TransWild Alliance Blog

ICOET 2013 - June 23-27 in Scottsdale Arizona

Just a reminder that the 2013 International Conference on Ecology and Transportation is coming up soon!
Early registration until April 30!

ICOET 2013
Canyons, Crossroads, Connections
Meeting Today's Transportation Ecology Challenges with Innovative Science & Sustainable Solutions

Conference info:

It's Watch Out for Wildlife Awareness Week!

Since 2007, Defenders of Wildlife has hosted Watch Out for Wildlife Awareness Week (WOW) to provide information about wildlife-vehicle collisions and how to prevent them. The Watch Out for Wildlife Awareness Week website features tips for drivers, contact information in the case of a wildlife-vehicle collision, factsheets, multimedia presentations and materials for kids and teachers. This year the week runs from September 18-24.

This year Defenders rolled out a major campaign asking all 50 Governors and the DC Mayor to issue proclamations officially recognizing WOW. Our aim with these proclamations was to increase awareness about WOW in the states and to help inform both the public and the Governor about the many impacts wildlife-vehicle collisions have in their states.

We're happy to say that this campaign was a huge success! To date we have received 25 Governor's proclamations! This was a much larger response than we expected and we are thrilled with the outcome. To view all the proclamations visit the website.

Defenders is also publishing an entire week of informative blogs and videos about wildlife-vehicle collisions on their blog. To read these blogs, please visit Defenders' blog!

Megan Brown
Defenders of Wildlife

TransWild Alliance announces 2011 Mini-Grant Awardees!

Since 2008 the TransWild Alliance, with the generous support from the Turner Foundation, has awarded mini grants to different groups working on exciting projects all over North America. Over the years we have awarded over 20 groups more than $75,000 for projects such as construction of culverts, several wildlife websites for wildlife/roadkill data collection, workshops and the nationwide screening of a wildlife corridors in transportation planning film.

This year we received 15 fantastic applications and our selection committee had a difficult time choosing the 10 groups that would receive these funds. Congratulations to those who won, we look forward to hearing more about these projects!

Berkshire Environmental Action Team: This funding will be used for education, outreach and citizen science research on stream crossings in Berkshire County Massachusetts. It will be used for the development of a datalayer to alert Department of Public Works, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to needed upgrades of culverts and wildlife passage when planning major road repair projects.

Boise River Wildlife Linkage Partnership: This funding will be used to improve habitat connectivity and reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions along a major highway (Idaho State Highway 21) bisecting the Boise River Wildlife Management Area. The money will be used for phase 2 of a 4 phase project to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and maintain habitat connectivity for big game species.

Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection: These funds will launch a multi-pronged community outreach and education campaign about wildlife crossings along State Route 77 in Pima County Arizona. It will help mobilize the surrounding community around the long-term stewardship of the SR77 wildlife crossings and in fostering a sense of pride and place around this project.

Conservation Northwest: This funding will support costs associated with the work of two staff members to coordinate with WSDOT and community members to build the I-4 Retrofit program and launch a local coalition in Okanogan County around a twin set of underpasses proposed on Highway 97.

Craighead Institute: These funds will be used to improve highway safety and wildlife connectivity on US Highway 287 in the Madison Valley, Montana. It will help reduce the risks to motorists and to better understand areas of concern with regard to road ecology and connectivity by collecting and mapping road mortality dada to elucidate patterns of wildlife-vehicle collisions and identify hotspots.

Keeping Track: This grant will be used to fund the 2012 Habitat and Highways Training Course, including the seven training sessions taking place between January and June 2012.

Lewis Creek Association: These funds will be used to continue work on the Monkton Road Wildlife Crossing Project, Phase II Construction. The money will help the restoration of wildlife habitat connectivity and mitigation of wildlife mortality by constructing two crossings at one of Vermont’s most important and vulnerable amphibian crossing locations in Monkton, Vermont.

Maine Audubon: This funding will help to address the urgent need for improved stream crossings where waterways intersect with roads by focusing on outreach efforts to encourage ecologically functional stream crossings and develop a training curriculum with supporting materials that provide a consistent approach for trainings across the state.

The People’s Way Partnership: These funds will be used to continue work communicating the ecological effectiveness of highway wildlife crossings on US93 in Montana. They will help conduct outreach and education to tribal members, university and K-12 students, community groups and transportation and natural resource professionals on the research findings from the US93 wildlife crossings.

Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatan, A.C: This funding will be used to present a technical paper, Maintaining Maya forest connectivity in a changing landscape, Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and Mexico’s Highway 186, at ICOET 2011. The presentation will discuss the results of the work being developed at Calakmul region by several Mexican organizations as one of the first joint efforts to mitigate the impacts of roads to wildlife and connectivity in Mexico.

To see details about past grant recipients check out our TWA mini grants website

Megan Brown
Defenders of Wildlife

Proposed Serengeti Road Canceled!

