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Integrating Wildlife Crossing into Transportation Plans and Projects in North America

  • Author(s): Cramer, Patricia C.
  • Bissonette, John
  • et al.
Abstract

Results are presented of a North American survey designed to learn how transportation departments mitigate transportation corridors for wildlife and give examples of how wildlife mitigation measures can be incorpo¬rated into long range plans and in routine everyday actions. The objective is to promote greater understanding of the potential for incorporating wildlife movement needs into transportation programs and projects. Research results presented include data from a continent-wide telephone survey conducted over a two year period (2004-2006) to learn of accomplishments in wildlife passage and how wildlife and ecosystem needs have been incorporated into the trans¬portation planning process. Telephone interviews were conducted with 410 transportation and ecology professionals in every state and province. Based on research data and the mandates of the SAFETEA-LU legislation the case is made that greater efforts in long term transportation plans and everyday retrofits are necessary to provide for wildlife and ecosystems needs. Some efforts have already been accomplished and can be adapted continent-wide. There are greater than 580 terrestrial and 10,000 aquatic wildlife and fish passages in North America that were specifically built as wildlife and fish crossings, and millions of other bridges and culverts constructed for other purposes but which could be used by wildlife. Placement of these structures has grown so rapidly that over 500 new terrestrial passages are projected to be built in the next 10 years. The almost exponential increase in passage construction each decade is an indication of the growing awareness of the need to mitigate new and existing transportation infrastructure for wildlife permeability. There is also a greater awareness that early planning for wildlife and ecosystems is critical to accomplish these mitigation activities. The inclusion of wildlife and ecosystem needs early in the development of long range transportation plans has not been the traditional paradigm as was learned over the course of the survey. The majority of transportation planners who participated in the survey indicated their state’s consideration of wildlife and ecosystems, in the form of consultations with natural resource professionals and referencing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps and other data, did not occur until the project development stage. This late consideration does not typically allow adequate time to avoid important wildlife corridors and to install mitigation measures. The majority of those working with transportation and ecological concerns recognized the need to incorporate wildlife mitigation needs early in the programming, planning, and design processes, as learned from the web-based priorities survey. The survey revealed that early planning for wildlife and ecosystem needs was the number one priority in dealing with roads and wildlife. This early level planning has also been mandated in the U. S. SAFETEA-LU Transportation Act of 2005. Examples are presented of instances where long range planning included wildlife and ecosystems needs, and suggest how this can be accomplished on a state and province-wide basis. We also present how everyday opportunities can be used to facilitate wildlife movement over and under roads and railways. Knowledge of successful accomplishments can help build upon opportunities in the movement toward a more proactive transportation planning paradigm.

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