Objective Sponsors Final Agenda Proceedings Conference Facility Participants

The 2005 International Conference
on Ecology & Transportation
San Diego, CA

August 29 – September 2, 2005
Theme: “On The Road To Stewardship”

On The Road To Stewardship

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Abstracts: Integrating Transportation and Resource Conservation Planning

Coming Up Next: ICOET 2007 in Little Rock, AR!

Conservation Banking

Integrating Transportation Conservation with Regional Conservation Planning

John DiGregoria (Phone: 760-431-9440, Email: John_DiGregoria@r1.fws.gov), Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Emilie Luciani, Geographer; and Susan Wynn (Phone: 760-431-9440, Email: susan_wynn@fws.gov), Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad, CA 92011, Fax: 760-431-5901

Conservation planning in San Diego County has been ongoing since the early 1990's and has resulted in the establishment of the Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) in southwest San Diego County and the Multiple Habitat Conservation Program (MHCP) in northwest San Diego County. Currently, the County of San Diego is developing regional plans for the unincorporated lands remaining in north and east San Diego County. These regional plans are (or will be) permitted under the Federal Endangered Species Act (Section 10: Habitat Conservation Plan) and the State of California Natural Community Conservation Planning Act.

This paper focuses on the integration of transportation conservation with the MSCP. "The MSCP is a comprehensive, long-term habitat conservation plan which addresses the needs of multiple species and the preservation of natural vegetation communities in San Diego County" (MSCP 1998). The MSCP covers 85 species, of which 20 species are federally listed and 14 are State listed, including 46 plant species and 39 animal species. The MSCP defines a design preserve within the plan boundaries that include large interconnected areas for the protection of the MSCP-covered species. The MSCP does not cover regional transportation projects, such as projects funded by the Federal Highway Administration.

District 11 of the California Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration collaborated with Federal and State resource agencies to develop transportation projects that are consistent with the MSCP. The planning and development of improvements to Interstate 15, State Route (SR) 125 South, and the SR 905 Extension included the protection of large blocks of habitat in conservation banks. Numerous parcels were purchased as mitigation, including the Walsh property, Bonita Meadows Open Space Preserve, Johnson Canyon Open Space Preserve, San Ysidro Mountain, Lake Jennings, and Dennery Canyon. These parcels are key to the buildout of the preserve identified by MSCP. In addition, the design of SR 125 South and the SR 905 Extension included modifying the alignment to avoid and minimize impacts to sensitive natural resources within the MSCP.

Collaboration between the transportation agencies and natural-resource agencies has resulted in the preservation of large blocks of habitat to further the buildout of the MSCP preserve. The voter-approved extension of a $0.005 sales tax will provide a funding mechanism for the up-front purchases of land to continue this collaboration in recognition that it results in the most cost-effective mitigation and better conservation.


ODOT's Habitat Value Approach to Compensatory Mitigation Debit/Credit Calculations

William Warncke (Phone: 503-986-3013, Email: william.m.warncke@odot.state.or.us), Mitigation and Conservation Program Coordinator, Oregon Department of Transportation, Salem, OR 97301

In 2004, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), Parametrix, and several partnering agencies developed a statewide Banking Program to improve fundamentally ODOT's approach for addressing habitat mitigation and conservation and species recovery. As part of the Banking Program, a debit/credit accounting system was developed to ensure that compensatory mitigation and conservation actions adequately address impacts to species, habitat, and functions. The resulting Habitat Value metric represents a comprehensive view of ecosystem function and is the currency of the Banking Program. It constitutes a new approach to resource evaluation, and can be characterized as a new language that enables project-permitting discussions to move beyond a narrow focus on regulatory requirements.

Most mitigation and conservation bank programs measure debits and credits in acres or linear feet. Ratios are often applied as a surrogate means of addressing habitat quality and function. The Habitat Value approach moves away from using dimensions and ratios in favor of focusing on changes in the ecological function of the site. This type of analysis provides an opportunity to evaluate where systems may be most vulnerable to impacts and where management activities should be focused to protect or enhance overall ecosystem integrity.

Habitat Value is determined by using database correlations to predict which species will occur at a site based on field inventories of habitat characteristics. These correlations are the basis for determining which key ecological functions are likely to be performed. Because many project sites are adversely influenced by the presence of invasive plant species, it is necessary to incorporate an adjustment factor that reflects the fact that such sites are not functioning at their ecological potential. These habitat-species-function relationships are integrated to determine Habitat Value. There are two methods for determining Habitat Value, both of which utilize GIS and automated databases: a rapid assessment for use at low quality/low severity impact sites and a more detailed approach for high-quality/high-severity impact sites.

The Habitat Value approach can accommodate different types of impacts and mitigation/conservation activities, and is useful for alternatives analysis and impact assessments. The accounting system assesses debits and credits by predicting how species will respond to habitat modifications (i.e., changes in the extent or character of available habitat). Based on anticipated post-project conditions, a post-project Habitat Value is calculated and subtracted from the baseline Habitat Value in order to determine the debit or credit amount. Techniques have been developed to quantify the debit value of temporary direct, permanent indirect, and permanent direct impacts, as well as the credit value resulting from habitat restoration, creation, enhancement, and preservation.

As an interim measure to ensure that regulatory requirements are satisfied, accounting modules address the extent and abiotic function of wetlands and the extent and quality of habitat for certain ESA-listed species. These backstops make use of the Habitat Value accounting framework, but incorporate additional information relating to wetland function or species-specific habitat suitability. Additional modules can be added as needed to address water quality or other resources of specific regulatory interest (e.g., additional ESA-listed species, migratory birds).

Through the Habitat Value approach, the value of all habitat types (not just jurisdictional wetlands) can be quantified. When coupled with Ecoprovince Priorities that reflect regional restoration/conservation objectives, the Habitat Value approach accommodates out-of-kind mitigation. This new system provides the flexibility needed to focus on regional priorities while implementing the Clean Water Act, the ESA, the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, and the ODFW Habitat Mitigation Policy. This approach has been developed in close coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Highway Administration, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Environmental Quality, and the Oregon Department of State Lands, in addition to ODOT.

As with the Banking Program in general, the debit/credit accounting system will incorporate new ideas and techniques to build on successes and address shortcomings. Further research will include the development of additional species-specific accounting modules for ESA-listed salmon species, vernal pool communities, Fender's Blue Butterfly, and threatened and endangered plants. Additionally, analysis may be modified to address abiotic functions and to incorporate landscape connectivity metrics. Finally, it may be possible to integrate the Habitat Value metric with other models, such as hydrogeomorphic models and the NMFS Five-Step Wetland Mitigation Ratio Calculator.


On the Road to Conservation: State Conservation Strategies and Applications for Transportation Planning

Patricia A. White (Phone: 202-682-9400, Email: twhite@defenders.org), Director, Habitat & Highways Campaign, Defenders of Wildlife, 1130 Seventeenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036, Fax: 202-682-1331

Since 2001, the Department of Interior has been supporting state-based wildlife conservation via the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program (SWG). Funds are appropriated annually for state fish and wildlife agencies to address the broad range of their state's wildlife and associated habitats in a comprehensive fashion.

As part of the SWG, state fish and wildlife agencies are developing statewide comprehensive wildlife conservation strategies in partnership with a broad array of partners including other government agencies, conservation organizations, landowners, and the public. Each strategy will establish a vision and plan of action for limited state wildlife conservation funding. The finished product will be a strategic vision for conserving the state's wildlife–not just a plan for the fish and wildlife agency.

The strategies are due for completion in October 2005 and will be reviewed at least every 10 years to ensure conservation success over the long term. For the first time, we can look to a nationwide vision for wildlife conservation.

By design, Congress directed that the strategies focus on the "species in greatest need of conservation," yet address the full array of wildlife and wildlife-related issues. In that context, each strategy is required to include information on the distribution and abundance of species of wildlife and locations and relative condition of key habitats and community types. Most states will utilize GIS technology and many will produce maps of prioritized habitat throughout the state. For the first time, transportation agencies will have access to this information at the planning stage, rather than waiting until environmental review.

Over the last decade, transportation agencies have struggled to find ways to reduce costs and unnecessary delays to accelerate project delivery. Several legislative, policy, and procedural fixes have been attempted with mixed success. The statewide comprehensive wildlife-conservation strategies have great potential in aiding state transportation departments in streamlining project delivery. By utilizing natural-resource data in early stages of planning, they can avoid, minimize, and mitigate many impacts early and steer clear of costly delays later in the life of their projects. As an added bonus, the transportation agency adopts a proactive approach to conservation and becomes a full partner in implementing the conservation strategy for the entire state.


Transnet's Environmental Mitigation Program

Janet Fairbanks (Phone: 619-699-6970, Email: jfa@sandag.org), Senior Regional Planner, San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), 401 B Street Suite 800, San Diego, CA 92101, Fax: 619-699-1905

In 1987, voters approved the TransNet program, which is a half-cent sales tax to fund a variety of important transportation projects throughout the San Diego region. This 20-year, $3.3-billion transportation-improvement program expires in 2008. In November 2004, 67 percent of the region's voters supported the extension of TransNet to 2048, thereby generating an additional $14 billion distributed among highway, transit, and local road projects in approximately equal thirds. Two percent of the available funds will be earmarked annually for bicycle paths and facilities, pedestrian improvements, and neighborhood safety projects. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) sets the priorities and allocates TransNet funds.

A unique component of the 2004 ballot measure was the creation of an environmental-mitigation program (EMP) which includes an allocation for the estimated direct mitigation costs for mitigation of upland and wetland habitat impacts for regional and local transportation projects. The focus of the program is to mitigate environmental impacts of regional and local transportation projects while implementing the Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP), the Multiple Habitat Conservation Program (MHCP), and future amendments to these programs.

The ballot measure identified $850 million to be used for the EMP. The EMP principles state that two funds shall be established. The first fund (the Transportation Project Mitigation Fund) covers direct mitigation costs for regional and local transportation projects estimated to be $650 million ($450 million for regional projects, $200 million for local projects).

These funds will be used for the mitigation needs of the 47 major transportation infrastructure improvement projects and programs identified in the TransNet extension. Although the extension does not begin until April 2008, an early action program was approved to address priority projects. In order to maximize land-acquisition opportunities, satisfying the mitigation requirements for these priority projects will be addressed comprehensively rather than on a project-by-project basis.

The priority TransNet projects include the widening of SR 76 between Melrose Drive and I-15, the extension of SR 52 from SR 125 to SR 67, the Mid-Coast light-rail extension from Old Town to University City, the I-15 Managed Lanes Corridor from SR 78 to SR 163, the I-15 managed lanes, the SR 52 managed Lane/HOV project from I-15 to SR 125, the I-5 north coast corridor environmental effort, and the I-805 corridor environmental effort.

The second fund (the Regional Habitat Conservation Fund) will be approximately $200 million ($150 million for regional projects and $50 million for local projects). These funds will be made available for regional habitat acquisition, management, and monitoring activities necessary to implement the MSCP and the MHCP. Funds are estimated based on economic benefits derived from purchasing land with the Transportation Project Mitigation Fund. Land will be purchased in advance of need in larger blocks at a lower cost and with mitigation ratios predetermined and held constant over time for each of the habitat-conservation plans. Funds will be made available when: 1) the economic benefit of each approved transportation project derived from coverage under the applicable habitat-conservation plan is determined and 2) funding is available from TransNet revenues.


Conservation Planning

Incorporating Results from the Prioritized "Ecological Hotspots" Model into the Efficient Transportation Decision-Making (ETDM) Process in Florida

Daniel J. Smith (Phone: 352-213-3833, Email: djs3@ufl.edu), Research Associate, Department of Biology, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida 32801

In 2000, an expert-based decision-support model to identify and prioritize sites for ecopassages was developed for the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT). The model used a weighting algorithm and several ecological factors (chronic road-kill sites, landscape gradients, focal species hot spots, greenway linkages, presence of listed species, strategic habitat-conservation areas, riparian corridors, rare habitat types, existing conservation lands, and proposed road projects) to prioritize existing road segments for retrofits designed to reduce road-kills and restore important habitat linkages.

In 2003, the Florida DOT began implementing the Efficient Transportation Decision Making (ETDM) process. This process was designed to examine and address potential environmental impacts prior to the planning, design, and construction of new transportation projects. Proposed projects are analyzed using an environmental-screening tool and reviewed by local and state officials and the public.

In 2004-2005, we were engaged by the Florida DOT to update the prioritization-model results for use as a data layer in the environmental-screening process of ETDM. For this purpose the original calculating algorithm was used, with final priorities ranked on a scale of 0 to 1. Many updated coverages were available and cell resolution was improved to increase model precision and accuracy. Updated coverages included roads (including speed limit and annual average daily traffic factors), land cover, road-kills, road projects, and managed conservation lands.

In addition, a new development-threat index based on road density, population density, 2003 existing land use, future land use and municipal boundaries was created. Datasets were combined into six categories for ranking: biological features, landscape features, infrastructure, managed conservation lands, conservation planning, and road-kill. For those road segments prioritized statewide, 72 percent were located in existing protected areas and 27 percent were found in proposed public-conservation lands. Relative weighting and aggregation of data were key determinants to locations of high priority road segments. One hundred seventy-six proposed road projects coincide with prioritized road segments and present significant opportunities for conservation planning.


Linking Colorado's Landscapes

Julia Kintsch (Phone: 720-946-9653, Email: julia@restoretherockies.org), Program Director, Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project, 1536 Wynkoop St., Suite 309, Denver, Colorado 80202

In partnership with the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, the Nature Conservancy, and Colorado State University, the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project (SREP) launched Linking Colorado's Landscapes in fall 2003. Linking Colorado's Landscapes is a multifaceted collaboration to promote wildlife linkages in the context of long-range planning. Phase I consisted of a statewide analysis of wildlife linkages, the objective of which was to identify broad linkage zones that facilitate movement for Colorado's diverse array of wildlife species and to prioritize amongst them. Building upon linkage assessment methodologies used elsewhere, we developed a science-based approach integrating local and regional expertise (via a series of workshops) and computer modeling. Recognizing that connectivity is a function of individual species' perceptions of suitable habitat and barriers in the landscape, a focal species approach was employed as the basis for linkage identification in both the workshops and the modeling. By integrating both qualitative and quantitative processes, we were able to produce a comprehensive biological assessment of the most critical wildlife linkages in the state.

In total, 176 linkages were identified via expert workshops, with additional linkages modeled for Canada lynx, gray wolf, and pronghorn. In prioritizing linkages for further analysis in Phase II, we also considered: the presence of local partners; stretches of roadway with frequent animal-vehicle collisions; planned transportation projects projected by CDOT through 2030; and the distribution of linkages across the state and their complementary contributions to landscape connectivity. Twenty-three linkages were selected and were grouped into 12 high-priority linkage complexes based on similarities in species usage patterns and geography.