In a huge victory to conservation, tourism and one of the greatest migrations on earth, the Tanzanian government has announced they will not be building the controversial road through Serengeti National Park. Back in April I wrote this blog post detailing the negative effects this road would have on this ecosystem. It looks like, at least for now, the wildlife in this beautiful National Park can continue to follow their traditional migrations through the landscape in search of fertile grasslands.

The new plans for the road have a paved road leading up the Park boundaries. The road within the park will remain gravel and will only be used for tourism and administrative activities, not as a thoroughfare for high volumes of traffic. As of right now the Tanzanian government is looking into a southern route around the park that would give rural communities with the much needed access to goods and services in the area.

For more information check out this link:

Megan Brown
Defenders of wildlife

Panther Country Happenings

In May, Collier County commissioners voted to spend $1.9 million to compensate for panther habitat being destroyed by the six-laning of Oil Well Road to connect Ave Maria University and residential development near Immokalee, FL. The county gas tax money will pay for 363.7 acres of land which is to be preserved for panthers and for restoration of wetlands affected by the road construction. Nancy Payton of the Florida Wildlife Federation said two underpasses are being included to allow wildlife a chance to cross the road from north to south without risking being struck by vehicles. At least five panthers have been killed on county roads this year.
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) news release (05/02/2011): "FWC urging motorists to slow down in panther country"

From April 18-22, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers patrolled panther speed zones on SR 29 and US 41 in Collier County for the “Save a Panther” detail. In four nights, nine officers issued 84 citations and 46 warnings. Most citations were to motorists driving over 20 mph above the speed limit. Panther speed zones are well-marked, with speed limits reduced to 45 mph at night, but all five vehicle collisions in the county this year were outside of panther speed zones. Violators receive fines over $200 for their first offense, and more than 29 mph over the limit involves a mandatory court appearance.
News-Press (05/24/2011): "Collier pays $1.9 million for panther habitat"

Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

2011 is the Year of the Turtle

Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) have designated 2011 as the Year of Turtle. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 47% of all living turtle species are threatened with extinction.

Some good advice about turtles in roadways, from the Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection:
As you drive, watch out for turtles crossing the road. Turtles found crossing roads in June and July are often pregnant females and they should be helped on their way and not collected. Without creating a traffic hazard or compromising safety, drivers are encouraged to avoid running over turtles that are crossing roads. Also, still keeping safety precautions in mind, you may elect to pick up turtles from the road and move them onto the side they are headed. Never relocate a turtle to another area that is far from where you found it.

Also from Connecticut, this May 18 article from Groton Patch News explains "Why Did The Turtle Cross The Road? And What Should You Do If You Are Driving Along And It's In Your Path?"
Aquatic turtle populations across the U.S. have uncommonly high proportions of males because so many female turtles are killed on roadways. Turtles have a long lifespan, take a long time to reach sexual maturity, and have low survivorship when newly hatched. Because of these attributes, turtle populations cannot compensate for losses due to adult mortality without experiencing long-term consequences. Thus, every individual is important to a population’s stability. This concern is even greater in recent years because many U.S. turtle populations are becoming fragmented, isolated, and progressively smaller.

This April 28 article from The News & Advance discusses how "Roadside Snapping Turtles Keep Animal Control Busy" in Lynchburg, VA.

One of our terrific TransWild Alliance members, BEAT (Berkshire Environmental Action Team), is helping out with a citizen science study called Turtle Watch, or the Turtle Mortality Study, run by the Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation and the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. In the Berkshires, BEAT distributes safety equipment and trains volunteers. The Turtle Watch study determines locations where turtles may be hit by vehicles while trying to cross roads, with the ultimate goal of making Massachusetts roads safer for turtles. If you're interested in participating in Turtle Watch, please contact Jane at BEAT. The first survey period runs May 25th to May 31st.

Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

"Over the River" and Through the Wildlife Habitat...

On a scale equivalent to building a new roadway...

Artist couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude have proposed a $50 million installation of silvery fabric to be hung over 5.9 miles of the Arkansas River in southern Colorado. (This is the team that installed the bright orange fabric throughout New York City's Central Park in 2005, as well as several other pieces involving fabric or plastic being draped along natural features like canyons, beaches, islands, and mountains.) Members of the Colorado Wildlife Commission have voted unanimously against the proposal, called "Over the River", although the final decision will be made by federal officials from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in August or September. If the proposal is approved, work would begin in spring 2012, with the installation going up for a two-week period in August 2014.

Some potential impacts of the project include: a dramatic increase in traffic, safety issues, vehicular noise and fumes; birds and bats may fly into the fabric or support wires; bighorn sheep and other animals may be deterred from the river as a water source and instead search for areas without fabric and the stress of human disturbance, leading to reproduction issues and survival problems in the winter; and all the other associated problems with any construction within a river corridor. In fact, a group called ROAR (Rags Over the Arkansas River) has formed in opposition to the project.

