Bobcat on the move in Vermont's snowy forests.
Bobcat Bobcat on the move in Vermont's snowy forests. ©: Roger Irwin

Stories in Vermont

Staying Connected in Vermont

For the well-being of wildlife and people, connections matter.

The Issue

Just like people, wildlife needs to move to meet their basic needs. Highways, bridges, declining forests and a more developed landscape, create obstacles to wildlife movement and compromise the health of various species and can lead to increases in vehicle and wildlife collisions. 

Vermont lies at the crossroads of an extensive wildlife habitat network reaching from the Tug Hill plateau in New York, across the Adirondacks and the northern reaches of New England, and on to the Canadian Maritime provinces. Wide ranging species like bear, bobcat, fisher and moose need to move through the region to locate sufficient food and overwinter sites and find mates.

In certain regions, wildlife faces significant obstacles to their movement. Such is the case along the Bolton / I-89 corridor where wildlife must cross train tracks, highways and roads in a dense area. Studies have now shown that the bear populations south of this Bolton I-89 corridor have a different genetic make-up from the bear populations north of the interstate. The more homogeneous a species, the more vulnerable it is to disease.

The Work

For wildlife to thrive in our region, a permeable transportation system is needed. Highways, roads, and bridges need to be designed with wildlife connectivity needs in mind. By over-sizing culverts and adding wildlife shelves and over-passes to highway infrastructure, animals can find natural corridors for their movement needs. These types of enhancements result in co-benefits for climate resiliency as our communities face increased flooding events. Larger culverts ameliorate the impacts of extreme weather events of the type we are experiencing in New England.

Our Involvement

Vermont is a national model in its public/private partnership that crosses state and national boundaries to protect wildlife connectivity. The Nature Conservancy is a critical player in the four state, 21 partner Staying Connected Initiative (SCI).

  • We are targeting land protection that helps secure important forested pathways for wildlife while applying our conservation science to inform where we and our partners should invest scarce resources.
  • As a partnership, we have deployed 130 wildlife cameras to track animal movement and capture data. The Nature Conservancy is monitoring 84 of those cameras over 3 years to track animals passage on a variety of surfaces and structure.
  • This research will inform material and design best practices for creating a wildlife friendly transportation infrastructure. 
  • We are also engaging with local communities in land use planning and policy efforts to sustain forests in the vast areas that aren't permanently protected through land conservation

The Benefits

  • Healthy and thriving wildlife populations
  • Safer roadways and less animal-vehicle collisions
  • Smart growth for communities
  • Improved climate resiliency for transportation infrastructure