Highway plans aim to keep habitat — and wildlife — in one place

  • Artist's rendition of a wildlife over-crossing planned for I-90 east of Seattle. Similar over-crossings in Banff, Canada, resulted in an 80 percent drop in wildlife mortality near the road

    Washington Department of Transportation
  In the Cascade Range, the question isn’t why animals cross the road, but how they can do so without becoming salamander road-cakes or elk a la SUV.

The answer, say Washington state transportation officials and biologists, lies under and over a humming mountain highway.

In June, the state’s Department of Transportation released plans for widening a 15-mile section of I-90 east of Seattle, smack in the middle of a major wildlife thoroughfare. To reduce auto-animal collisions, the plans include several types of wildlife passages modeled after successful critter crossings in Arizona and Florida and on Banff’s Trans-Canada Highway (HCN, 2/7/05: Caught in the Headlights).

The road improvement project, slated to begin in 2011, will be a "showpiece" of ecological highway building, says Kim Vaughn, a transportation department design supervisor. Work could include improving culverts to aid smaller mammals and reptiles, creating hydrologic connections for fish and amphibians, and building the country’s first wildlife over-crossing, a wide bridge carpeted with native soil and plants. "We’re targeting a wide range of species, from low-mobility salamanders to large carnivores," Vaughn says.

Tony Clevenger, a Montana State biologist, says getting animals across safely is just the beginning: "Habitat is getting chopped up and biodiversity is getting scarcer." The real boon of the project, he says, will be reconnecting the wildlife living on both sides of I-90 in the Wenatchee National Forest.

So far, the state has committed $388 million to the highway improvements, most of which will go to road widening and avalanche-safe tunnels. That wildlife welfare is also addressed thrills Jen Watkins, a spokesperson for the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, which pushed for including animal crossings in the project: "It’s critical for us to attack the last barrier for wildlife." The public can comment on the project through Aug. 5.

High Country News Classifieds
  • DIRECTOR - SONORAN DESERT INN & CONFERENCE CENTER
    The Sonoran Desert Inn & Conference Center is a non-profit lodging and event venue in Ajo, Arizona, located on the historic Curley School Campus. We...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field Seminars for adults: cultural and natural history of the Colorado Plateau. With guest experts, local insights, small groups, and lodge or base camp formats....
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....
  • HEALTH FOOD STORE IN NW MONTANA
    Turn-key business includes 2500 sq ft commercial building in main business district of Libby, Montana. 406.293.6771 /or [email protected]