Due to the construction and potential impact, the BLM is currently reviewing the project's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which is interesting because it's the first time this has been done for an art piece since 1969. Christo is shelling out the dough for the EIS himself, and proposed mitigation includes setting out tarps to collect rainwater for wildlife, as well as donating significant funds towards bighorn sheep habitat protection.

Some supporters of the proposal have said that wildlife will adapt, just as they have to the highway and railway running parallel to the river. Haven't we heard this argument before? Different species "adapt" in different ways: some by crossing these barriers, leading to injury or death; some by avoiding these barriers, leading to reduced genetic variability and negatively impacted populations.

Surprisingly, I haven't seen much discussed about the impacts that the construction phase will have on the riverine ecosystem, other than the increase in vehicular traffic. Or the impact of the anticipated 250,000 art lovers within the canyon in a concentrated time period. The piece will certainly be fascinating if installed, but might the canyon be just as fascinating as it is now without the art and without its tremendous impact?

News about "Over the River":
ArtInfo (05/18/2011): "Art Versus Bighorn Sheep: New Obstacles to Christo's "Over the River" Project in Colorado Rear Their Heads"
New York Times (05/17/2011): "Christo’s Colorado Project May Hinge on Sheep"
The Wall Street Journal (09/10/2010): "Christo vs.Colorado"

Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

Proposed Serengeti Road Could Halt Migration

When you think of Serengeti National Park you think of vast landscapes dotted with millions of wildebeest, gazelles, lions and even the elusive rhino. One of the largest draws for people to the Serengeti is the annual migration these animals take to find fertile grasslands. Now imagine the Serengeti cut in two by a 300 mile road. Would the migration continue despite the new road? Would animals and drivers be killed in wildlife-vehicle collisions due to increased traffic? Would the possibility of poaching increase in an area that is already struggling to control the illegal practice? Would the Serengeti continue to be the thriving ecosystem that is considered one of the greatest natural wonders of the world?

We could see this scenario play out if the Tanzanian government goes forward with its plan to build a road across the Serengeti. The proposed road would connect key towns by Lake Victoria and eastern Tanzania. Although the proposal is for a gravel road, it is believed that with increased mobility between towns, it is only a matter of time before the road is paved. Paving will increase the speed as well as the amount of traffic and therefore increase the threats to wildlife.

The consequences of this proposed road would be catastrophic for the Serengeti, so much so that it risks permanently ending the annual migrations. The road would become a physical barrier for the migration, either by creating such as nuisance that the animals won’t cross or by causing deadly accidents if they do attempt the crossing. Is there a way to mitigate these negative effects so the road can be built and the migrations can continue? Unfortunately, no. Any form of fencing to keep animals from crossing the road would only create another barrier to the migration or could entangle animals that attempt to cross. Over and underpasses would not be used by over a million animals running on their frantic migration.

Because of the devastating effects this road would have on the Serengeti, international conservation experts have begun speaking out against the proposal. The World Bank has offered funds to build a road around the southern portion of the park, but the Tanzanian government is sticking to the initial plans. Construction of the highway is expected to begin in 2012.

For more information check out these links:
The Guardian: Serengeti Highway Threatens National Park’s Wildebeest Migration Business Daily Africa: Controversy Over Serengeti Road Plan Deepens The Telegraph: Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park Facing ‘Collapse’ Due to Highway Plans Global Post: Tanzania: Highway Threatens Serengeti Migration
Megan Brown
Defenders of Wildlife

Spotlight on the Success of Unique Bighorn Overpasses in Arizona

Along US 93 in northwestern Arizona, south of the Hoover Dam bypass bridge, three overpasses were recently built specifically for the nation's largest contiguous population of desert bighorn sheep, which roam the Black Mountains. First of their kind, the three overpasses and associated fencing cost $4.8 million, of which federal highway funding paid 95% of the construction costs -- towards both the crossings and the widening and upgrades of US 93. This project is a GREAT EXAMPLE of how successful collaborations can be -- in this case, the partnership was between the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, National Park Service and Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society.

The wildlife crossing project initiated from an announcement of the impending widening of 15 miles of US 93 from two lanes to four, and an increase in speed limit to 65 mph. Already, wildlife officials estimate that at least 10 bighorn sheep die each year trying to cross the two-lane highway to get to the Colorado River. FHWA provided funding for AZ Game & Fish to study bighorn movement near the Hoover Dam and along AZ Hwy 68, to determine whether or not bighorn would use wildlife underpasses (which had been built on Hwy 68 and are used by other species) and where the bighorn historically crossed US 93. The AZ Game & Fish Department wasn't sure that the more common wildlife underpasses were the right option for bighorn, which can see movement up to a mile away and depend on their eyesight as their primary defense from predators. However, they often climb steep, rocky mountains to quickly escape danger.

