PABLO — The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) recently received over $37 million in federal grants that will be used for projects around the reservation.
Just over $30 million of the funding from the Federal Highway Administration’s National Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects (NSFLTP) program will go toward improving U.S. Highway 93 — a road known for its traffic and accidents with wildlife.
According to the Montana Department of Transportation, the Montana Highway Patrol responds to an average of 3200 wildlife-vehicle collisions annually across the state.
One project to help mitigate those crashes on U.S. Highway 93 includes expanding Post Creek Bridge — which is six miles north of St. Ignatius — from 25 feet to 500 feet.
CSKT is also planning to add another wildlife crossing bridge north of Ninepipes Lodge and Reservoir.
The bridge will be similar to the one near Evaro and will allow wildlife like deer, elk, and grizzly bears with cubs to cross the highway safely.
"We'll be conferring with experts and different people to make that as effective as possible," shared CSKT Department of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation, and Parks Manager Whisper Camel Means.
CSKT plans to add connection points underneath the road so birds and other small animals can move from one side of the reservoir to the other without getting hit by cars.
Making highway changes is important to CSKT so they can keep the animals and lands they love in the best conditions possible.
"The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are leaders. We're leaders in natural resources. We care about the natural resources and preserving them for future generations," Means explained. So, us continuing to do all this hard work and protect really helps to preserve what's left of our ancestral territories that we call home."
CSKT has six years to complete its highway changes and improvements. The first project on their docket is upgrading the Post Creek Bridge.