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Wildlife & Ecosystems

Recent Developments

Listed below are recent developments pertinent to wildlife and ecosystems from the past six months.  If you would like to suggest a recent development on this topic, please submit a short description to AASHTO (including any pertinent links) on the Share Info with AASHTO form.

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Agencies Issue Policy to Clarify Key ESA Definition

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have announced a policy to clarify the interpretation of the phrase “significant portion of its range” in the Endangered Species Act as it applies to decisions to list species as threatened or endangered. Under the new policy, the two services would be able to list a species as threatened or endangered throughout its range if the best available science shows that the species is threatened or endangered in a vital portion of that range, the loss of which would put the species as a whole at risk of extinction. That portion of the range would be determined to be “significant.” For more information, link to the Significant Portion of Its Range Policy. (6-27-14)

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FWS Publishes Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment Toolbox of Methods and Case Studies

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has released a climate change vulnerability assessment for natural resources management that includes a methods toolbox and related case studies. The publication was developed to provide a general survey of some of the main climate change vulnerability assessment methods currently used for species; habitats; places, such as landscapes, protected areas, and watersheds; ecosystem processes; ecosystem services; water recourses; and coastal resources. FWS plans to regularly update the toolbox when new case studies and methods are published. For more information, link to the toolbox. (5-10-14)

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FWS, NMFS Propose Actions on Critical Habitat Designations

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have proposed two rules and a policy to improve the process of designating areas of critical habitat and consulting on the effects of federal actions on critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act. The rules would revise the definition of "adverse modification," clarify the procedures and standards used for designating critical habitat, and clarify how the services consider exclusions from critical habitat designations. For more information, link to Definition of Destruction or Adverse Modification; Critical Habitat Exclusions; and Designating Critical Habitat. (5-9-14)

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TRB's Ecology and Transportation Committee Publishes Newsletter

The Transportation Research Board’s Committee on Ecology and Transportation has published the January 2014 edition of its newsletter. The newsletter features articles about how departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations can create an ecosystem services crediting program, efforts to protect pronghorn migration corridors, monitoring of roadside cameras to identify animal crash migration, and an update on road ecology research at the China Academy of Transportation Sciences. In addition, the newsletter includes information about September 2014 colloquium exploring the convergence of landscape, road, and urban ecology. For more information, link to the newsletter. (1-13-14)

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FHWA Newsletter Discusses Collaborative Efforts to Reduce Wildlife Impacts in Utah

The January 2014 Successes in Stewardship newsletter, published by FHWA, provides information on a collaborative research initiative in Utah that led to the identification of successful wildlife crossing practices. The newsletter details the evolution of collaborative efforts between various transportation and wildlife agencies at the federal and state level to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. The effort, which began in 2005, expanded into a statewide effort and led to a study of several approaches to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. The study found that large mammals prefer to cross on bridges, longer culverts are less effective than shorter culverts and wildlife exclusion fencing that is eight feet high encourages deer and other wildlife to use culverts and crossings. For more information, link to the newsletter. (1-2-14)

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Tool Developed To Help Practitioners Incorporate Wildlife Values into Land Use Plans

The Western Governors’ Association has released a new tool to help stakeholders incorporate wildlife values into land use decisions. The tool, known as the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT), was developed with input from 16 western states and other public and private stakeholders. Tool developers built CHAT to provide information on habitat for the pre-planning of varied projects. The Western Governors’ Association is providing the tool online free of charge.  For more information, link to the CHAT website and press release. (12-12-13)

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Comment Period Reopened on Proposal to Clarify Review Process for Critical Habitat Designations

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service have announced the reopening of the comment period for an Aug. 24, 2012, proposed rule that would clarify and simplify requirements for impact analyses conducted for critical habitat designations under the Endangered Species Act. Comments now are due Feb. 6, 2013. For more information, link to the FWS Improving ESA Implementation webpage and to the Federal Register notice. (11-8-12)

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