Working with sportsman's groups, AZGFD captured and GPS-collared 75 bighorn in areas along US 93 and Hwy 68. The Hwy 68 underpasses were not very popular with the bighorn. The Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, a group active in bighorn conservation, contributed $60,000 toward the tracking collars and put up more money to help the state monitor the sheep. With more than 100,000 data points from the collared sheep, AZGFD and ADOT found three locations where to best include the overpasses into the design of the expanded highway. The overpasses were finished in late January 2011 and on February 1, remote cameras attached to the overpasses snapped the first photographs of bighorn crossing the highway. Hopefully this project can be used as an example in other areas and towards the safe passage of other species that can't use underpasses to cross roads blocking migration paths, like the pronghorn.

Get the latest scoop from this Prescott Daily Courier article: "Unique overpasses for bighorn sheep show initial success"
AZ Game & Fish Dept. has video of bighorn sheep using the crossings available to view.
You can find photos of bighorn sheep using the crossings in the Wildlife Crossings section of the TransWild photo gallery.

Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

Flat-tailed Horned Lizard No Longer Protected Under ESA

After a court-ordered analysis of the flat-tailed horned lizard's status, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determined threats to the species “are not as significant as earlier believed” and that the species does not need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Among numerous other threats to the species, the construction of roads significantly contributes to loss and degradation of the lizard's historic habitat. And what about all the new renewable energy projects in the desert, pushing out fragile species like the desert tortoise?

When facing a predator or other potential danger, the flat-tailed horned lizard immediately freezes. On a road, this leads to lizard roadkill. In response, Arizona DOT has fenced 18 miles of the Robert A. Vaughan Expressway in Yuma County with special reptile fencing, funneling the lizards to crossings under the highway.

Now FWS has determined that loss and degradation of the lizard's habitat largely occurred in the historical past. But it seems that road construction, urban development, and energy projects will continue to progress indefinitely and will certainly continue to impact the lizard. Protection measures such as range studies, maintaining conservation management areas, and including the species in Habitat Conservation Plans have, in part, resulted from the FWS "threatened" listing. Now that the lizard is no longer a listed species, will these species-specific conservation plans and strategies continue to be maintained?

Get more details from this Yuma Sun article "Agency takes lizard off endangered list"
History of the lizard's on-again off-again protection can be found on the FWS Arizona Ecological Services website

Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

Trisha White of Defenders on The Organic View Radio Show

Trisha White began Defenders’ Habitat and Highways Campaign in 2000 to address impacts of highways on our nation’s wildlife and to encourage transportation and community planning that incorporates wildlife conservation.

Trisha was the featured guest of June Stoyer, host of The Organic View Radio Show, on January 25, 2011. Trisha and June take audience questions and discuss issues of roadkill, habitat fragmentation, acting as an advocate for wildlife and communicating with your elected representatives, the ARC International Wildlife Crossing Infrastructure Design Competition for a wildlife overpass in Colorado's Vail Pass, and the history of transportation infrastructure as it affects wildlife.

Listen to Trish's full interview on The Organic View Radio Show website or on the TransWild podcast section of our website.

Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

Kudos Given to Winner of ARC International Wildlife Overpass Design Contest

Congratulations to HNTB and Michael Van Valkenburgh & Associates! This landscape architecture firm out of New York was recently was awarded $40,000 for their design of a wildlife overpass structure across Interstate 70 through Colorado's Vail Pass, where wildlife-vehicle collisions are frequent and deadly.

The ARC International Wildlife Crossing Infrastructure Design Competition attracted 36 submissions from more than 100 architecture firms from nine countries. The winning design was chosen out of the top five finalists and announced on January 23, 2010 at the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting in Washington, DC.

The winning design features separate wildlife "lanes" for species of different habitats (shrubs, grassland, forest, and meadow) that then condense into one bridge four times wider than the famous wildlife overpass in Banff National Park. The structure itself is a cost-effective system of concrete panels that snap in place, allowing for minimal site disturbance and easy assembly.

Even though this design is much wider than the Banff overpass, it would be much lighter and much less expensive, since the bridge in Banff was designed with wildlife in mind, but to standards such that heavy trucks could pass over it. This isn't necessary for elk, lynx, coyote, bobcat, bighorn sheep, deer, amphibians, rodents, or bears. Even with vegetation and soil on the overpass structure, its design still wouldn't need to accommodate the weight of heavy truck traffic. Hopefully these cost savings and the wealth of designs already completed will persuade more state DOTs to take the next step and fund this type of project in fragmented landscapes across North America.

Some of the other finalists' designs also included a bridge made out of wood from trees killed by beetles, a bright red bridge with paint visible to humans but not animals, and a viewing area far from the bridge, for people with binoculars to wildlife watch.

- New York Times: "For wildlife, a safe highway crossing"
- ARC website with finalists' designs
- See the 06/18/2010 blog below for more info on ARC.

Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

Wildlife Stuck Between a Highway and a Road During Migrations

Wondering about all the static surrounding "climate change adaptation" for wildlife? Why are our federal and state natural resource agencies working so hard towards this goal? And what would happen if we didn't?

