans-Canada Highway. It also mentions Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament’s efforts to help countries like Bhutan to start using wildlife crossings to protect species like Asian elephants.
Interested in hearing Tony Clevenger speak on wildlife overpasses in more detail? Check out his radio interview from last week with Marcus Smith on BYU radio, entitled “Highway overpasses paved with grass, rocks and trees save lives.”
WTI Research Scientist, Tony Clevenger, presented his research on wolverines to the Bow Valley Naturalists in Alberta, Canada recently, resulting in a feature article in the Rocky Mountain Outlook. “Wolverine populations at risk without connectivity” discusses his study that found that the numbers of wolverines in southwest Alberta and British Columbia are much lower than previously thought, and that busy highways are one of the major barriers to species connectivity. Tony has conducted several wolverine research projects in the Canadian Crown of the Continent (CCoC) region between Banff National Park and Glacier National Park at the US border, in collaboration with both public agencies and non-profit foundations.