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Linking Transportation and Conservation: How the State Wildlife Action Plans can Help Protect Wildlife from Road Development

  • Author(s): White, Patricia A.
  • Michalak, Julia
  • Lerner, Jeff
  • et al.
Abstract

We reviewed all 51 State Wildlife Action Plans to glean a set of cross-cutting recommendations for future collaboration between wildlife and transportation agencies.

As of October 1, 2005, every state wildlife agency, in conjunction with numerous partners, completed a comprehensive state wildlife action plan. Each plan is unique, but all plans were required to identify 1) declining species, 2) key habitats, 3) threats to those species and habitats and 4) actions to prevent further species decline. We reviewed the plans from all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine the extent to which the plans identify and address transportation planning and development impacts. To do this we searched every plan for references to roads, transportation, transportation agencies, vehicles, and highways. From these searches we created a compilation of threat and action references and categorized each reference to identify common issues and strategies among the plans.

We found that all 51 plans identified transportation infrastructure as a conservation issue. Specifically, the plans related the following general impacts to transportation planning and construction:

• Habitat loss and fragmentation

• Spread of invasive species

• Road kill mortality

• Altered hydrologic regimes

• Modified population migrations and dynamics

We searched for actions tied directly to transportation issues and found that the states included a wide range of actions relating to transportation. Forty states recognized the need to work with transportation agencies by including one or more of the following actions:

• Improve coordination between wildlife and transportation agencies

• Enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with transportation agencies

• Provide data and technical assistance to transportation planners

• Get more involved in transportation planning and permitting

In addition to promoting coordination, the wildlife plans can provide transportation agencies with information about priority species and habitats and, in many cases, maps of priority conservation areas. The final section of our report presents a set of recommendations, based on information gleaned from the plans, for improving coordination and reducing transportation impacts on wildlife.

The State Wildlife Action Plans are an opportunity for wildlife agencies and transportation planners to begin a dialogue about this issue and foster improved collaboration in the future. Future research should put these plans into action by overlaying GIS layers of transportation plans with maps of conservation opportunity areas, priority habitats, and locations and ranges for species of concern. Further analysis of the plans by transportation planners to identify useful features and information gaps in the plans could help wildlife agencies improve their plans in the future.

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