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Second Nature. Improving Transportation Without Putting Nature Second. Presenter, Affiliation Event or Conference Date. Introduction Impacts Solutions Conservation Planning Conservation Banking Interagency Coordination. Solutions Cont’d Wildlife Crossings Public Lands

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Second Nature

Improving Transportation

Without Putting Nature Second

Presenter, Affiliation

Event or Conference


Second Nature

Presentation outline l.jpg




Conservation Planning

Conservation Banking

Interagency Coordination

Solutions Cont’d

Wildlife Crossings

Public Lands

Native Vegetation



Presentation Outline

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  • Transportation projects often have major impacts on the environment

  • The federal environmental review process, NEPA, has been unfairly blamed for causing project delays, and is the focus of several efforts to “streamline” the environmental review process

  • Several states have implemented programs or processes by which they can both protect the environment and improve project delivery

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The Many Threats of Transportation

  • Roadkill

  • Habitat Loss

  • Air and Soil Pollution

  • Water Pollution

  • Noise Pollution

  • Invasive Species

  • Sprawl

Photo by Patricia White, Defenders of Wildlife

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  • 1 million vertebrates killed every day

  • For some species, roadkill rate exceeds death rate from natural causes

  • Some species are particularly threatened by collisions with cars

    • Florida panther

    • Florida black bear

    • Key deer

    • Grizzly bear

Photo by Chuck Bartlebaugh

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Habitat Loss

  • The most significant threat to endangered species, imperiling 85% of those species

  • Direct habitat loss

  • Fragmentation

  • Habitat degradation

  • Road effect zone impacts 15 to 20 percent of the land area of the U.S.

Andy Singer

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Air and Soil Pollution

  • Motor vehicles are a primary source

  • of pollutants

  • One study of important roadside pollutants found that 83% came from cars and trucks

  • Air pollutants

  • Acid rain

  • Toxics

  • Heavy metals

  • Road salts

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    Water Pollution

    • Roads and highways are impervious surfaces

      • A one-acre parking lot produces about 16 times as much runoff as a one-acre meadow

      • When more than 10% of a watershed is covered by impervious surfaces, waterways become biologically degraded

    • Erosion

    • Nutrient loading

    • Heavy metals and other pollutants

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    Noise Pollution

    • Noise from cars and trucks is a primary reason for road avoidance

    • Causes stress in animals

      • Increased heart rates

      • Increased production of stress hormones

    • Abnormal reproductive behavior

    • Noise levels as low as that in a library have been found to have an impact

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    Invasive Species

    • Impact nearly half of endangered


    • Cost the U.S. about $137 billion


    • Roads help spread invasives

      • Direct planting of invasives

      • Road maintenance

      • Acting as corridors

      • Degraded habitat more

        more favorable to invasives

    Norman E. Rees, USDA ARS (

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    Roads and highways facilitate development

    Highway-oriented development tends to be auto-oriented and low density

    Sprawling development encourages more driving

    Sprawling development leads to more road-building


    Adapted from the Greenbelt Alliance, Reviving the Sustainable Metropolis: Guiding Bay Area Conservation and Development into the 21st Century (San Francisco: Greenbelt Alliance, 1989), p.9

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    • Some states have attempted to lessen the environmental impacts of transportation projects through:

      • Integrated Planning

      • Conservation Banking

      • Interagency Coordination

      • Wildlife Crossings

      • Alternative Transportation on Public Lands

      • Use of Native Vegetation

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    Integrated Planning

    • An approach that coordinates habitat conservation, land use, and transportation

    • Occurs in advance of project development

    • Uses GIS mapping to identify potential conflicts

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    Proposed transportation projects are screened by regional Environmental Technical Advisory Teams based on criteria including social and environmental impacts

    Overlays maps of short- and long-range transportation plans on maps showing state habitat plan

    Efficient Transportation Decision Making (ETDM) Process

    Florida’s Planning Process

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    Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan Environmental Technical Advisory Teams based on criteria including social and environmental impacts

    • SDCP was developed in response to the listing of a pygmy owl species

    • Identified six habitat types

    • Especially ecologically or culturally sensitive areas are designated as Environmentally Sensitive Lands (ESL)

    • Transportation projects proposed for ESL areas must minimize disturbances to natural and cultural resources

    Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection

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    Key Deer Habitat Conservation Plan Environmental Technical Advisory Teams based on criteria including social and environmental impacts

    • Established because of high roadkill rate of endangered Key deer

    • Takes into account the impact of potential development on the Key deer

    • Covers residential, commercial, and transportation infrastructure development

    • Will ultimately provide basis of a Master Plan for future development

    USFWS/National Key Deer Refuge

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    Recommendations for Integrated Planning Environmental Technical Advisory Teams based on criteria including social and environmental impacts

    • Utilize existing landscape-level conservations plans

    • States should adopt a Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan

    • Identify mitigation sites or banks in advance of project impacts

    • Provide adequate training on the incorporation of conservation planning

    • Monitor planning initiatives

    • Involve the public

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    Opportunities for Integrated Planning in Reauthorization Environmental Technical Advisory Teams based on criteria including social and environmental impacts

