Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

February 9, 2012

Poster contest highlights animal crossings

By Lailani Upham

One of the winning posters created by an unknown student features a brightly colored overpass art design of The People’s Way Project. (Lailani Upham photo) One of the winning posters created by an unknown student features a brightly colored overpass art design of The People’s Way Project. (Lailani Upham photo)

PABLO — Many folks are still unaware of the 40 animal crossings on the 56-mile stretch across the Flathead Reservation on along Highway 93. However, the design effect of being unseen with culverts, or under bridge crossings where most critters are crossing, as the project would have it; the fact that the project is being unseen as well with lives of the two-legged and four-legged being saved is something to be seen.

This is the reason Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Natural Resource Department launched a poster contest this year for school-aged students from kindergarten to high school.

From Polson to Missoula over 946 students were educated about the importance of the wildlife crossing structures and 339 posters were submitted to the contest, according to CSKT Natural Resource Wildlife Biologist, Whisper Camel-Means.

Accidents along U.S. Highway 93 were above national highway levels in the 1990s, according to the Montana Department of Transportation.

“They learned that over 12,000 wildlife crossing by over 20 species events in the structures have been recorded by researchers,” said Camel-Means.

Judges for the contest were: Kevin McLlaury, Federal Highway Administration; Glen Cameron, Montana Department of Transportation; Marcel Huijser, Western Transportation Institute; Scott Jackson, Northern Region U.S. Forest Service; and Rich Janssen, CSKT Natural Resource Department Head.

“I am always amazed at the ability of children to absorb information and to articulate their thoughts. The efforts displayed in these posters are a source of hope for the future of conservation and wildlife/habitat and connectivity,” Jackson stated.

“While most adults focus on human safety, children are more focused on the natural environment and emphasize that animals have a right to live to,” Huijser said.

“I am proud of the students that took part in the poster contest. It is a great learning opportunity for them and allows them to express their understanding of how a highway and wildlife can interact in an environmentally sensitive and respectful manner,” expressed McLlaury.

“I would have never dreamed that school kids would have this opportunity to express themselves on the highway project. Growing up in Ronan, this road project is more beneficial than not,” stated Janssen.

The “Safe Passages for Wildlife Poster Contest” was funded through a grant from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation based in Missoula.

Schools were identified as a north or a south category with winners being selected per grade group. First place winners will receive an iPOD shuffle, a backpack with a Salish Place cd and a tracking guide; second place will receive a bag, compact disc and tracking guide; and third place winners get a bag, Dairy Queen gift certificate and cd.

Winners of the contest will be announced and acknowledged during a CSKT Tribal Council meeting in mid-February. Date is yet to be determined.

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