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.
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.
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.
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.
WTI Road Ecologists Rob Ament and Tony Clevenger traveled to Kuala Lumper, Malaysia in April to present at the Road Ecology – Transportation Infrastructure and Wildlife Conservation Workshop. Co-sponsored by WTI, Association of Consulting Engineers – Malaysia (ACEM), ERE Consulting, the Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME), and the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, the main goal of the workshop was to encourage discussions between wildlife practitioners and engineers that will lead to innovative solutions that enhance both transportation networks and wildlife conservation efforts. Rob and Tony spoke on effective wildlife mitigation measures in North America, such as wildlife crossings, and how they may be applicable to large species in Malaysia, which include both elephants and tigers. One of the highlights of was a field trip to Royal Belum State Park, via houseboat!
The workshop also provided an opportunity to hold the kick-off meeting for the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Asian Elephant Transport Working Group, under the auspices of its Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group. “It was our first face-to-face meeting and the 10 members put together a work plan for the next year,” said Rob, who serves on the working group.
Research Scientist Marcel Huijser, of WTI’s Road Ecology program, will travel to Australia at the end of April for the 2018 Conference of the Australasian Network for Ecology and Transportation (ANET). Marcel has been invited to deliver the keynote address, entitled “Road Ecology – Are We Taking the Right Turns?” at the plenary session on the opening day of the conference.
ANET is a professional network dedicated to the research, design and implementation of environmentally-sensitive infrastructure across Australasia (Australia, New Zealand, and neighboring islands). Serving government, industry, scientists and community groups, ANET’s international conferences aim to share global best practices for identifying and mitigating the ecological impacts of all types of linear infrastructure and transport, including road, rail, pipelines and utility easements.
In February, Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament participated in a five day Road Ecology workshop in Nagpur, Maharashtra, India, entitled “Capacity Building in Designing Mitigation Measures along Linear Infrastructure in Tiger Landscapes.” Rob gave seven presentations at the event, where attendees from India, Nepal, and the U.S. gathered for three days of talks and two days of field trips to central India highway, railway and canal mitigation locations. The week was hosted by the Wildlife Conservation Trust and co-sponsored by Global Tiger Forum and the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of International Programs. Rob also had the opportunity to view other protected species, including rhinos and elephants.