    • Add a planning objective for wildlife conservation

    • Provide support to states to acquire and utilize biodiversity plans

    • Reward states that incorporate conservation plans to promote ecological stewardship

    • Provide funding for scenario-planning technology

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    Conservation Banking Environmental Technical Advisory Teams based on criteria including social and environmental impacts

    • Large, contiguous areas of viable habitat are purchased and protected in anticipation of future demands for transportation project mitigation

    • Where a project has impacts that cannot be avoided, the sponsoring agency can apply mitigation credits earned under the conservation bank

    • Conservation banking is proactive rather than piecemeal

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    Established in anticipation of impacts from the 20-year state transportation plan

    Colorado DOT and FHWA will develop land-management plans to meet mitigation requirements

    TNC and other organizations will act as hosts, managing and overseeing the protected habitat

    Developed by Colorado DOT, FHWA, USFWS, Colorado Division of Wildlife, and The Nature Conservancy (TNC)

    Colorado’s Shortgrass Prairie Initiative

    Ron Singer, USFWS

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    North Carolina’s Palmetto Pear Tree Preserve state transportation plan

    • Established by the North Carolina DOT, USFWS, and The Conservation Fund (TCF) to protect habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker

    • 9,732 acres of habitat purchased by NCDOT from Pru Timber

    • TCF will manage the site

    • NCDOT can use credits from the conservation bank only when a transportation project has unavoidable impacts

    • The credit ratio will range from 1:1 to 3:1, to be decided on a case-by-case basis


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    Recommendations for Conservation Banking state transportation plan

    • Use conservation banking only when avoiding and minimizing impacts is impossible

    • Create a revolving fund to help states acquire habitat

    • Use conservation plans to identify the most ecologically valuable lands for banking

    • Site conservation banks strategically

    • Develop a statewide MOU among all involved parties

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    Opportunities for Conservation Banking in Reauthorization state transportation plan

    • Create a federal revolving fund to help states acquire important habitat

    • Encourage states to use conservation plans to identify banking opportunities

    • Establish a small business loan program to encourage entrepreneurs in conservation banking

    • Amend the banking preference to allow maximum flexibility for the most effective mitigation

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    Interagency Coordination state transportation plan

    • Established in response to “environmental streamlining” provisions of TEA-21

    • Encourages collaboration between transportation agencies and natural and cultural resource agencies

    • Formal or informal working groups

    • Has the potential to reduce project delay and better protect the environment

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    Oregon’s CETAS Program state transportation plan

    • Collaborative Environmental and Transportation Agreement for Streamlining

    • Established a working relationship between ten state and federal agencies

    • Involves resource agencies early and continuously in the planning stage of major projects

    • Oregon DOT seeks concurrence from the agencies in the project’s purpose and need, range of alternatives to be studied, criteria for selecting a preferred alternative, and selection of the preferred alternative

    • Oregon DOT also funds several positions at resource agencies

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    California’s Tri-Agency Partnership state transportation plan

    • Established a partnership between the California Environmental Protection Agency, the Resources Agency, and the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency

    • Encourages member agencies to work together early and continuously

    • Works to ensure the timely delivery of transportation projects that protect or restore the state’s environment

    • Has helped instill a greater awareness of opportunities to incorporate environmental enhancements in transportation projects

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    Recommendations for Interagency Coordination state transportation plan

    • Fund FTEs at resource agencies

    • Establish Environmental Review Committees composed of high-level representatives from relevant state and federal agencies

    • Environmental Review Committee should meet regularly to discuss upcoming projects

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    Opportunities for Interagency Coordination in Reauthorization

    • Retain Section 1309

    • Provide financial incentives for states to adopt coordination agreements

    • Reward states that show progress in project delivery by working in coordination with agencies and the public

    • Allow resource agencies to apply directly to DOT for eligible reimbursement funding

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    Wildlife Crossings Reauthorization

    • Roads fragment habitat, contributing to the loss of genetic integrity, and causing roadkill

    • Wildlife crossings are intended to connect habitat that has been fragmented by a road or highway

    • Wildlife crossings originated in Europe and include both overpasses and underpasses

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    In the reconstruction of Alligator Alley (re-designated as I-75), Florida DOT installed 24 underpasses

    Roadkill and radio telemetry data were assessed to determine the best locations for the underpasses

    Fences were installed along the highway to help direct animals to the underpasses

    Collisions with cars and trucks threatens to push the endangered Florida panther to extinction

    Florida’s Wildlife Crossings


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    More recently, Montana DOT and its contractors made a concerted effort to involve the public in the reconstruction design

    The new effort called for the reconstruction to incorporate a “spirit of place”

    That “spirit of place” or context sensitive design will include at least 42 wildlife crossings, ranging from fish culverts to open-span overpasses

    The reconstruction of US 93 had been very contentious, prompting strong public outcry and keeping the project in limbo for many years

    Montana’s U.S. 93

    Patricia White, Defenders of Wildlife

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    Recommendations for Wildlife Crossings concerted effort to involve the public in the reconstruction design

