The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), resource agencies and non-profits joined together in a coordinated approach to further conservation programs and address wildlife-vehicle conflicts (WVC). Mitigating effects of road projects on species sometimes includes construction of wildlife crossings. Recently, some FDOT districts have taken advantage of existing structures during maintenance or rehabilitation projects to make minor modifications (such as adding wildlife fencing) instead of constructing new crossings specifically for wildlife, which can be costly. This collaborative project was initiated to develop useful tools to identify similar, cost-effective opportunities to reduce WVCs. There were three elements: 1) a wildlife crossing needs/priorities model; 2) an inventory of existing structures that either already allow or could be retrofitted to allow wildlife passage; and 3) a wildlife crossing structure planning/design manual. These products will provide decision-support for siting, planning, design, construction, and maintenance of wildlife crossing-structures. The project stakeholders first wanted to identify and prioritize locations where WVCs are likely to occur. For this purpose, ArcGIS was used to create a WVC hotspots model using the Getis-Ord-Gi analysis tool on crash data of large wildlife species. We identified 326 significant hotspots statewide, of these 182 had values in the top 1%. Similar approaches have been used in other states (e.g., California, Wyoming). This tool enables decision-makers to appropriately schedule future projects according to most critical needs. Prioritized hotspots were further refined using other resource, telemetry, and species observation data. The FDOT bridge database was used to find bridges near significant WVC hotspots. Eighty-three bridges were found within hotspot locations and 81 more were within 0.5 mi. Field data was collected (on relevant roadway and structural features, adjacent habitat characteristics, and signs of animal activity) at bridges located at or near hotspot locations. Field images were also obtained. Standardized data elements were placed in a database linked to the hotspots data layer. This information can be used to assess capacity of current structures to act as wildlife passages and to identify and specify retrofit and maintenance needs to improve function. A technical guide and best management practice guide for the planning, design, and maintenance of wildlife crossing structures was created to provide more predictable project requirements and streamline project specific coordination and consultation. It was created by a multi-disciplinary team of ecologists, engineers, and planners. We reviewed 19 manuals from other jurisdictions in developing the content, organization, layout and design for a document that best fits the needs of local users. It aids agencies with decision-making on future development of wildlife crossing structure and fencing projects.
Mainstreaming ecology in transportation planning and program delivery
wildlife crossing structures