Wednesday, July 19, 2023
The Honorable Pete Buttigieg, Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Subject: for Wildlife Crossing Pilot Program Discretionary Grant Letter of Support: Missoula, Montana to Garrison, Montana Wildlife Crossing Feasibility Study
Dear Secretary Buttigieg:
On behalf of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, we offer this letter in support of the Montana Department of Transportation’s (MDT) Wildlife Crossing Pilot Program (WCPP) discretionary grant funding application for the Missoula to Garrison Wildlife Crossing Feasibility Study.
If approved, this study will help identify problem areas for big game movements and migrations across and along Interstate I-90 east of Missoula. Not only does this stretch of highway see incessant high-speed vehicular use, it also intersects important big game habitat and migration routes for species important to our members, including elk, deer, black bears, grizzly bears, and pronghorn antelope.
The proposed study would also help identify ways to improve wildlife connectivity and reduce wildlife-vehicle crashes. These could include, but would not be limited to, overpasses, underpasses, fencing, wildlife detections and warning systems and more, and the study would measure the feasibility of these options.
It’s also worth considering that efforts to restore and delist grizzlies – something we support - depend on the ability to meet recovery goals including expanding populations to identified recovery zones and promoting genetic diversity between isolated populations. As grizzly bears have already been found to be moving through this corridor – and vehicles remain one of the greatest sources of mortality for grizzlies – this study and the potential outcomes of it represent an opportunity to improve the connection between the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem’s (NCDE) and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s (GYE) grizzly populations, benefiting Montanans well beyond the project area.
On behalf of the community and the traveling public of Montana, I thank you for your consideration of this important project and look forward to its swift completion.
Scott Mylnechuk, Missoula Valley Board Member
The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers