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The effects of roads and power line corridors on forest wildlife are species dependent. For some forest wildlife, the corridors exclude or result in avoidance of the area for distances of 330 feet or more. For grassland and early-successional forest species, roadsides and power line rights-of-way provide valuable habitat, but the value is influenced by the width of the corridor, the nature of the corridor vegetation, maintenance practices in the corridor, and the abruptness of the forest edge. For some forest wildlife species, roads and power line corridors act as barriers, fragmenting populations. Corridors can also act as intraspecific filters, allowing movement of a certain age class or gender. For other species, corridors act as travel lanes, connecting isolated areas of habitat. Unfortunately, roads and power line corridors can also act as travel lanes for the spread of exotic plants and animals. Road mortality for many species of forest wildlife has been well documented. Speed limit, road type, width of the cleared corridor, and other factors affect the mortality levels found on a given highway segment. Roads also have other effects, including mortality due to increased access by legal and illegal hunters, increased pollution along roadsides, and accelerated land use changes along roads.
Wildlife and plants can be affected by the presence of trails through the forest. Trampling by hikers and other outdoor recreationists have been found to cause declines in some sensitive plant species. In addition, shifts in forest bird composition have been documented along trails. Other wildlife, such as bears, is sensitive to human disturbance and may avoid trails. “Collectable” wildlife species may be extirpated from the vicinity of trails due to pet collection.
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