Decision guide for selecting wildlife-friendly sediment and erosion control products

Focus Area

Water Quality/Wetlands


Natural Resources




Under $99k


Under 1 year

Research Idea Scope

With increasing numbers of species being considered and listed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for protection under the Endangered Species Act, the need to integrate protection of species with erosion and sediment control is coming to the forefront. Plastic netting used in common temporary erosion and sediment control products can enmesh wildlife, resulting in injuries or death to species including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Plastic netting remains intact for long time periods following use and may move within the environment, potentially causing negative impacts to species for years following construction if it is not collected and disposed properly. The US Fish and Wildlife Service mentioned this risk in the recent listing of the Northern Mexican gartersnake and the narrow-headed gartersnake as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The US Forest Service and some state highway and other governmental agencies (for example, California Department of Transportation, Minnesota Dept of Natural Resources, Vermont Agency of Transportation, California Coastal Commission) have produced summaries and suggestions for addressing these concerns but a survey of current products with best applications, potential impacts to wildlife, and cost considerations is not available. The article by Kapfer and Paloski (2011) provides a starting point for this type of evaluation ( Research Objective: To develop a set of best practices for transportation practitioners to assess the value of providing bat habitat on transportation structures. • Synthesize the available information on negative impacts to wildlife from temporary and permanent erosion and sediment control products and practices. Useful sources of information will likely include surveys of state wildlife agencies, highway agencies, engineering or construction contacts for federal agencies, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and manufacturers and suppliers of erosion and sediment control products. • Create a summary of best uses for products and practices for different erosion and sediment situations and concerns for different types of species (for example, biodegradable excelsior mats are good for use on slopes but not channels and the netting is not harmful to wildlife). • Develop a field guide or quick reference to assist transportation practitioners with selecting the best products and practices for a particular set of circumstances, such as a matrix or flow chart leading to options for products to use for different time frames of erosion control and species concerns.

Urgency and Payoff

As more species are being considered or actually listed as threatened or endangered, a compilation of alternate products and approaches to erosion control that are wildlife-friendly would be extremely useful to promote adoption of appropriate approaches across transportation agencies. This need falls into the gap between the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, where there is reluctance to change from currently known products and designs to new approaches. A collection of alternatives and potential costs and benefits of those products from agencies that have already implemented the change would be very helpful to agencies facing newly listed or proposed species.

Suggested By

Kris Gade Arizona DOT 602-292-0301

[email protected]