The main idea is to provide safe corridors through which wildlife populations may migrate as their ranges shift and their most appropriate habitat is altered by processes of climate change. These ideal safe passages would cross through human development and transportation networks by conserving or restoring green space and wilderness areas in connected patches throughout the landscape. Here are some examples of what occurs when wildlife are faced with man-made obstructions during the course of migration...not a pretty sight.

- Wintering elk moving northwards in Wyoming are drawn to snow-free highways and create high risk of elk-vehicle collisions
- Flock of 300 blackbirds feeding along Alabama highway killed by vehicles
- Pronghorn use of historic migration corridor threatened by highways and development in Wyoming
- Annual spring salamander migration across a New York roadway lasts longer than usual, many killed by vehicles
- Vehicles kill endangered Hawaiian moorhens daily as birds search for food on flooded roadways
- Flock of 200 American coots killed by vehicles on Texas bridge
- Vehicles kill hundreds of amphibians on New Jersey road every spring migration
- Wildebeest, zebra, elephant, lion, rhino, cheetah, and other endangered African species predicted to be severely threatened as proposed road through Serengeti, if built, will disrupt historic migration patterns

Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

Ontario Uses Citizen Science to Aid in Transportation Planning

Ah, wouldn't it be great if this sort of effort to solicit public input could be implemented (required!) as part of all highway project Environmental Assessment studies? Now the question is whether the data will be used in the planning and design process...
Ontario Highway 17 Wildlife Observations Reporting Form and Interactive Map
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has initiated a planning study to four-lane 26 km of Highway 17, from North Bay to Bonfield. This highway expansion project has a website dedicated to explanation of the project's Environmental Assessment (EA). On that website is a section devoted to wildlife observations, where the public is encouraged to record sightings of live or dead animals crossing or near the road, via an interactive mapping tool and comment form. The data collected will be used to assist the Project Team during the EA to identify areas that may have a key role in wildlife movement patterns. The site doesn't say how exactly they'll use the info, but it does seem like a brilliant first step. Citizen participation in action!

The EA study has just begun and is expected to take about three years to complete. Through the study, the MTO will develop and evaluate a range of alternatives, such as highway improvements, new routes and/or combinations of the two, while consulting with the public, municipalities, tribes, and landowners. Residents who live near or travel this road should take advantage of this rare opportunity to make their observations count towards consideration of wildlife in transportation planning. Hopefully the MTO will use this information to incorporate wildlife crossing structures and associated fencing along Ontario's Highway 17.

Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

2010 Florida Panther-Vehicle Collisions Just One Short of 2009 Number

It's December 29, 2010 and there have been 21 Florida panther deaths this year, with 16 caused by vehicles. Last year was an unfortunate record for panther-vehicle collisions, at 17. However, this year's interesting developments and efforts towards panther protection did include:

Installation of a Roadside Animal Detection System (RADS), used to detect wildlife movement on a road and alert drivers via electronic signage, is planned near the junction of Turner River Road and U.S. 41 in the southwestern corner of Big Cypress National Preserve. Although existing RADS have been targeted towards ungulates in arid or mountain environments, the state of Florida is optimistic that RADS can also be used on the ground-hugging panthers in the lushly vegetated state. Installation of the monitoring system is planned for late summer 2011 or early fall.
"Florida officials to install panther detection system with hopes of slowing road kills"

In November, the Bad to the Bone Brotherhood of Bikers teamed up with the Friends of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge for the Panther Prowl Poker Run -- combining motorcycles, card games and wildlife preservation.
"Bikes, panthers and poker: Motorcycle group deals winning hand for Florida panthers"

On November 13th, Carlton Ward Photography captured this rare photo of a Florida panther on their trail camera from a cattle ranch in Highlands County, near US 27 and SR 70.

Just this month, the ground-breaking ceremony took place on Florida’s first-ever privately funded wildlife underpass and fencing in Collier County on County Road 846. Ten panthers have been struck and killed by vehicles on this stretch of road in the past 12 years. The $1.3 million crossing is part of a Habitat Conservation Plan for the City Gate commercial project (at a different location than the planned wildlife crossing) near I-75 and County Road 951. The City Gate developer will be required to monitor and maintain the crossing, at least for a couple of years. The project includes motion-sensitive cameras that will help track wildlife using the crossing.
"Developer building wildlife crossing in east Collier to protect panthers"

Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

Wyoming Transportation Commission Steps Up to Fund Wildlife Crossings

Each year 1,800 WVCs are reported on WY roadways, causing about 149 injuries and two human deaths annually.
In March 2010, the federal government declined to fund the construction of more wildlife-friendly underpasses in southwest Wyoming when FHWA denied the state's proposal for $100 million in economic stimulus funding for the agency's “wildlife connectivity” plan. The plan included the construction of 30 or more underpasses in some of the heaviest big game migration corridors in Wyoming.

GOOD NEWS released this week from WYDOT!
Wyoming's Transportation Commission has stepped up and allocated $9.7 million for the historic antelope migration bottleneck near Pinedale. The Trappers Point project will be WYDOT’s largest wildlife underpass effort to date, with eight crossing structures and associated wildlife fencing.

The underpasses will be designed to get migrating deer safely across the highway, and two overpasses will serve migrating antelope which biologists say are reluctant to use underpasses. Historic and archaeological evidence indicates that the animals have traveled the same migration route for MORE THAN 6,000 YEARS. But increasing development, new subdivisions, fences, and energy projects have squeezed part of that route into several narrow bottlenecks, which threatens the antelope's yearly migration.
Trappers Point contract completion date is set for Sept. 30, 2012.

WYDOT webcams show that wildlife underpasses construced in Lincoln and Carbon Counties have been successful, moving thousands of deer, elk, and antelope safely across highways. In fact, earlier this year FHWA recognized Wyoming's mule deer underpass project on US Hwy 30 in Lincoln County with its "Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative" award. (See Nov. 1, 2010 TransWild blog.)

Billings Gazette: "WYDOT approves $9.7M for deer underpasses, antelope overpasses" Jackson Hole News & Guide: "State to spend $9.7M to protect pronghorn"
Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

Endangered Flying Squirrels Using Crossing Structures in NC

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) has posted videos and photos of endangered Carolina Northern flying squirrels using crossing structures to glide to the other side of the Cherohala Skyway in the western part of the state. For the first time, individual squirrels have been found using dens on both sides of the Skyway. Prior to the installation of the crossing structures, flying squirrels would not cross the Skyway.

The wood poles were donated and installed by Duke Energy in 2008. Northern flying squirrels move by gliding from tree to tree, but the width of the canopy gap across the Skyway exceeds their gliding ability. That created two populations on either side of the road. Fortunately, the crossing structures have reconnected the populations, hopefully leading to improved gene flow with less risk of genetic impacts and less vulnerability to catastrophic events.

NCDOT, USFS, Duke Energy, FWS, and NCWRC worked together to resolve this issue by designating movement corridors along the Skyway, posting “Do Not Mow” signs to promote tree growth. If new tree growth is sufficient to allow squirrels to make their way across, the poles can eventually be removed.

To evaluate the success of the structures, scientists have mounted wildlife cameras to the pole tops. Check out the nighttime videos of flying squirrels actually using the crossing structures. You can also view daytime images of the crossing structures, squirrels in nest boxes, and volunteers checking the monitoring camera for video.
NC Wildlife Resources Commission:
"Endangered Squirrels Using Poles to Glide across Road"
Asheville Citizen Times: "WNC's daredevil squirrels big hit on YouTube"

Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

New Report Released on Climate Change Adaptation

The Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) Conservation Initiative recently released a new report identifying the current extent to which climate change is occurring in the Y2Y region and a discussion of how Y2Y's vision and programs are working towards addressing these changes.
The report can be found here: "Moving Toward Climate Change Adaptation: The Promise of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative for Addressing the Region�s Vulnerability to Climate Disruption"
Y2Y focuses on the mountainous region from Yellowstone National Park to the Yukon Territory. This region will undergo accelerated warming temperatures, changes in precipitation leading to declining water availability, and increased frequency of extreme events. Significant redistributions of animal species and vegetation types, and development of new ecosystems will occur to include species more tolerant of future climatic conditions and of intense and frequent disturbances. Species range shifts and loss of species will substantially change the environment of this region, and the region's people will have to change in many ways to adjust to these new conditions.

Landscape-level conservation and long-term planning should be used to manage ecosystems to withstand climate change, by using strategies of adaptation and transformation. Connectivity conservation is climate adaptation management on the most fundamental level -- connectivity furthers resilience, and resilience equates to survival for ecological systems.

Banff National Park's wildlife underpasses and overpasses are discussed in the report, in addition to I-90 through Bozeman Pass in Montana, Highway 93 through the Flathead Indian Reservation and through Idaho, and Highway 3 through British Columbia and Alberta. Y2Y focuses on landscape connectivity, but the organization and its partners are also working to reduce the effects of activities that cause habitat fragmentation and loss. Roads, railroads, and pipelines are the leading cause of habitat fragmentation in the Y2Y region. Y2Y and partners are working to limit road densities and motorized access in core wildlife habitat, to prevent sub-urban sprawl, and to mitigate the impacts of roads through the construction of wildlife overpasses and underpasses. Conservationists must ensure that action taken to address habitat fragmentation threats are also climate-informed.

