The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes were involved in creating a wildlife crossing over U.S. Highway 93 in Montana. (Montana Department of Transportation)

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By Eric Tegethoff

February 16, 2022   

Migration routes for wildlife across the country are in peril, but tribes could get more support from Congress to protect these corridors.

The Tribal Wildlife Corridors Act would send $50 million per year in grants for Native American efforts to improve wildlife habitat.

Shailyn Miller, wildlife connectivity coordinator for the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society, said animals don’t recognize political boundaries. She added that this legislation would ensure they can travel safely across a checkerboard of lands, while reinforcing tribal sovereignty to manage corridors.

“Tribes are severely underfunded and at a huge disadvantage due to extremely limited resources,” she said, “especially when compared to state or federal wildlife agencies.”

Migration corridors especially are important for big-game species such as elk, mule deer and pronghorn. More than 20 tribal nations and organizations have supported the legislation so far. There are 12 federally recognized tribes in Montana.

Miller, who grew up in Montana, said tribes already are working to protect wildlife migration paths, including the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in northwest Montana.

“The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes were one of the first tribes to be involved in wildlife corridor work, starting in the early 2000s,” she said. “This includes a project that installed wildlife fencing, combined with dozens of wildlife underpasses and one wildlife overpass on tribal land.”

In the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, $350 million has been set aside over five years for the Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program. Miller said tribes also can apply for this funding to help supplement their habitat-protection work.


Bill U.S. Senate 2021