A Wildlife Project With Its Own Children’s Book & Song

A Search for Safe Passage | Photo Courtesy of the Safe Passage Fund Coalition

The Smokies Safe Passage project, the I-40 Pigeon River Gorge Wildlife Crossing Project near the Great Smoky Mountains, has been highly embraced. The project’s massive research is being hailed as a tool for many regions in the eastern U.S. looking to make it safer for wildlife to cross interstates and highways. And now the project has taken on a kind of celebrity status—it even has its own song and children’s book.

“I decided to write a book geared toward younger readers because creating a more permeable landscape for wildlife is a decades-long pursuit,” says Francis Figart, Creative Services Director for Great Smoky Mountains Association. Even though she wrote A Search for Safe Passage with age 7-12 in mind, Figart has been delightfully surprised at the response from many adults.

Teachers, photographers, naturalists and other authors say it should be marketed for adults as it is more of a fable than a kids’ book. “This totally makes sense because I was drawing on my background as an English Literature major and put into the book everything I learned about allusion, allegory and the journey motif—lots of adult-friendly material. One friend even said it was the only book he had actually finished in several years.”

Figart believes the 11-year-old who reads A Search for Safe Passage today may be the wildlife engineer of 11 years from now who solves some of the most intractable problems of landscape connectivity. “They will inherit this work, they will be our future highway engineers and road ecologists, and they will save these species. So, the book is for them—and I wrote it for the 11- or 12-year-old child I can still remember being, who spent countless hours in the woods near roads in the hope of seeing live wild animals, and who would have loved to read a book like this with her mother.”

The book earned the Publication of the Year award from the Public Lands Alliance in 2022, raising the profile of the Safe Passage project and of road ecology in Southern Appalachia.

Another big surprise was Figart’s new adventures of writing a song and then producing the music video Safe Passage: Animals Need a Hand. “My goals in producing the video were to save the lives of animals.” She has dedicated the video to all the human beings working across the globe to help animals find safer ways to cross roads.

Francis Figart’s song begins: I am an American Black Bear and I’m following an ancient trail. I am a Bear. By the side of the road I wait to follow the ancient trail cut through by the interstate. Safe passage: Animals need a hand. Let’s change our roads to help them cross and move on over this land.

Learn more about the Safe Passage project here.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.