Establishing an Early Coordination Framework between Highway and Wildlife Departments
Wildlife & Ecosystems
Research Idea Scope
TERI Database Administrator Notes. Not recommended at present time by 2009 Natural Systems Subcommittee.
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) is in the process of developing an innovative, collaborative effort to proactively identify and address MESA regulatory concerns very early in the planning process for major road and bridge construction and repair projects. Through an “Early Coordination” process, DFW and MassHighway will exchange information through a GIS-based electronic database regarding project details (e.g., project type, timing, level of MassHighway priority) and measures likely to be needed to adequately protect state and federally-listed species and their habitats (e.g., mussel surveys and translocation, rare turtle crossing structures, retaining wall vs. rip-rap to minimize habitat impacts). DFW is also in the process of developing “off the shelf” Best Development Practices (BDPs) for MassHighway which will provide a clear, efficient, and predictable approach to addressing endangered species issues that are relatively frequently encountered in the transportation context (e.g., protection of state and federally-listed turtles and mussels during construction). Both MassHighway and DFW are confident that the Early Coordination process that have initiated can serve as a model for other state transportation and wildlife agencies, by saving money, avoiding potentially costly project delays, and resulting in a better conservation outcome for endangered species. With support from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), MassHighway and DFW will conduct research necessary to improve this pilot Early Coordination Program and will develop information materials so their program can effectively serve as a model demonstration project for other state transportation and wildlife agencies. This collaboration will address four major research objectives: 1) Conduct research to support BDP development, specifically by conducting controlled, standardized studies at a variety of transportation project sites; 2) Conduct research to identify hotspots of rare wildlife roadkill and determine landscape correlates of roadkill hotspots, using volunteer input, standardized road surveys, and a GIS-based citizen science database. 3) Develop and expand database of roadkill hotspots, success of mitigation efforts, and projected rare species concerns near proposed transportation projects. 4)Develop informational materials for other state transportation and wildlife agencies.
Urgency and Payoff
A collaborative, early-coordination-based relationship between a state highway department and a state endangered species regulatory agency is a novel phenomenon that, if successfully achieved, can serve as a model for other states. This relationship will fundamentally increase the predictability and efficiency of the regulatory review process, and will streamline and inform DFW’s long-term conservation efforts. By conducting inter-agency Early Coordination that incorporates mitigation into project design, DFW anticipates that this effort will: 1) improve regulatory efficiency; 2) improve regulatory (i.e., conservation) effectiveness; 3) eliminate unnecessary mitigation requirements 4) improve, inform, and streamline existing best management practices; 5) reduce project costs associated with rare species mitigation 6) improve the long-term compatibility of rare wildlife populations with the state’s long-term transportation-related objectives. Overall in this framework, it will be easier for the NHESP to meet regulatory requirements, and for MassHighway to meet the requirements of an accelerated timeline.
Michael T. Jones, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife