Page 10 - Flathead Beacon // 11.2.16
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Northwest Montana Has Most Dangerous Stretch of Highway for
Wildlife Collisions
Study  nds stretch of Highway 93 near Flathead Lake has highest rate of wildlife-vehicle accidents in state
The most dangerous stretch of roadway in Montana for wildlife-vehicle collisions is on U.S. Highway 93 on the northwest side of Flathead Lake, a recent study com- missioned by Montanans for Safe Wildlife Passage found, recording 357 carcasses on a 10-mile stretch of highway during the fall months between 2010 and 2015.
Researchers analyzed nearly 37,000 carcasses collected on Montana’s road- ways in that  ve-year period, and esti- mated that Montana motorists have a one in 58 chance of hitting a deer, elk or moose in 2016, representing a 9.1 percent increase over last year.
The 10-mile stretch of Highway 93 between mileposts 94 and 104 ranked  rst
on the group’s top-10 list of most treacher- ous roads for accidents with wildlife, while a section of Highway 191 between Bozeman and Yellowstone National Park ranked sec- ond, with 242 carcasses recorded.
According to the group, more than 1 million wildlife-vehicle collisions with large mammals occur each year in the United States, resulting in more than 200 human fatalities and 29,000 injuries. The total cost of the average deer-vehicle collision has been estimated at more than $6,000, and costs are even higher for other large animals — more than $17,000 for elk and $30,000 for moose.
“Fall is a glorious time of year in Mon- tana,” according to the study’s co-author, Renee Callahan. “Unfortunately, it’s also the time of year that you are most apt to
see a deer, elk or other ungulate in your headlights and we wanted to alert drivers of this very real danger.”
Montanans for Safe Wildlife Passage is a coalition of organizations advocat- ing for innovative solutions for reducing wildlife-vehicle accidents. The Center for Large Landscape Conservation in Boze- man compiled the report using informa- tion obtained from the Montana Depart- ment of Transportation.
Collisions with wildlife, as well as inju- ries to vehicle occupants, have increased in Montana in recent years.
Nearly 3,000 wildlife-related crashes were reported to law enforcement in Montana in 2015, of which more than 200 resulted in injuries.
The actual number of wildlife-vehicle
collisions is likely signi cantly higher, according to the group, because as many as half of wildlife-vehicle collisions are never reported.
According to a recent analysis by State Farm insurance company, Montana now ranks second highest in the United States for risk of vehicle collision with a large animal.
The six ungulate species considered in the analysis represented 97 percent of all wildlife carcasses in the database. White-tailed deer was the most fre- quently recorded species, accounting for 67 percent of wildlife carcasses, followed by mule deer at 25 percent. The numbers of elk, pronghorn, moose, and bighorn sheep carcasses were much lower.
Federal Agencies Examining Columbia River Dam Operations
Public meetings held in western Montana in wake of judge’s ruling that dams have negative impacts on salmon and steelhead
The federal agencies responsible for the operation of more than a dozen dams in the Paci c Northwest — including two in Northwest Montana — are analyz- ing how to adjust operations within the Columbia River Basin to comply with the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration are working on a revised environmental impact statement after a federal judge ruled that the oper- ation of 14 dams, including the Hungry Horse and Libby dams, is having a neg- ative impact on salmon and steelhead. The three agencies have been hosting
meetings across the Paci c Northwest, including one in Kalispell on Nov. 1, Libby on Nov. 2, and Missoula on Nov. 3.
“We want people be able to provide input on how to operate the system because there are so many competing interests,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engi- neers spokesperson Amy Gaskill.
The dams of the Columbia River Basin have been described as a “complex sys- tem” built to create hydro-electricity and o er  ood control for the Paci c North- west. The dams in the United States and others in Canada were the result of the Columbia River Treaty, a groundbreak- ing international agreement between the two nations signed in 1964.
The Columbia River Basin dams have
been the subject of numerous lawsuits in recent decades because of their impacts on salmon and steelhead, both of which were given protected status in the 1990s. The National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency responsible for the stewardship of marine resources, has maintained that the dams do not neg- atively impact the  sh. But earlier this year, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon in Oregon ordered the agencies to take another look at the dams’ impact on their environment. In a 149-page ruling, he noted that none of the federal agen- cies have considered how climate change would impact the river system or  sh.
“The Court  nds that NOAA Fisher- ies’ assertion that the e ects of climate
change have been adequately assessed in (a 2014 biological opinion) is not ‘complete, reasoned, or adequately explained,’” Simon wrote. “NOAA Fish- eries’ analysis does not apply the best available science, overlooks import- ant aspects of the problem and fails (to properly) analyze the e ects of climate change.”
The federal agencies will gather public input on river and dam operations from now until Jan. 2017, and hope to issue a new draft environmental impact state- ment in Fall 2019 or Spring 2020. For more information, visit
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