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The People's Way Project: how traditional way of knowing the land led to the creation of the most extensive wildlife-sensitive highway in North America




Skyelander, Kim, speaker
Unidentified speaker

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For more than 10 years the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (the tribal government of the Flathead Indian Reservation), the Montana Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) tried to collaborate on a project to re‐design U.S. Hwy 93, one of the most beautiful and dangerous highways in Montana. The highway organizations proposed to turn the two lane highway into a four-lane undivided highway with wider lanes and shoulders and straighter and flatter alignments. This is how engineers build safe, cost effective roads. However, the tribal government strongly opposed this plan because of concerns that a four‐lane highway would accelerate non‐tribal development, adversely affect wildlife and wetlands, and damage tribal cultural and spiritual sites. The new highway, the tribes said, should be designed with the idea that the road is a visitor and should respond to and be respectful of the land and Spirit of Place. Finally, after many years of negotiation and stand-offs between the three governments, the project started to flourish. What had to happen for this project to go from drowning in quicksand to becoming one of the most successful culturally and environmentally sensitive highways in the U.S.? Come find out!


Presented at the Fall 2011 Center for Collaborative Conservation ( Special Seminar, "Collaborative Conservation in Practice: Indigenous Peoples and Conservation", November 15, 2011, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado. This series focused on Indigenous Peoples and Conservation.
Kim Skyelander has a B.S. degree in Wildlife Biology from Utah State University, a M.S. degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Idaho. She worked professionally for the U.S. Forest Service as a wildlife biologist, public affairs specialist, assistant district ranger, tribal government liaison, and wilderness ranger. She left the USFS to pursue a career in teaching and taught natural resources classes for eight years at the Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead Indian Reservation. More recently, Kim was the executive director of a large outdoor learning school in northeastern MN, and she is currently the Associate Director of the Center for Collaborative Conservation at CSU.
Includes recorded speech and PowerPoint presentation.
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spiritual sacred sites
U.S. 93
tribal history
wildlife crossing structures
context-sensitive design
highway safety
environmental impact
tribal cultural sites


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