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Scaling roads and wildlife: the Cinderella principle

  • Author(s): Bissonette, John
  • et al.

It is clear that a reduction in both direct and indirect effects of roads and road networks must be the goal of management agencies. However, increased permeability of roaded landscapes can only be achieved by up-front planning and subsequent mitigative actions. The key is to understand that roads must be made permeable to the movement of animals. More profoundly, ecosystem services, i.e., clean water, clean air, uncontaminated soil, natural landscapes, recreation opportunities, abundant wildlife, and life sustaining ecological processes must not be seriously impacted. In other words, quality of life as measured by ecosystem services should be a major component of the planning process when roads are constructed or improved.

Mitigative structures exist to increase permeability of roads. Wildlife overpasses and underpasses, often referred to as ecoducts or green bridges, with associated structures to enable larger animals to exit the road right of way, e.g., earthen escape ramps (Bissonette and Hammer, 2001), various culvert designs for smaller animals including badger pipes and amphibian and reptile runnels, and fish ladders are but a small sampling of the structures already in place around the world. What is needed is attention to the big picture. Landscapes need to be reconnected and made more permeable. Responsible agencies and organizations need to be aggressive about promoting mitigations and a conservation ethic into road planning. Only with a broad based effort between a concerned public, a database to work from, and a willingness of responsible agencies, will the now very large virtual footprint of roads and road networks be reduced to more closely approximate the physical footprint. By embracing the Cinderella Principle of making the virtual shoe fit more closely the actual physical footprint of roads, we will be able to achieve a closer connection with ecological harmony with its resultant effect of abundant wildlife.

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