Phase II of Linking Colorado's Landscapes provides an in-depth assessment of each high-priority linkage. Based on this compilation of site-specific information, we will next provide recommendations for possible crossing structures, management alternatives, and other measures to improve permeability in these linkage areas. Phase II analyses include: an assessment of additional species that utilize the linkage; identification of specific crossings; an assessment of land ownership and management within the linkage; and an evaluation of existing natural or man-made features that facilitate or impair movement. The resulting linkage assessment packages and recommendations will be distributed in spring 2006 and will serve as a guide for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and other local and regional transportation planners, community leaders, and conservationists working to develop more wildlife-friendly landscapes and transportation networks.


The Missing Linkages Project: Restoring Wildland Connectivity to Southern California

Wayne Spencer (Phone: 619-296-0164, Email: wdspencer@consbio.org), Wildlife Ecologist Conservation Biology Institute, San Diego, CA 92116

In Fall 2001, the ground-breaking Missing Linkages report identified 232 wildlife linkages in California. South Coast Wildlands immediately spearheaded an effort to prioritize, protect, and restore linkages in the South Coast Ecoregion.

We first forged a partnership with 15 federal and state agencies, conservation NGOs, universities, county planners, and transportation agencies. By partnering from the start (rather than developing a plan on our own and asking others to "unite under us"), we garnered spectacular support and are making rapid progress. With our partners, we:

  1. Selected 15 priority linkages (out of 69 linkages in the ecoregion) on the basis of biological importance (size and quality of core areas served) and vulnerability
  2. Held workshops to identify 12 to 20 focal species per linkage
  3. Researched the needs of focal species, obtained high-resolution spatial data, and collected field data to develop a linkage design based on GIS analysis of movement of focal species
  4. Made detailed recommendations for protecting key habitat parcels, creating highway-crossing structures in specific locations and land-use guidelines in and adjacent to the proposed linkages
  5. Presented the design to partners who are now procuring easements and land, changing zoning, restoring habitat, and mitigating transportation projects

Arizona began a similar effort in 2004. One key difference is that the southern California effort is led by a small conservation NGO, while the Arizona effort is led by state and federal agencies, including the transportation agencies. The ultimate key to success is to streamline the Linkage Designs into transportation projects, land-use plans, and conservation plans (such as the state Comprehensive Wildlife Strategy). This collaborative, science-based, core-to-core approach promises not merely to slow the rate at which things get worse, but to actually improve connectivity over today's conditions.


The Swiss Defragmentation Program – Reconnecting Wildlife Corridors Between the Alps and Jura: An Overview

Marguerite Trocmé (Phone: 41-31-322-80-03, Email: marguerite.trocme@buwal.admin.ch), Senior Scientist, Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forest and Landscape, Nature and Landscape Division, CH 3003 Bern, Switzerland

Switzerland has one of the densest infrastructure networks of Europe (3-4 km/km2 on the Central Plateau). Fragmentation of natural habitats has become a major conservation concern as vulnerable species become rarer and the red list of endangered species becomes longer. The mortality of animals on roads remains high, with more than 8,000 roe deer killed yearly by traffic. Many amphibian spawn sites along lakeshore have been cut off from their wintering grounds by roads, with populations then disappearing. Highways have proven to be an impassable barrier for the lynx, impeding colonization of eastern Switzerland.

Switzerland participated actively in the COST 341 European research program "Habitat fragmentation due to transportation infrastructure." A census of bottlenecks where infrastructure intercepts important wildlife corridors was carried out during this program. Fifty-one points needing restoration measures were identified. Many of these are along first-generation highways built along an east-west axis and cutting off any possible exchange between wildlife populations in the Alps and the Jura.

A ministerial guideline sealed a partnership between the Swiss Agency for Environment, Forests, and Landscape (SAEFL) and the Swiss Federal Roads Authority. The defragmentation program has been included in the highway-maintenance program and is to take place over the next 20 years. Five conflict points have been recently retrofitted in the context of highway-widening schemes.

A program methodology is being developed. Conflict points will be addressed as the involved highway section comes up for maintenance. In order to facilitate long-term planning, different instruments have been developed. Standards have been defined by the Swiss Association of Road and Transportation Experts (VSS 2004) to guide engineers and biologists in the analysis of existing structures and potential permeability for fauna. Criteria were developed to facilitate the choice of the optimal type of passage for each given situation.

Further research and standards are being launched to homogenize monitoring programs and develop best practice for retrofitting culverts, as well as to anticipate and eliminate wildlife traps created by certain structures.


Landscapes and Road Networks

Does the Configuration of Road Networks Influence the Degree to Which Roads Affect Wildlife Populations?

Jochen A.G. Jaeger (Phone: +41-1-632-08-26, Email: jochen.jaeger@env.ethz.ch), Postdoctoral Fellow, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich, Department of Environmental Sciences, Nature and Landscape Conservation, ETH Zentrum, HG F 27.6, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland, Fax: +41-1-632-13-80; Lenore Fahrig (Phone: 613-520-2600, ext. 3856), Professor of Biology, Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B6, Canada, Fax: 613-520-3539; Klaus C. Ewald, Professor of Nature and Landscape Protection, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich, Department of Environmental Sciences, Nature and Landscape Conservation, ETH Zentrum, HG F 21.3, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland

Roads act as barriers to animal movement, thereby reducing the accessibility of resources on the other side of the road. Roads also increase wildlife mortality due to collisions with vehicles, and reduce the amount and quality of habitat. The purpose of this study was (1) to determine whether or not the configuration of road networks has an influence on the degree to which roads detrimentally affect wildlife populations and (2) to identify characteristics of road network configurations that make road networks less detrimental to the persistence of animal populations. To explore these questions, we used a spatially explicit individual-based stochastic-simulation model of population dynamics.

A measure assumed to reduce the effects of the road network is the bundling of roads and traffic in order to keep as large areas as possible free from disturbances due to traffic. However, the suitability of this measure may be questionable because a group of several roads bundled together, or an upgraded road with more traffic on it, creates a stronger overall barrier effect that may be more detrimental to population persistence than the even distribution of roads across the landscape. Our modelling results clearly supported the bundling concept. Population persistence was generally better (and never lower) when all traffic was put on one road than when it was distributed on several roads across the landscape. If traffic cannot be combined on one road, the model results suggested it is better to bundle the roads close together than to distribute them evenly across the landscape.

We also were interested in the question of whether the effect of a road network was determined by the number and size of the pieces ("patches") that it fragments a landscape into or by the total length of roads in the landscape. We expected that the effect of a road network would be the more detrimental the more patches it creates. The results were surprising: The expectation that fragmenting the landscape into more patches would be more harmful to population persistence (while total road length is kept constant) was contradicted by the model results in the case where the degree of road avoidance by the animals was low. This implies that for animals that do not very strongly avoid roads, it is more important to preserve core habitats at a sufficient distance from roads than to keep the number of patches low.

Our results are an important step towards a network theory for road ecology and towards the design of less detrimental road networks. Empirical studies comparing landscapes with differing road network configurations should be conducted in the future to validate the predictions and to provide a basis for developing more practical models for use in planning and designing of highway networks.


Good and Bad Places for Roads: Effects of Varying Road and Natural Pattern on Habitat Loss, Degradation and Fragmentation

Richard T. T. Forman (Phone: 617-495-1930, Email: rforman@gsd.harvard.edu), PAES Professor of Landscape Ecology, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138

Improving ecological conditions around the road network is emerging as a significant objective of transportation, along with providing safe and efficient mobility. Reading landscape patterns is a key to success. The prime goal of this article is to identify ecologically appropriate and inappropriate locations for road construction, removal, and mitigation in the network. Other goals include understanding the effect of road location between two large natural patches, and progress in developing an ecologically optimum network form.

Simple spatial models are used with three independent variables: (1) road size or connection, (2) road location relative to natural patch or corridor, and (3) size/width of patch or corridor. Dependent variables are habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. Modeling results suggest that in a landscape of dispersed natural patches and corridors, by far the greatest road effect (ecological impact) results from a highway that bisects or highway network that subdivides a large natural patch.

Overall, effects are greatest where a road crosses or is alongside large patches and wide corridors. For both types, the least effect is where a small road is alongside the margin. Road effects are relatively low around narrow corridors and lowest around small patches. Model results indicate that the probability of species crossing between two large natural patches is lowest where a highway slices across near the midpoint.

A highway network has a greater effect on habitat conditions in a natural landscape than in an agricultural or suburban landscape. Habitat degradation appears to have a greater ecological effect than does habitat loss or fragmentation in the landscape. An ecologically optimum road network contains: a few large roadless areas; a few busy roads rather than many lightly used roads; and perforated roads (for species movement) between the large roadless areas.

In conclusion, a simple patch-corridor analysis of a landscape points to clear solutions for locating road construction, removal, and mitigation to maximize ecological benefits. The two overarching principles are minimizing roads in and around large natural patches and maximizing effective habitat connectivity between the large natural patches.


