Evaluating and Improving Landscape Connectivity for Amphibians and Reptiles
Wildlife & Ecosystems
Research Idea Scope
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) is engaged in an innovative, collaborative effort with the Massachusetts Highway Department (MassHighway) to understand and lessen the effects of existing and proposed major roads on populations of state-listed amphibians and reptiles. It is anticipated that this cooperative relationship will serve as a flexible and dynamic model to improve the regulatory review process and outcome for other state highway departments. Fifteen species of amphibian and reptile are state-listed in Massachusetts as endangered, threatened, or of “special concern.” DWF and MassHighway are currently collaborating on a three-year study to determine ideal dimensions of wildlife passage structures for freshwater turtles (partially funded by the Federal Highway Administration). To complement these research objectives, the DFW proposes to broaden the focus of this study to evaluate several additional topics related to landscape connectivity for state-listed amphibians and reptiles. The DFW will investigate methods of improving the permeability of existing road and rail corridors for amphibians and reptiles, by conducting field and laboratory studies. Additionally, the DFW will develop and publicize a web-based “citizen-science” program to identify hotspots of amphibian and reptile road mortality.
Urgency and Payoff
The findings from these studies will be continuously provided to MassHighway to increase the predictability and efficiency of the regulatory review process. These findings will be used to streamline and inform the DFW’s regulatory review process and long-term conservation efforts by providing GIS-based datalayers of road-crossing problem areas and improving design considerations for transportation developments. By conducting inter-agency Early Coordination and incorporating mitigation into project design, the DFW anticipates that this effort will increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve the long-term compatibility of rare amphibian and reptile populations with the state’s long-term transportation-related objectives. Overall in this framework, it will be easier for the DFW to meet regulatory requirements, and for the MassHighway to meet the requirements of an accelerated timeline.
Michael T. Jones, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife