June 5, 2009

Protected areas, roads, and wildlife

I recently returned from a short trip to Glacier National Park in Montana.  It was truly an amazing time of the year to go, because it was still early enough in the season that the park had very few visitors.  One of the main attractions - Going to the Sun Road - would not open completely for another 3 weeks.  What struck me as remarkable, and somewhat ironic, was the amount of wildlife we observed in very close proximity to the road.  While we did several miles of trail hiking well away from most relicts of civilization, the vast majority of the species we observed were within 20 feet of a road.  It could be that the repeated clapping while hiking (a necessary precaution in grizzly bear country) alerted the wildlife to our presence.  It could be that the very low amounts of traffic presented little enough intrusion that the wildlife took advantage of the additional forage along the roadside or to peruse the road as travel corridors.  Or perhaps, contrary to "The Road" (see earlier posting), it is not humans that will reclaim and travel these constructions in the absense of civilization. 

The spruce grouse that emerged from the bushes to attack my boot laces as we walked up Going to the Sun Road (several miles beyond where it was closed to vehicle traffic) reminded me to tread carefully - this space does not belong to us.  It is borrowed.  Travel these roads only as much as you have to, and whenever you can, get out and walk.  These areas are protected from ourselves, so that species can take refuge here.  Just remember - this is their space - so walk lightly.

About the author:
Brendan Ward, M.S.
Software Engineer, Conservation Biologist, GIS Analyst, Team Lead- Software & Tools
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by Kai Foster, M.A.
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