    • Conduct habitat connectivity studies to determine the best locations for crossings

    • Retrofit existing roadways to include crossings

    • Ensure the success of crossings by acquiring habitat on either side of the roadway

    • Monitor the crossings

    • Use signs to alert motorists of wildlife

    • Reduce speed limits in wildlife areas

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    Opportunities for Wildlife Crossings in Reauthorization concerted effort to involve the public in the reconstruction design

    • Maintain funding for the Transportation Enhancements program at present levels or higher

    • Provide research funding for habitat connectivity studies

    • Enable states to use federal funds to construct crossings even when no other roadway work is being done

    • Create a safety grant program to encourage states to build crossings to reduce collisions between motorists and animals

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    Public Lands concerted effort to involve the public in the reconstruction design

    • Federal lands provide habitat for about two-thirds of threatened or endangered species

    • Public land managers must provide access to the public while protecting biodiversity

    • A car-oriented strategy to providing public access has led National Parks and Refuges to become choked with polluting, noisy traffic

    • Some National Parks and Refuges are now turning to public transit to provide access

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    Traffic congestion, lack of parking, air pollution, and noise was frustrating visitors and park managers

    In response, the park began offering free shuttle buses during peak months, at the same time prohibiting private vehicles

    The shuttles, including 2 electric buses, are popular with visitors

    Zion National Park had been overwhelmed by cars, RVs, and tour buses

    Utah’s Zion National Park Shuttle Bus

    National Park Service

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    The Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge interpretative tram has been operating for more than 15 years

    Cooperative effort between the Valley Nature Center and the National Wildlife Refuge

    Private vehicles are prohibited from the Refuge when the tram is in operation

    Annual ridership exceeds 6,000 passengers

    Texas’s Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Tram

    Mike Quinn

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    Recommendations for Public Lands has been operating for more than 15 years

    • Maintain roads on public lands in an environmentally-sensitive manner, and use only native species in ROWs

    • Practice context-sensitive solutions

    • Weigh the need for additional roads against environmental impacts

    • Increase public awareness of wildlife needs

    • Provide alternatives to driving

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    Opportunities for Public Lands in Reauthorization has been operating for more than 15 years

    • Reauthorize and fully fund the National Scenic Byways, Emergency Relief for Federally-Owned Roads, Recreational Trails, and Transportation Enhancements programs

    • Increase funding for Fix-it-First programs on public lands

    • Provide dedicated funding for alternative transportation

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    Native Vegetation has been operating for more than 15 years

    • Invasive species threaten biodiversity and cause $137 billion in economic losses annually

    • 1999 Executive Order seeks “to prevent the introduction of invasive species and provide for their control”

    • US DOT Policy Statement directed state DOTs to actively implement the Executive Order

    • FHWA issued guidelines to help states meet these directives

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    Roadside ROW provides 600,000 acres of prairie habitat in Iowa

    The program establishes a trust fund to provide funds for the development and implementation of Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management plans

    Requires 50 percent of trees and shrubs, and all grasses and forbs to be native species

    Established through a partnership between the Iowa DOT and the Roadside Management Program at the University of Northern Iowa

    Iowa’s Living Roadway Program

    Iowa Living Roadway Program

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    Recommendations for Native Vegetation Iowa

    • Develop and adopt Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management plans

    • Coordinate and compile vegetation inventories

    • Establish statewide invasives clearinghouses

    • Provide training

    • Develop education programs for the public

    • Sponsor pilot projects

    • Conduct research and monitoring of project sites

    • Reward managers and communities for exemplary efforts

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    Opportunities for Native Vegetation in Reauthorization Iowa

    • Provide funding for statewide inventories of vegetation in ROWs

    • Require discontinuation of non-native species in vegetation management

    • Provide incentives for native species restoration

    • Institute a small business loan program for growers to establish native seeds and stock

    • Provide funding to educate and train practitioners on native vegetation

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    Conclusion Iowa

    • Conflicts between transportation and biodiversity have never been greater

    • Current efforts to weaken NEPA will do little to improve project delivery and could seriously jeopardize the natural and cultural resources

    • Instead, many states and agencies are beginning to recognize that there are ways to both meet transportation needs and do a better job of protecting environmental and cultural resources

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    Conclusion Cont’d Iowa

    • The states and agencies profiled in this report have met these dual goals through innovative practices such as:

      • Comprehensively planning for biodiversity conservation

      • Proactively mitigating environmental impacts through conservation banking and wildlife crossings

      • Improving coordination among transportation and resource agencies

      • Promoting alternative transportation on public lands

      • Promoting the use of native vegetation

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    Integrate conservation planning into transportation planning Iowa

    Use conservation banking in concert with large scale conservation plans to mitigate for unavoidable impacts

    Coordinate with resource agencies early, substantively, and continuously throughout the planning process and project development

    Build wildlife crossings where necessary to repair ecological damage and restore connectivity

    Provide alternative transportation and maintain roads on public lands in a manner consistent with surrounding natural resources

    Use only native species in roadside vegetation management


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    For More Information… Iowa

    Habitat and Highways Campaign

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