Making Connections for Wildlife: Aligning Transportation Projects with State Wildlife Action Plans

Project #: 1776  –   Updated: January 17, 2011

Project Summary

This project aligned transportation projects with State Wildlife Action Plans in both Colorado and New Mexico by developing GIS data and maps, designing an early warning system and ensuring wildlife collision mitigation measures are placed in effective locations.

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Location (by county):
Eagle County (CO), Torrance County (NM)

Watersheds:
Eagle, Western Estancia

Congressional Districts:
NM District 01, CO District 02

Bird Conservation Regions:
Southern Rockies/Colorado Plateau

USFWS Regions:
Mountain Prairie Region, Southwest Region

Public Access

Site Name Publicly Accessible
Colorado Yes
New Mexico Yes

Full Project Description

This project aligned transportation projects with State Wildlife Action Plans in both Colorado and New Mexico by developing GIS data and maps, designing an early warning system and ensuring wildlife collision mitigation measures are placed in effective locations.

Goals and Targets

Primary motivations:

Conservation Mission

Primary goals:

1. Prepare and compile statewide data on key habitats, Species of Greatest Conservation Need, and wildlife linkages into an effective visual tool.
Progress:

We have successfully completed all of the objectives of this project and have developed and applied a framework for integrating data on wildlife habitat and movement areas in Colorado. Specifically, we created spatially-explicit data layers of important wildlife linkage areas for seven species of greatest conservation need and other species of management concern; established relationships and communication channels between the state wildlife and transportation agencies; provided access to detailed data and maps on important wildlife habitat and linkages; supported a training session with Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) regional biologists on the application of these data to facilitate early consultation in transportation planning; developed specific criteria to assist in effective placement of highway mitigation measures for wildlife; created a step-by-step guide and website as a replicable framework for other states to follow.

2. Design and early warning system to alert planners to potential wildlife conflicts
Progress:

We have successfully completed all of the objectives of this project and have developed and applied a framework for integrating data on wildlife habitat and movement areas in Colorado. Specifically, we created spatially-explicit data layers of important wildlife linkage areas for seven species of greatest conservation need and other species of management concern; established relationships and communication channels between the state wildlife and transportation agencies; provided access to detailed data and maps on important wildlife habitat and linkages; supported a training session with Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) regional biologists on the application of these data to facilitate early consultation in transportation planning; developed specific criteria to assist in effective placement of highway mitigation measures for wildlife; created a step-by-step guide and website as a replicable framework for other states to follow.

3. Develop a “matchmaking” system to ensure mitigation is placed effectively
Progress:

We have successfully completed all of the objectives of this project and have developed and applied a framework for integrating data on wildlife habitat and movement areas in Colorado. Specifically, we created spatially-explicit data layers of important wildlife linkage areas for seven species of greatest conservation need and other species of management concern; established relationships and communication channels between the state wildlife and transportation agencies; provided access to detailed data and maps on important wildlife habitat and linkages; supported a training session with Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) regional biologists on the application of these data to facilitate early consultation in transportation planning; developed specific criteria to assist in effective placement of highway mitigation measures for wildlife; created a step-by-step guide and website as a replicable framework for other states to follow.

4. Provide a clear framework for other states to follow
Progress:

We have successfully completed all of the objectives of this project and have developed and applied a framework for integrating data on wildlife habitat and movement areas in Colorado. Specifically, we created spatially-explicit data layers of important wildlife linkage areas for seven species of greatest conservation need and other species of management concern; established relationships and communication channels between the state wildlife and transportation agencies; provided access to detailed data and maps on important wildlife habitat and linkages; supported a training session with Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) regional biologists on the application of these data to facilitate early consultation in transportation planning; developed specific criteria to assist in effective placement of highway mitigation measures for wildlife; created a step-by-step guide and website as a replicable framework for other states to follow.

