Road Ecology: A Practitioner's Tale

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Road Ecology is a relatively new sub-discipline of ecology that focuses on understanding the interactions between road systems and the natural environment. Wildlife crossings that allow animals to safely cross human-made barri-ers such as roads, are intended not only to reduce animal-vehicle collisions, but ideally to provide connectivity of habitat areas, combating habitat fragmentation. Wildlife mitigation strategies to improve the permeability of our infrastructure can include a combination of structures (overpasses/underpasses), at-grade crossings, fencing, animal-detection systems, and signage. One size does not fit all and solutions must be considered on a case-by-case ba-sis. Often, the feasibility of the preferred mitigation solution depends on a combination of variables including road geometrics, topography, traffic patterns, funding allocations, adjacent land use and landowner cooperation, the target wildlife species, their movement patterns, and habitat distribution. Joe and Deb will speak to the current road ecolo-gy practices in Montana and some real-world applications from the Department of Transportation.

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Deb Wambach graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1997 with a B.A. in Conservation Biology and a B.S in Wildlife Management and Ecology. She has been employed as one of five District Biologists with the Montana Department of Transportation for nearly 20 years. Working primarily in southwest Montana, Deb is re-sponsible for identifying, analyzing, and mitigating the impacts of highway projects on biological resources includ-ing wetlands, rivers and streams, fisheries, threatened and endangered species, wildlife habitat, and wildlife connec-tivity. Joe Weigand holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Fish & Wildlife Management, both from Montana State University. From 2004 through June of 2014 he was employed with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks as the Private Land Wildlife Specialist where he was charged with proactively addressing wildlife impacts to private lands as well as minimizing impacts from land management activities on wildlife. Much of Joe's career has been spent researching and addressing the challenges associated with managing public trust wildlife alongside pri-vate property rights, the ever expanding human footprint on the landscape, and changing societal values. His current position with MDT continues to expand upon that effort.