Through generous support from the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative's Sarah Baker Memorial Fund, one of my first projects following the completion of my doctorate examines the institutional barriers of state and federal transportation departments in the deployment of wildlife crossings.
This project will enable conservationists to effectively address institutional barriers that prevent transportation agencies from consistently incorporating wildlife crossings into their plans and projects for roads in the Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) region. Mitigation of wildlife-vehicle collisions via crossing structures should be a standard practice rather than an exception to the rule. Highways are among the greatest barriers to wildlife movement in the Y2Y region. They are also killers, with an estimated 1-2 million wildlife vehicle collisions occurring annually in the U.S. alone. Despite these pervasive and costly consequences, results from two recent studies led by the Western Transportation Institute revealed that transportation agencies are inconsistent in their deployment of wildlife crossings to mitigate these concerns. The causes for this inconsistency are two-fold. First, it is not part of transportation agencies’ mission to conserve wildlife. Second, few conservation organizations in the Y2Y region have the expertise or capacity to address this issue. Whereas conservationists are well-versed in participating in, and influencing, forest management or recreational development decisions, few groups understand the perspectives and prerogatives of transportation agencies in regards to wildlife. Thus, this study will examine the organizational psychology of transportation departments in the Y2Y region to reveal the institutional barriers that obstruct these agencies’ implementation of wildlife mitigation measures and identify potential solutions for surmounting these obstacles. This research will culminate in a professional report for conservation professionals on how to effectively influence transportation agencies and their plans and projects to ensure consistent deployment of crossing structures.