Regional Analysis for Transportation Corridor Planning

Jim Thorne (Phone: 530-752-4389, Email: jhthorne@ucdavis.edu), Post-doctoral, Information Center for the Environment, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California-Davis, Davis, California 95616, Fax: 530-752-9515; Mike McCoy (Phone: 530-795-3197, Email: mcmccoy@ucdavis.edu), Co-director, Information Center for the Environment, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis, Winters, CA 95694; Allan Hollander (Phone: 530-752-4389, Email: adhollander@ucdavis.edu), Research Analyst, Information Center for the Environment, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California-Davis, Davis California 95616, Fax: 530-752-9515; Nathaniel Roth (Phone: 530-752-1331, Email: neroth@ucdavis.edu), GIS Programmer, Information Center for the Environment, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California-Davis, Davis, California 95616, Fax: 530-752-9515; and James Quinn (Phone: 530-752-8027, Email: jfquinn@ucdavis.edu), Professor and Co-director, Information Center for the Environment, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California-Davis, Davis, California 95616, Fax: 530-752-9515

Developing regional assessments of environmental needs can help streamline the environmental-review process for transportation projects, thus leading to faster and less-costly reviews and more effective biological or ecological mitigation. This study is a demonstration of a rapid-assessment approach using a high-resolution vegetation map derived from agency data to model 12 endangered or threatened species' potential occurrence on 6638 polygons. Those units, occurring on 44 capacity-improvement sites along the 315-km of State Highway 99 in the study, were classed to measure their degree of similarity, thus permitting estimates of the potential for multi-project mitigation planning.


The Ecologically Ideal Road Density For Small Islands: The Case of Kinmen, Taiwan

Shyh-Chyang Lin (Phone: 886-82-313396, Email: sclin1116@yahoo.com), Department of Construction Engineering, National Kinmen Institute of Technology, No. 1, University Road, Jinlin, Kinmen, Taiwan, Fax: 886-82-313394

The ecological system and natural resources of small islands are limited. Especially, their ecological system is very vulnerable to the invasion by alien species. The planning of development in small islands must be very delicate and advanced comparing with large islands or continental areas because there is no tolerance for experiments or mistakes in developing small islands.

This research is aimed to obtain the acceptable road density for small islands from the ecological point of view and taking Kinmen Islands (Taiwan) as an example. Three derivations of finding the acceptable road density for small islands were developed in this analysis. One method is to adopt the allowable density of roads for sustaining viable populations of wolves in continental areas to small islands. Since wolves are the top predators of a healthy ecological system and with sustainable wolf population the ecological system is believed to be sound, this road density could be the ideal one for a small island. However, the allowable road density for wolves was obtained in continental areas and it is not clear that if it is valid in direct application on small islands.

The second method is modifying the road density from model islands to fit the ecological characteristics of objective islands. In this research I took Okinawa (Japan) as the model island and derived a suitable density of roads for Kinmen. In the third method, I selected the largest small island as the model island and applied the derivation procedure of the second method to find another ecologically ideal density of roads for Kinmen.

The result has shown that the smaller islands have higher density of species but should have lower ideal road density. It was also found that the current road density of Kinmen has exceeded the results obtained by the three models. Although this research is focused on Kinmen, it is believed by the author that the same approaches could be applied to other small islands when reviewing their road-developing policies. The applications of this analysis on habitat islands or ecologically isolated zones in continent areas have been demonstrated. It has been shown that the procedures and results of the application are similar to those for small islands.


Science and Partnerships

A GIS-Based Identification of Potentially Significant Wildlife Habitats Associated With Roads in Vermont

John M. Austin (Phone: 802-476-0199, Email: john.Austin@anr.state.vt.us), Wildlife Biologist, Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, 5 Perry Street, Suite 40, Barre, VT 05641; Kevin Viani (Phone: 802-999-6872, Email: kevin.viani@state.vt.us), Environmental Specialist, Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, Concord, NH 03301; Forrest Hammond (Phone: 802-885-8855), Wildlife Biologist, 100 Mineral Street, Suite 302, Springfield, VT 05156; and Chris Slesar (Phone: 802-828-5743, Email: chris.slesar@state.vt.us), Environmental Specialist, Vermont Agency of Transportation, Montpelier VT 05633

Since 1998, issues regarding wildlife conservation and transportation planning and development in the State of Vermont have become part of a rigorous collaborative effort between the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department (Department) and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (Vtrans). In recent years, these efforts have become increasingly sophisticated and more broadly applied throughout the state to understand better the inherent conflicts and strategies for improving wildlife movement, reducing wildlife mortality, and improving the safety of the traveling public. Given the growing investment of interest and resources by these state agencies, it is necessary to identify potentially significant wildlife-linkage habitat (WLH) throughout the state. Such information would allow for these agencies to make informed decisions regarding the conservation of important WLH and investments for mitigation of impacts associated with transportation such as underpasses, land conservation, and other measures.

Geographic Information System (GIS)-based models have been developed in other states and in Canada to identify potentially significant WLH. Many of these projects have relied on landscape-level GIS data such as development density, habitat conditions, topography, among others. This project was designed to develop a GIS-based analysis using landscape-scale data to identify or predict the location of potentially significant WLHs associated with state roads throughout Vermont. This project relied on available GIS data including: (a) land-use and land-cover data; (b) development-density data; and (c) contiguous-habitat data (unfragmented habitat). The GIS conserved lands data was also used as a way of analyzing the feasibility for conserving or ranking potentially significant WLHs identified as a result of this project. These data were classified according to their relative significance with respect to creating potential WLH. The elements that comprise the overall GIS data layers were ranked in accordance with their relative significance to creating potential WLH.

