William Geer

There is hardly a Montanan who hasn’t collided or nearly collided with wildlife while driving the rural highways of our state.

When I drive dark, winter roads, I always remember that bighorn ram bolting in front of my truck. In a recent tally from State Farm Insurance, Montana was revealed to have the second highest number of wildlife-vehicle collisions in the nation with 17,000 incidents reported each year.

These collisions not only cost residents tens of thousands of dollars in damages but threaten public safety. Since 2011, 53 people have died on Montana roadways because of wildlife-vehicle collisions.

To reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and Montana Department of Transportation have announced the launch of a new planning tool that will help identify areas of greatest need for preventing wildlife-vehicle collisions and propose stand-alone wildlife crossing accommodation projects on our state highways.

This process will help prioritize sections of highways that would benefit most from wildlife crossing infrastructure that improves public safety, saves money and allows our abundant wildlife to complete seasonal migrations.

With this new tool in hand, the Montana Department of Transportation has an opportunity to take advantage of $350 million in new competitive grant funding that will soon be available from the US Department of Transportation to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and support habitat connectivity. Doing so could help minimize vehicle collisions in many areas of our state.