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Adopting wildlife-inclusive design principles for transportation infrastructure on public lands.

Description:

Transportation-related infrastructure affects wildlife in a variety of ways by altering the physical environment. These alterations often negatively impact wildlife through displacement, barriers to movement, and increased mortality. They can positively impact wildlife as well by creating habitat that plants and algae colonize and animals utilize for passage, shelter, and nesting. To date, efforts to address transportation-related wildlife impacts have generally been implemented in a piecemeal approach and tend to discourage wildlife from colonizing and using infrastructure due to perceived concerns about structural damage and routine maintenance. Additionally, there are many barriers to implementing wildlife-inclusive practices including: difficultly in transferring lessons learned from one habitat or region to another, understanding potential impacts to regular maintenance practices, environmental regulations and existing policies.

Federal Land Management Agencies (FLMAs) are charged with fulfilling their missions related to wildlife and habitat conservation while balancing the needs of the public and related transportation infrastructure. Explicitly including ecological and wildlife considerations—incorporating wildlife-inclusive design principles—into asset design and management practices on Federal lands would help support the mission of FLMAs by reducing ecological impacts of new and existing infrastructure while ensuring adequate and safe access for members of the public.

Research is needed to develop guidance on integrating wildlife-inclusive and ecological principles into infrastructure design and engineering considerations[1]. There also needs to be a clear understanding of the existing practices for, and barriers to, implementing wildlife-inclusive design elements into transportation assets. This research will help to build and maintain structures that are not just compatible, but synergistic with wildlife. Further, it will help FLMAs mitigate effects at the ecosystem level and more sensitively integrate transportation infrastructure with the natural environment.


[1] e.g. safety, materials selection, invasive species, modularity, and cost

Objective:

1. Develop guidance and best practices for integrating and implementing wildlife-inclusive design into planning and transportation asset management on Federal lands. Guidance will include research into existing case studies and innovative applications of wildlife-inclusive principles as well as the barriers and costs/benefits of implementing this type of design.

  1. Identify priority assets on federally managed land to use as a test case and conduct a pilot study. Focusing on newly designed infrastructure, compile examples of wildlife-inclusive designs that result in enhanced ecological outcomes and increased resiliency, assess the efficiencies, and identify how to implement effective wildlife-inclusive design elements in other infrastructure.
Benefits:

Developing guidance for implementing wildlife-inclusive designs for transportation infrastructure on public lands will provide the following benefits:

· Support FLMAs’ missions related to resource protection on public lands.

· Facilitate compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other regulatory protections[1]through established design and maintenance practices including mitigation measures or special accommodations.

· Connect existing research on individual species, habitats, environmental concerns and asset types into forward-thinking framework for project applications.

· Enhance ecosystem-level thinking across agencies in support of FHWA’s Eco-Logical Approach[2].

· Evaluate opportunities for economic savings through enhancement of ecosystem services in coupled human-natural ecosystems. Potential cost-benefits and tradeoffs with infrastructure lifespan and maintenance, environmental mitigation and provision of ecosystem services.

· Advances the state of the practice for wildlife-inclusive design through piloting practices on public lands.


[1] The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973; Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) of 1918; Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) of 1940; Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (FWCA) of 1934; Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) of 1976 [2] https://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/env_initiatives/eco-logical.aspx

Tasks:

This research will be divided into two phases. Phase 1 includes research and outreach to generate a guidebook and other resources for practitioners, FLMAs, and partners on best practices to incorporate wildlife-inclusive considerations into the designs, uses, and maintenance practices of transportation infrastructure on Federal lands. Phase 2 applies the compiled research to a pilot study on public lands. Potential tasks to complete these phases include:

  1. Phase 1: Background Information and Resource Development

a. Conduct a literature review.

b. Engage practitioners and other stakeholders in outreach activities.

                                           i.     Establish a multi-agency stakeholder and practitioner working group.

                                          ii.     Identify case studies. 

c. Identify best practices.

d. Leverage existing FLMA and FHWA resources to develop a more comprehensive guidebook for practitioners, FLMAs, partner agencies, and other users on:

                                           i.     Best practices for wildlife-inclusive design and maintenance.

                                          ii.     Effective implementation of wildlife-inclusive design and maintenance practices.

                                         iii.     Best practices for the integration of the recommended design methods with current scoping and planning efforts. 

                                         iv.     Cost-benefit analyses comparing wildlife-inclusive designs to traditional designs
  1. Phase 2: Application and Knowledge-Sharing

a. Identify a suitable test case(s) to apply the best practices outlined in Phase 1.

                                           i.     Develop and execute an appropriate design, monitoring plan, performance metrics, and evaluation plan for implementation. 

b. Revise and update the guidebook developed in Phase 1 as necessary based on lessons learned.

c. Disseminate information to relevant stakeholders and agencies through report or additional outreach efforts.

The literature review will focus on the application of wildlife-inclusive design in transportation infrastructure, while also investigating the appropriateness of other infrastructure applications; there may be technologies and research not currently applied to the transportation sector that are able to be adopted. The focus will be on ecosystem-scale research investigating holistic approaches; there is a broad range of supporting research specifically targeting a wide range of taxa and interactions with transportation systems. The proposed research, however, is a unique and innovative application of this wealth of knowledge.

Implementation:

Research from Phase 1 will be instrumental in establishing a working group to serve as an advisory committee to guide the research and resource development and provide technical expertise. Outreach and engagement efforts through the working group will discuss current practices, integration with habitat and connectivity planning, successful implementation, maintenance practices, challenges and barriers, benefits, associated costs, and related topics for wildlife-inclusive design and will help generate agency leadership support and practitioner buy-in.

Phase 2 intends to leverage and apply the efforts of Phase 1 and establish a pilot project to apply best practices and concepts for wildlife-inclusive design in transportation infrastructure. Outcomes and lessons learned from the pilot project may be integrated into the guidebook or other guidance materials.

Sponsoring Committee:AEP70, Environmental Analysis and Ecology
Research Period:24 - 36 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Eric Bergey
Source Info:Sponsoring Committee
AEP20 - Standing Committee on Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands
AEP70 - Standing Committee on Environmental Analysis and Ecology
Date Posted:02/26/2022
Date Modified:03/08/2022
Index Terms:Wildlife, Wildlife crossings, Animal migrations, Habitat (Ecology), Public land, Design practices,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Subjects    
Design
Transportation (General)
Environment

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