Road Design at a Crossroads

The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance hosted heralded Environmental Journalist Ben Goldfarb for a talk and book signing of his fascinating book, “Crossings – How Road Ecology is Shaping the Future of Our Planet.”

Utilizing examples found in the book, Goldfarb described the significant impacts of road design and placement on wildlife, dramatically impacting wildlife permeability of highways, interstates, rural roads and other roadways. The gravity of such impacts can dramatically impact wildlife populations, distribution and habitat. 

He demonstrated the impacts with wildlife collar data showing impermeability of the range of mitigations and how they can be improved, including grizzly bears in Montana, ungulates in Wyoming and mountain lions in the suburbs of Los Angeles. 

While ever-improving design, variations and implementation of wildlife crossings in the Rocky Mountain West and elsewhere, there are reasons for optimism over time. But better integration of crossings critical corridors remains a critical issue in the ever more crowded Western regions.

During a Q&A with both attendees and Zoom participants had questions and concerns about wildlife crossings in Teton County, including the crossings on WY 22 serving the Stilson Parking and Transit center. The crossings are tunnels leading into and out of Stilson, addressing wildlife movement on the critical Snake River corridor. This corridor is used by moose, elk, and mule deer, and the movement is tracked by collared wildlife, demonstrating heavy use for those species. 

Participants voiced concern about the tunnel crossings that would have target wildlife enter the Stilson area to be met with significant barriers from development. These include, a 140 foot-wide corridor with development on one side and the highway on the other. Research conducted in Wyoming found that wildlife corridors would require 600 feet of open space to draw wildlife into and through the corridors. 

Proposed housing in the southern portion of Stilson would also add density and generate traffic day and night. Proposed ball fields and with fencing would create further barriers to the wildlife. 

When wildlife meets such barriers, they cease their transit through the corridors and the corridor no longer provides wildlife permeability. Wildlife experts fear that the resulting barrier will close the north-south corridor along the Snake River, with impacts throughout that corridor. 

Road ecology, guided by wildlife studies, provides solutions how wildlife and the ever-growing presence of roads can coexist. We only need learn how to accept and apply the science to continue to share our environment with wildlife. “Crossings” provides a fascinating road map. 

If you missed this event you can find the full recording below.

Phone: (307) 733-9417
685 S. Cache St. PO Box 2728
Jackson, Wyoming 83001