Consistent with plans:

State Wildlife Action Plan

Targeted habitats:

    • Aquatic
      • Rivers and Streams
    • Forests and Woodlands
      • Conifer Forests
    • Human Habitats
      • Agriculture
        • Cultivated Crops
        • Pasture / Hay
      • Urban and Residential
        • Rural Residential (Low Intensity Developed)
    • Shrublands and Grasslands
      • Grasslands
      • Shrublands and Steppe
    • Wetlands and Riparian Habitats
      • Forested or Shrub Wetlands and Swamps
      • Montane Riparian Forests and Shrublands

Targeted species:

  • Elk Cervus canadensis
  • Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Ovis canadensis canadensis
  • Pronghorn Antilocapra americana
  • American Black Bear Ursus americanus

Actions

Project Actions
Develop a wildlife management plan Show/Hide details

Outcomes

Is the success of this project's actions being monitored?   Yes

Please describe your monitoring activity.

Components of this project are ongoing at their new home at Center for Native Ecosystems (CNE). CNE will benefit greatly from the foundation laid by SREP through the duration of this project, and will continue to promote habitat connectivity for wildlife. CNE will continue to develop the agency partner relationships established by SREP to advance its mission of protecting native biodiversity. These relationships which extend across multiple levels and departments within CDOT and CDOW are invaluable in the continued effort to increase interagency collaboration for full implementation of all the components of the State Wildlife Action Plan – beyond habitat connectivity and transportation issues. CNE’s expertise in at-risk species and ecosystems will further support these implementation efforts at CDOW, as well as among other partners including, the Western Governor’s Association, U.S. Forest Service, BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the numerous land trusts and conservation advocacy organizations that work to protect the natural heritage of the Greater Southern Rockies.

What lessons have been learned and/or what suggestions do you have for similar activities?

o The linkage modeling process took significantly longer than originally anticipated. We spent considerable effort educating our partners on the modeling process – its inputs and outputs, and how these models should be applied and interpreted. While we did not adequately anticipate this need in our proposal, we have found that the effort is well-spent, helping to engage CDOW biologists in transportation planning, and educating CDOT biologists and planners as to the uses of these linkage models and the need for early consideration of wildlife needs in transportation planning to ensure the development of effective mitigation measures and including such measures in short-term planning and budgeting processes.
o There are several species that were identified as target species at the outset of the project, but were later removed from the list of target species being modeled. As we proceeded with the modeling process we determined that these species were unsuitable for the linkage modeling process using the Corridor Design tool because their movements occur at a scale too fine to be adequately captured by the modeling process, because they are a riparian obligate whose habitat does not lend itself to linkage modeling, or because they are wide-ranging generalists, preventing the mapping of linkage areas based on habitat and terrain variables. For these species, we instead identified alternative strategies for integrating habitat and linkage needs for these species in the transportation planning process.

What additional information would you like to share?

Our original proposal sought a database solution to incorporating wildlife movement areas into the transportation planning process. However, CDOT’s database systems are undergoing a massive transformation to a new all-inclusive system (for all of the agency’s information, from environmental, to project, to human resources information). Consequently, inclusion of the linkage data into this larger database would be far more complicated and require a much-extended timeframe. Instead, we have recognized a simple solution that allows CDOT biologists to directly access the linkage data. In bypassing the larger database structure, we bypass numerous technical complications, and facilitate the biologists’ consideration of these data early in the transportation planning.

In the time since our proposal was originally submitted, our partners in New Mexico have acknowledged a need to re-address their statewide connectivity assessment, which identified critical highway segments – primarily based on animal-vehicle collision data – in a one-day Critical Mass workshop. Recognizing the limits of this assessment, biologists at the NM Department of Game and Fish, a private consulting firm, and Animal Protection of New Mexico are developing a plan to conduct a second-iteration connectivity assessment to identify and prioritize wildlife linkages based on a broader array of wildlife movement needs. Regardless, through this project we have been able to lay the foundation for communication and collaboration and have provided a framework for our New Mexico partners to follow and build upon.

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Organization

Center for Native Ecosystems
(Non-Governmental Organization)

Primary Contact

Andrea West  (Development Director)
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Partners

  • Colorado Department of Transportation
  • Colorado Division of Wildlife

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