Y2Y Press Release:
"Large, connected landscapes offer solutions to climate change adaptation: new report"
Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

State Farm's 2010 Top Ten List for States with Deer-Vehicle Collisions

For the fourth year in a row, West Virginia tops the list of those states where a driver is most likely to collide with a deer.
1. West Virginia -- the likelihood of a licensed driver in WV striking a deer within the next year is 1 in 42.
2. Iowa (1 in 67)
3. Michigan (1 in 70)
4. South Dakota (1 in 76)
5. Montana (1 in 82)
6. Pennsylvania (1 in 85)
7. North Dakota (1 in 91)
8. Wisconsin (1 in 96)
9. Arkansas (1 in 99)
10. Minnesota (1 in 100)

Flashback to 2009 and the top ten list was (in order): WV, MI, PA, IA, MT, AR, SD, WI, ND, VA.
Remembering 2008 gives us the top ten list as: WV, MI, PA, IA, AR, SD, WI, MT, ND, VA.

Get this, folks: while the number of miles driven by U.S. motorists over the past 5 years has increased just 2%, the number of deer-vehicle collisions in the U.S. has grown by TEN TIMES that amount, in the same time period.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, deer-vehicle collisions in the U.S. cause about 200 fatalities each year. The average property damage cost of these incidents was $3,103, up 1.7% from a year ago.

According to State Farm, during your reading of this blog entry, a collision between a deer and vehicle will likely have taken place somewhere in the United States! Yikes.

October 2010 State Farm Press Release: "Deer-Vehicle Collision Frequency Up 21 Percent in Five Years"

New Project Launched to Document Wildlife Sightings along I-90

In participation with national "Give Wildlife a Brake" week, public-private partners launched I-90 Wildlife Watch, a citizen-based wildlife monitoring project that invites motorists to report wildlife and roadkill sightings along I-90 in the Snoqualmie Pass region of Washington. Some species that can be observed in this area include deer, elk, black bears, cougars, bobcats, coyotes, and skunks.

I-90 Wildlife Watch asks travelers on I-90 between North Bend and Easton to report observations of live or dead wildlife at The user-friendly website, designed by the Western Transportation Institute, includes an interactive map to assist people in pinpointing the location of their sightings, and a brief series of questions about animals sighted.

This program complements other wildlife monitoring work being conducted by the Washington State DOT and its partners, as part of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. I-90 crosses the Cascades at Snoqualmie Pass, where traffic volumes average 28,000 vehicles per day and are increasing by about 2.1% per year. While the interstate is a vital east-west transportation corridor in Washington, it also bisects a critical north-south wildlife corridor for animals moving throughout the Cascade Mtns. Through the I-90 Project, WSDOT will help re-connect the north-south wildlife corridors by constructing 24 large wildlife crossing structures along a 15-mile stretch of highway between Hyak and Easton. Structures will range in size from enlarged culverts to 150-foot-wide wildlife bridges.

"I-90 Wildlife Watch is a very timely initiative to engage motorists in reporting wildlife observations during the first year of construction associated with the I-90 Project," said Jason Smith, Environmental Manager for WSDOT South Central Region. "The information reported by motorists will complement ongoing research to determine which species of wildlife are trying to cross the highway today, and will allow us to assess the ultimate effectiveness of the crossing structures following their construction."

- Report your own sightings on the I-90 Wildlife Watch website
- More info available on Conservation Northwest's website and the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project website
- Humane Society of the United States "Give Wildlife a Brake" Week
- The Seattle Times: "New website lets drivers track wildlife along stretch of I-90"

Jen Watkins, I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition and Conservation Northwest
Paula Mackay and Robert Long, Western Transportation Institute

FHWA Awards WY Underpasses as Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative

The FHWA will be recognizing Wyoming's mule deer underpass project on US Hwy 30 through Nugget Canyon west of Kemmerer with its "Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative" award! The EEI awards are given to exemplary ecosystem and habitat projects that are unique or highly unusual in one or more aspects.

Wyoming's six wildlife underpasses and miles of wildlife fencing, installed in the summer of 2008, have successfully reduced numerous WVCs along the Lincoln County highway. About 14,000 mule deer cross the highway at least twice a year during spring and fall migrations as they move to and from winter ranges. This project was the state's largest effort to assist migrating mule deer across the busy highway and protect motorists from collisions with big game animals.

The project was sponsored by Wyoming DOT and Wyoming Game and Fish Dept., with special funding provided by the Wyoming Legislature.
(Image courtesy of WYDOT.)

- Casper Star-Tribune: "Wyoming Deer Underpasses Win Awards"

Georgia's First Wildlife Underpasses, Designed for Bears

As Georgia DOT widens State Route 96, six "bear bridges," or wildlife underpass structures, will be built to accommodate black bear movement (similar to the one pictured here).

The 15 mile SR 96 project, designed to provide four-lane connectivity between Interstate Hwys 75 and 16, bisects the habitat of Georgia's third-largest black bear population. Georgia DNR estimates approximately 300 bears live in and around the Bond Swamp NWR and the Ocmulgee and Oaky Woods WMAs.

