Develop Ecologically Sensitive Transportation Corridor Right-of-Way Management Manual for DOTs

Focus Area

Wildlife & Ecosystems


Natural Resources







Research Idea Scope

The goal of the proposed research is to develop an Ecologically Sensitive Right of Way
Management Guidance Manual that provides for protection and enhancement of ecological
resources and reduces maintenance costs. The manual should guide users to evaluate multiple
management objectives, some of which may be mutually exclusive. The researcher should first
identify and examine existing studies and manuals for habitat management in transportation
facilities ROWs and, as applicable, other ROWs such as utility transmission corridors. Research
on related topics such as habitat restoration and management and impacts of habitat
fragmentation should be reviewed. A manual should then be developed for universal application
that identifies the approach and alternate techniques for developing a ROW maintenance plan.

The manual should identify how site-specific management goals will be identified. Potential
sources of information regarding existing conditions should be listed. The management
techniques identified should:

• Consider existing characteristics within the ROW, such as wetlands and stream corridors;
• Consider adjacent land uses and ecosystems (context-sensitive design);
• Encourage the establishment of native plants;
• Control invasive species;
• Avoid or minimize the use of herbicides, particularly in ecologically sensitive areas;
• Expand habitat for appropriate native species;
• Protect endangered and threatened species;
• Protect and improve surface water quality and hydrology;
• Discourage wildlife vehicle collisions;
• Facilitate safe wildlife movements;
• Provide for removal of accumulated trash; and
• Use GIS and/or other technologies to look at ROW management at an ecosystem level.
ROW management should also minimize labor and energy costs in the long term. Driver
safety must also be addressed.

The approach for plan development should include identification of a multidisciplinary
planning team. Team members may include natural resource management professionals,
highway maintenance staff, highway department administrative staff, and resource protection
agency personnel.

Urgency and Payoff

Highway rights-of-way (ROWs) include large areas of land throughout the country that have
historically been managed by planting with non-native grasses, limited ornamental plantings, and
implementation of an energy- and labor-intensive mowing regime. Goals that currently direct
ROW management include safety considerations designed to prevent tree growth adjacent to the
travel way for safety purposes. There are many problems associated with existing management
practices. Herbicides are routinely used to eliminate vegetation from guiderails and other
structures. Impacts to native and sometimes endangered or threatened wildlife, plants, and
aquatic life may result from herbicide use. Current practices may result in the attraction of
wildlife such as deer that increase the potential for deer–vehicle collisions resulting in human
and wildlife injuries and mortality. Current practices encourage the spread of invasive plant
species both linearly and laterally into adjacent native vegetation communities. Survival of
nonnative plantings is reduced, as they are generally not adapted to the local soil and climatic
conditions or hydrologic regime. Opportunities for expansion of existing adjacent native
vegetation communities and wildlife habitat are lost by these practices. Maintenance of a wide,
non-forested ROW in areas bordered by forest habitat may increase the effect of habitat
fragmentation and affect the use of the adjacent forest by certain wildlife species.

Suggested By

Transportation Research Board 2002 Environmental Research Needs Conference Notes

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