In addition, we developed a comprehensive, centralized database of all wildlife road mortality, wildlife road crossing, and related habitat data for all species for which data exists throughout the state of Vermont. This involved updating an existing database developed for a complimentary project designed to compile all existing data on black bear road mortality, road crossing, and significant habitats. It also included incorporating all data on moose collisions and deer collisions. In addition, new databases were created to record existing bobcat, amphibian, and reptile information. In order to expand and improve wildlife road-mortality data, this project developed a partnership with VTrans field staff enabling them to record a new array of wildlife road-mortality information in a consistent and reliable fashion.

The analysis, in conjunction with the newly updated wildlife road-mortality data, provides a scientifically based, planning tool that will assist both agencies in understanding and improving their abilities to conserve wildlife in Vermont with respect to transportation planning, permitting, and issues regarding secondary growth.


Controlling Transportation and Wildlife-Habitat Linkages Through Partnerships, Planning, and Science Near Los Angeles, California

Raymond M. Sauvajot (Phone: 805-370-2339, Email: ray_sauvajot@nps.gov), Chief of Planning, Science, and Resource Management at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and Senior Science Advisor for the National Park Service, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, 401 West Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360, Fax: 805-370-1850; Amy Pettler (Phone: 213-897-8081, Email: amy_pettler@dot.ca.gov), and Barbara Marquez (Phone: 213-897-0791, Email: barbara_marquez@dot.ca.gov) California Department of Transportation, 120 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90012; Jeffrey Sikich (Phone: 805-370-2301), Wildlife Biologist, National Park Service, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, 401 West Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360, Fax: 805-370-1850; and Seth Riley (Phone: 805-370-2301, Email: seth_riley@nps.gov), Seth Riley, Wildlife Biologist, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, 401 West Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360, Fax: 805-370-1850

Beginning in 1996, the National Park Service, Caltrans, and other agencies and organizations have worked together collecting, analyzing, and sharing data about regional wildlife- movement corridors within the Santa Susana Mountains, Simi Hills, and Santa Monica Mountains, near Los Angeles, California. This region is characterized by intense urban development, several major multi-lane highways, and large expanses of protected open space supporting abundant wildlife.

Scientific studies include radio telemetry of coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions, monitoring of undercrossings and culverts to evaluate wildlife utilization, assessment of wildlife mortality along selected roadway segments, and geographic information system (GIS) analyses of potential wildlife-movement corridors adjacent to and across major highways. Results from these studies demonstrate that regional wildlife viability will depend on identifying and protecting habitat linkages and wildlife-movement corridors, particularly across major highways that bisect remaining open space.

In addition, the studies confirm that opportunities do exist to retain landscape connectivity, with many species found to utilize a variety of roadway-crossing structures. By combining the results of the science with transportation planning, Caltrans, the National Park Service, and other partners are now integrating on-the-ground conservation actions with needed transportation-improvement projects and regional transportation plans. Recent successes include the formation of a multi-agency and local participant group to identify and prioritize regional wildlife-movement corridors and to create plans for implementing enhancements.

Agencies and organizations are also sharing information about collaborative opportunities to fund and implement wildlife-corridor enhancement projects. GIS analyses, including least-cost path-linkage analysis, have been used to identify regional wildlife-connectivity requirements. These data will then be available to help to identify priority sites for on-the-ground enhancements.

Along one highway segment (State Route 23), National Park Service scientists are working with Caltrans planners and designers to install wildlife-proof fencing where mortality frequencies are high, enhance existing culverts and undercrossings to facilitate safe wildlife movement, and conduct detailed animal monitoring both before and after improvements to evaluate the success of various actions.

These improvements and monitoring are all linked to lane additions along the highway to improve transportation efficiency. In another location (Highway 101), National Park Service scientists are collaborating with Caltrans environmental specialists to design and install a wildlife-crossing structure along one of the last remaining habitat linkages between the Simi Hills and the Santa Monica Mountains.

Overall, we demonstrate that by sharing expertise and experiences and by linking science and planning, regional wildlife-habitat connectivity can be enhanced in combination with needed transportation projects. This model of partnership and collaboration can be applied to other areas facing similar wildlife-conservation and transportation challenges.


Sierraville (California) Highway 89 Stewardship Team: Ahead of the Curve

Sandra L. Jacobson (Phone 707-825-2900, Email: sjacobson@fs.fed.us), Wildlife Biologist, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Redwood Sciences Laboratory, 1700 Bayview Drive, Arcata, CA 95521, Fax: 707-825-2901; and Michael DeLasaux (Phone 530-283-6125, Email: mjdelasaux@ucdavis.edu), USDA Natural Resources Advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension, Plumas and Sierra Counties, 208 Fairgrounds Road, Quincy CA 95971, Fax: 530-283-6088

Highway 89 stretches from north to south across California, through Sierra County from Sierraville to Truckee. The highway bisects an important portion of the Loyalton-Truckee deer herd, as well as important habitat for forest carnivores, amphibians and other wildlife on the Tahoe National Forest.

