Charles Scott and Family Finish the Lewis & Clark Trail
Charles Scott is an author, family adventurer and United Nations Climate Hero based in New York City. Charles is travelling across the US on the famed Lewis and Clark Trail by bicycle this summer and recording road kill observations for ASC along the way. He is joined by his family including his son, Sho (age 12) and daughter, Saya (age 6) and is planning to writing a book about their experience. Keep up with the Scott family on their blog.
I spent this past summer cycling 1,700 miles of the Lewis & Clark Trail with my children, ages 12 and 6. We worked with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) to collect data for a roadkill project, hoping to help reduce the impact of roads on wildlife.
After we returned to our home in New York City, my 12-year-old son said, “Before this trip, I didn’t think much about roadkill. I just assumed that, where you have roads, you’re gonna have dead animals. But I learned that so many animals don’t have to die, if people care enough to give them safe ways to cross.”
If people care enough. That’s the phrase that sums up what I hope my children internalized from our summer adventure. Although we live in a dense urban environment, my wife, kids and I regularly leave the city to hike in nearby forests on the weekends. And we’ve taken several major summer bike excursions. So far, we have cycled the length of Japan (2,500 miles in 67 days), the circumference of Iceland (1,500 miles in 46 days), across Western Europe (1,200 miles in 42 days) and the Lewis & Clark Trail (1,700 miles in 60 days). On these trips, we spent most of our time outside, and we often slept in a tent.
While riding through Iceland, my daughter, 4 years old at the time, declared, “I’m in love with horses and Arctic terns!” I’ve found that the more time kids spend in nature, the more connected they feel to the world around them. And I hope, as they grow, my children will translate this sense of connection into caring enough to try to protect the wilderness that remains.
As we re-traced the Lewis & Clark Trail this summer, whenever we saw a dead animal by the road, my kids yelled out “roadkill,” and we stopped to document the animal. We pulled the bikes off to the side and kept in the grass to stay safe. I placed a 6” tube of sunblock beside the animal to provide scale, then took photos from two different angles. The photos had geo location data automatically embedded. ASC connected us to their roadkill project with Professor Fraser Shilling at the University of California at Davis took our data and uploaded it to an online map and database.
In Missoula, Montana, my kids and I met with officials from the Department of Transportation to share our observations and learn what the department is doing to reduce roadkill. Western Montana has an ambitious roadkill mitigation strategy and has constructed over 85 wildlife crossings. U.S. Highway 93, for example, has seen a 40 percent reduction in wildlife vehicle collision as a result of these efforts (more here). I was impressed by the Montana Department of Transportation’s efforts and think more states should emulate their approach.
We’re back in New York City now, fully immersed in our regular routines of school and work. But we will not soon forget our summer experience working with ASC and paying a little closer attention to the world around us.
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