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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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Endangered Species Consultation Process Highlighted in FHWA Newsletter

The consultation process established under the Endangered Species Act is addressed in the October issue of Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The process is used to ensure that any projects carried out will not jeopardize species or impact critical habitat by requiring collaboration between various agencies. The newsletter highlights the importance of communication and timing for ensuring that all relevant parties are involved and that projects are not delayed. The newsletter also addresses each step of the process which includes identifying the action area and requesting a species list; assessing whether the action will affect resources from the species list; understanding potential adverse effects of the project; and formal consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. For more information, link to the newsletter. (October 2017)

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Study Evaluates Legal Requirements for DOT Participation in Conservation Plans

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program has issued a legal digest report describing legal requirements for state transportation agencies’ participation in conservation plans. The report describes habitat conservation plans (HCPs) and their relation to wetland mitigation banking, regional planning, and the National Environmental Policy Act. The digest covers mechanisms used in several states to set up, monitor, and maintain HCPs on private or public property through endowment funds and the use of conservation easements. It also includes recent updates to related federal regulations and policies. For more information, link to the digest. (10-2-17)

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NYSDOT Installs Critter Shelf For Safe Wildlife Passage

The New York State Department of Transportation and the Nature Conservancy have installed an under-road platform for wildlife in the Black River Valley to facilitate safe passage for animals to and from the forests of the Adirondacks. The 138 foot “critter shelf,” attached to one side of a corrugated steel culvert with brackets and cables, was placed above the water to provide dry passage for bobcats or other wildlife to cross under a busy road. The shelf is a low cost alternative to creating a wildlife overpass and was developed and successfully tested in Montana, helping to prevent populations from being isolated by highways. For more information, link to the announcement. (9-21-17)

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Arizona DOT Assesses Need for Wildlife Crossings on State Route 260

The Arizona Department of Transportation has issued a report on an assessment of the need for elk and deer crossings along a rural highway east of Phoenix. The report, Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Mitigation on State Route 260: Mogollon Rim to Show Low, provides details on the information collected and evaluated to determine ways in which ADOT could reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions. The report is a joint research project conducted by ADOT and the Arizona Game and Fish Department. For more information link to the report. (August 2017)

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Minnesota Equips Mowers with Automated Vehicle Location Systems

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has released a report regarding its pilot project to equip mowers in the Metro District with automated vehicle location (AVL) systems. AVL systems provide real-time data on vehicle location, road surface conditions, vehicle position and temperature readings to enhance performance. The project required installation of AVL systems installed in 2015 and 2016, with goals of developing a software interface with refined data outputs; enabling data exchange with MnDOT servers for analysis; and creating completion reports to summarize the operator’s accomplishments. The report indicates that more trials are needed to understand how AVL systems will help reduce weeds on roadways. For more information, link to the report. (5-22-17)

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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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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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