By 2002, several groups were working independently to investigate different aspects of animal-vehicle collisions along the highway. These independent efforts were the:

  • Continuation of a 20-plus year collection of carcass information on SR 89 by Caltrans
  • Investigation of the effects of roadside forest thinning on roadkill by University of California-Davis Agricultural Extension Service
  • Investigation of radio-collared deer movements across the highway by California Department of Fish and Game
  • Applications to study the effects of deicing salt on deer attraction by the Sierra County Fish and Game Commission
  • Long-term connectivity and habitat planning by the USDA Forest Service

These groups and their efforts were brought together in 2002 when they were catalyzed by the USDA Forest Service into a stewardship team to work together collaboratively to improve the high wildlife mortality and increasing habitat fragmentation on the highway. Most efforts to mitigate similar highway impacts are precipitated by a department of transportation project.

In the case of SR 89, no improvement for SR 89 was planned by Caltrans. Thus, instead of responding to a tight project timeline and budget, the Stewardship Team was able to proactively develop a connectivity and mitigation plan using Caltrans' large roadkill database, the Forest Service's large-scale habitat maps, and the other cooperators' information.

In 2004, Caltrans independently funded a $720,000 wildlife-mitigation project on SR 89, thus allowing the Stewardship Team to use its connectivity plan as the basis for decisions on prioritizing wildlife crossing structures. The Stewardship Team is using the connectivity plan to propose further mitigation to Caltrans after the initial structure is constructed. The Stewardship Team has also secured grant funding to involve the local high school in a long-term investigation of how habitat connectivity and highway impacts are related.

This presentation traces the efforts of the Stewardship Team member agencies and how their diverse contributions, once coordinated, supported a grass-roots effort to mitigate highway impacts on SR 89.


WSDOT Highway Maintenance: Environmental Compliance for Protected Terrestrial Species

Tracie O'Brien (Phone: 360-753-4472, Email: obrient@wsdot.wa.gov) Wildlife Biologist, and Marion Carey (Phone: 360-705-7404, Email: careym@wsdot.wa.gov), Fish and Wildlife Program Manager, Environmental Services Office, Washington State Department of Transportation, Olympia, Washington 98501, Fax: 360-534-9331; and Bret Forrester (Phone: 253-502-8782, Email: Bret.Forrester@ci.tacoma.wa.us), Wildlife and Recreation Coordinator, Tacoma Power, 3628 S. 35th St., Tacoma, WA 98409

Protected plant and wildlife species that grow, forage, nest, roost, or migrate near the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) highway system may be susceptible to impacts from routine maintenance activities. In response to community-driven concerns related to the conservation of protected terrestrial species and due to the lack of existing guidance for maintenance personnel when protected-species conflicts arose, WSDOT biologists and maintenance personnel worked together to develop new guidance. The purpose of the guidance is to provide maintenance personnel with resources that identify which projects occur in sensitive plant and wildlife areas and identify best management practices (BMPs) that can be implemented to minimize or avoid impacts to protected terrestrial species in Washington State.

Existing sensitive-species data and aerial photographs were used to identify locations of sensitive species and habitats and to develop guidance. To verify habitat presence, biologists conducted site visits to areas identified as possible sensitive habitats. The guidance document is in the form of a field handbook presented in a step-by-step format to facilitate use by WSDOT maintenance personnel. The guidance document provides maps and descriptions of sensitive areas, each identified by state route and milepost. Species information, such as species name, nest sites, wintering sites, or locations of sensitive habitats, are not identified in the guidance document. Alternatively, biologists placed the species into groups based on habitat needs and identified only the state-route mileposts that fall within each sensitive area. This process helped WSDOT prevent publicizing sensitive wildlife data in the guidance documents and avoided the need for evaluation of habitat by maintenance personnel.

Common maintenance functions were also broken down into groups. For each sensitive location and maintenance function group, a list of BMPs is provided. BMPs may include timing restrictions, equipment use restrictions, or overall activities that should be avoided during certain seasons. The document does not address all possible conditions that may arise during maintenance operations that could affect protected terrestrial species. Maintenance staff consult with their Regional Maintenance Environmental Coordinator prior to initiating any activity that is not addressed by the guidance document or if there is any uncertainty about the applicability of the guidance. Maintenance activities that are not able to comply with the guidance typically require a field review by a biologist and the development of site-specific BMPs. Maintenance personnel do not follow this guidance for emergency actions because separate procedures were previously developed that adequately address protected species compliance for emergency maintenance actions.

This project is currently being piloted with the Olympic Region Maintenance Program. Training courses conducted at individual maintenance sheds have provided opportunity for discussion and question and answer sessions. Biologists and maintenance personnel have had the opportunity to work together to learn each other's programs, perspectives, and observations to improve the effectiveness of the environmental compliance guidance. The WSDOT Highway Maintenance Environmental Compliance Guidance for Protected Terrestrial Species Program has helped the Maintenance Program conduct their projects in a timely fashion without unnecessary delays and to remain good stewards of the environment.

 
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