Adopting wildlife-inclusive design principles for transportation infrastructure on public lands.
Wildlife & Ecosystems
Research Idea Scope
Transportation-related infrastructure affects wildlife in a variety of ways by altering the physical environment. These alterations often negatively impact wildlife through displacement, barriers to movement, and increased mortality. They can positively impact wildlife as well by creating habitat that plants and algae colonize and animals utilize for passage, shelter, and nesting. To date, efforts to address transportation-related wildlife impacts have generally been implemented in a piecemeal approach and tend to discourage wildlife from colonizing and using infrastructure due to perceived concerns about structural damage and routine maintenance. Additionally, there are many barriers to implementing wildlife-inclusive practices including: difficultly in transferring lessons learned from one habitat or region to another, understanding potential impacts to regular maintenance practices, environmental regulations and existing policies.
Federal Land Management Agencies (FLMAs) are charged with fulfilling their missions related to wildlife and habitat conservation while balancing the needs of the public and related transportation infrastructure. Explicitly including ecological and wildlife considerations—incorporating wildlife-inclusive design principles—into asset design and management practices on Federal lands would help support the mission of FLMAs by reducing ecological impacts of new and existing infrastructure while ensuring adequate and safe access for members of the public.
Research is needed to develop guidance on integrating wildlife-inclusive and ecological principles into infrastructure design and engineering considerations . There also needs to be a clear understanding of the existing practices for, and barriers to, implementing wildlife-inclusive design elements into transportation assets. This research will help to build and maintain structures that are not just compatible, but synergistic with wildlife. Further, it will help FLMAs mitigate effects at the ecosystem level and more sensitively integrate transportation infrastructure with the natural environment.
1. Develop guidance and best practices for integrating and implementing wildlife-inclusive design into planning and transportation asset management on Federal lands. Guidance will include research into existing case studies and innovative applications of wildlife-inclusive principles as well as the barriers and costs/benefits of implementing this type of design.
2. Identify priority assets on federally managed land to use as a test case and conduct a pilot study. Focusing on newly designed infrastructure, compile examples of wildlife-inclusive designs that result in enhanced ecological outcomes and increased resiliency, assess the efficiencies, and identify how to implement effective wildlife-inclusive design elements in other infrastructure.
Urgency and Payoff
Developing guidance for implementing wildlife-inclusive designs for transportation infrastructure on public lands will provide the following benefits:
• Support FLMAs’ missions related to resource protection on public lands.
• Facilitate compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other regulatory protections through established design and maintenance practices including mitigation measures or special accommodations.
• Connect existing research on individual species, habitats, environmental concerns and asset types into forward-thinking framework for project applications.
• Enhance ecosystem-level thinking across agencies in support of FHWA’s Eco-Logical Approach .
• Evaluate opportunities for economic savings through enhancement of ecosystem services in coupled human-natural ecosystems. Potential cost-benefits and tradeoffs with infrastructure lifespan and maintenance, environmental mitigation and provision of ecosystem services.
• Advances the state of the practice for wildlife-inclusive design through piloting practices on public lands.