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Wildlife & Ecosystems

Recent Developments

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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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Maine DOT’s Atlantic Salmon Programmatic Featured in FHWA Newsletter

The Maine Department of Transportation’s programmatic consultation for the Atlantic Salmon is featured in the May issue of the Federal Highway Administration’s Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The article describes the programmatic biological assessment (BA) developed through a collaborative effort between the Federal Highway Administration, Maine DOT, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Maine Turnpike Authority, and the subsequent programmatic biological opinion (PBO) issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The consultation has reduced approval time for projects by 75 percent and will allow informal consultations to be completed in two weeks and formal consultations in one month. For more information, link to the May issue of the Successes in Stewardship newsletter. (5-10-17)

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TRB Ecology Committee Releases Newsletter on Roadside Landscapes

The Transportation Research Board’s Committee on Ecology and Transportation has released the January 2017 edition of their newsletter, which highlights the of monitoring wildlife crossing structures along highways in Changbai Mountain, China, and state departments of transportation using roadsides to benefit pollinators. The newsletter also addresses analyzing the biological functions of microbial communities within roadside landscapes, the Arizona State Route 260 animal activated detection system, wildlife usage of a constructed wildlife underpass and a geographic information system-based wetlands impact forecast model developed by the South Carolina Department of Transportation. For more information, link to the newsletter. (1-30-17)

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Montana DOT Report Evaluates Wildlife Mitigation Measures

The Montana Department of Transportation has released a report evaluating the wildlife crossings installed along U.S. 93 North on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The highway reconstruction project included installation of wildlife overpasses or culverts at 39 locations and wildlife exclusion fences on 8.71 miles of road. Using research conducted from 2002-2015 to address the effectiveness of the mitigation measures, the report finds that collisions with large mammals has been reduced by more than 50 percent. The report indicates that wildlife fences were most effective in reducing collisions with large mammals if the fences were installed over road lengths of at least 3.1 miles. For more information, link to the report. (1-7-17)

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New, Revised Endangered Species Policies Issued by Wildlife Service

The Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a new policy regarding compensatory mitigation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The new policy reflects a shift from project-by-project to landscape-scale approaches to planning and implementing compensatory mitigation. The policy covers permittee-responsible mitigation, conservation banking, in-lieu fee programs, and other third-party mitigation mechanisms, and stresses the need to hold all compensatory mitigation mechanisms to equivalent and effective standards. The agency also has issued a final rule and a revised policy under the ESA concerning Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA). The amended regulations and the policy specify that CCAAs must demonstrate a “net conservation benefit,” the level of conservation effort required with regard to candidate species in order for such instruments to be approved. For more information, link to the mitigation policy, the CCAA final rule, and the CCAA policy. (12-27-16)

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FWS Issues Revised Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a revised Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook. Habitat conservation plans (HCPs) are negotiated agreements under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that help conserve species while accommodating land use activities. The handbook describes how landowners can expedite their ESA permit reviews by specifying the process for drafting, reviewing, approving and implementing HCPs. The handbook also incorporates comprehensive guidance concerning species monitoring, mitigation techniques and climate change. For more information, link to the handbook. (12-20-16)

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AASHTO Issues Handbook to Address Species Consultation

AASHTO has issued a new practitioner's handbook providing an overview of Section 7 consultation under the Endangered Species Act for transportation projects. The handbook, Complying with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act for Transportation Projects (Practitioner's Handbook 17), is the latest in the practitioner’s handbook series. The handbook includes an overview of the regulatory framework, issues to consider, and practical tips. A webinar by the Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO will be scheduled soon to discuss the handbook. Practitioner's Handbook 17. For more information, link to the handbook. (12-2-16)

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Report Presents Impact of Wildlife-Vehicles Conflict on Drivers and Animals

The Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis, has released a report regarding the impact of wildlife-vehicle conflict on drivers and animals in California. Animal and vehicle collisions cost the state at least $225 million, equaling 2 percent of the states’ transportation budget, based on 2015 data. The report analyzes conflict hotspots on state highways that are based on reported traffic incidents and places these conflicts in the context of carcasses observed from 2009-2015 that were reported to the Roadkill Observation System. The report also presents measures to combat animal and vehicle collisions, including building fences and underpasses to allow safe passage for wildlife. For more information, link to the report. (9-20-16)

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Fish and Wildlife Service Releases Endangered Species Listing Work Plan

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its National Listing Work Plan to address the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing and critical habitat decisions over the next seven years. The plan includes the service’s schedule for addressing all 30 species on the ESA candidate list and conducting 320 status reviews for species that have been petitioned for federal protections. The plan also includes 11 additional species for which the service plans to undertake discretionary status reviews and one action impacted by court decisions. State wildlife agencies, nonprofit organizations, transportation departments and various other stakeholders will now have greater transparency and predictability concerning upcoming actions. For more information, link to the announcement. (9-1-16)

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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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Featured Case Study

  • Case Study Photo

    Transportation agencies are testing web-enabled cameras that allow immediate access to photos, such as this moose using a culvert under US 91 in Utah.

    Read Case Study >Photo: Fraser Shilling, Road Ecology Center, UC Davis

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New - items posted in the last 7 days

AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials)
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