The bear bridges, to be located at points where bears are known to cross SR 96, will allow the bears to pass beneath small roadway bridges on 8 x 25 ft. dirt walkways. Fencing along adjacent SR 96 right-of-way will serve to funnel bears to the crossings. These will be the first wildlife crossing structures in Georgia.

According to GDOT, twelve bears, including two cubs this summer, have been killed by vehicles on SR 96 since 2003.

- GPB News: "State Making Roads Safer For Bears" - "DOT to Build Bear Underpasses in GA 96 Project"
***On November 2, 2010, the TransWild Alliance sent a letter of appreciation to Georgia DOT Commissioner Vance C. Smith, Jr.

Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

Sprawl's Genetic Legacy? Ask Three Lizards and a Bird

Check out all the images and the original posting here:
Posted September 27, 2010 in Switchboard, NRDC Staff Blog
Check out the original article here:
"A Rapid, Strong, and Convergent Genetic Response to Urban Habitat Fragmentation in Four Divergent and Widespread Vertebrates"
Ventura County Star:
"Isolated animals' genetics change" Contra Costa Times: "Study reveals diverse species fall to urban growth"
When we talk about sprawl, we frequently consider water use, driving and auto dependency, and even personal activity and obesity. A significant aspect of sprawl, however, gets less attention: the impacts of expanding urbanization on animals and their habitat.

Nearly 31% of imperiled species in the United States are found only in the path of metropolitan sprawl. It's pretty clear what happens when an animal has its habitat replaced by McMansions and parking lots, but there are also important consequences for the animals that manage to remain.

A fascinating new study funded by the US Geological Survey lays out the situation. With the breathtaking title A Rapid, Strong and Convergent Genetic Response to Urban Habitat Fragmentation in Four Divergent and Widespread Vertebrates, the study looks at three species of lizard, one species of bird, and the area around the 101/23 interchange in Thousand Oaks, California. Imagine a classic post-war suburb nestled in the hills inside the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the USA's largest urban park. The area's been under development pressure for decades, so homes are interspersed with open space, which is, of course, animal habitat.

The study's authors analyzed the genetic patterns of these four animals across about 12.5 kilometers of this landscape. Of course, they expected that the construction of roads and homes through the animals' habitat would have some impact, but the point was to get more precise about them. Development in these hills has created a multitude of little pieces of open space, with animal populations that have been isolated from one another by roads, houses, and new predators (meow!).

The primary observation was a loss of genetic connectivity, meaning that there were significant genetic differences in each of the habitats and sub-populations that development created, and a loss of genetic diversity among all four species across the whole area. What was, to the authors, "the most profound and disturbing result" was that these changes happened over such a short time frame (40 years, which is nothing in genetics time) and to such common species (which you think could handle a bit of change).

And what's the problem with losing genetic diversity? Less genetic diversity makes it harder for species to adapt to environmental change, which can lead to species imperilment or extinction.

To get a sense of how important the landscape can be, the map from the study below shows areas where the bird populations were genetically divergent (that is, each group in the area is genetically different from other groups in the area). Red means more divergent (or more isolated, genetically), which is bad. You can see where the freeways are on the image posted here.

The red area on the right is along Kanan Road. As you can see, new development along the road cuts in half the open space which ran from the upper right to the lower left of the picture.

These findings are very disturbing and really point to a wide variety of efforts we need to make to not only avoid development in sensitive habitats, but, at the very least, to ensure wildlife corridors and other strategies to avoid isolating animal populations from one another.

When we put our houses right on top of theirs, you would think that's the least we could do.

Justin Horner, Transportation Policy Analyst
Natural Resources Defense Council

Cross Base Highway Lawsuit Put on Hold in WA

Cross Base Highway lawsuit put on hold
Controversial project will face challenge if funding secured

This week, US District Court Judge Benjamin H. Settle signed an agreement worked out by parties in a lawsuit challenging Pierce County's proposed Cross-Base Highway (SR-704). Tahoma Audubon Society, Conservation Northwest, Woodbrook Hunt Club, and the American Lake Gardens Equestrian Alliance filed the lawsuit challenging the inadequate environmental review of the proposed highway in early August 2010.

Immediately after the lawsuit was filed, the groups worked with FHWA, WSDOT, and Pierce County to finalize an agreement, which was then authorized by the court.

The "Motion to Stay" states, "Because of the lack of funding for this project, the parties have agreed that it is in the best interests of all parties and the Court to stay this matter until further notice. If the project is not ultimately funded, the time and resources for litigation regarding environmental review of the project would have been wasted. There is no point in the Court or the parties devoting resources to this case because it is uncertain when or if the project will be funded."

"If any federal, state, or local funding materializes for this project, we'll head back to court to protect this rare remnant prairie and prairie wildlife," said Jen Watkins of Conservation Northwest.

The lawsuit was filed to protect one of the region's largest remaining tracts of oak-woodland prairie remaining in Washington State. The Puget Sound prairies once covered more than 150,000 acres, but today only about 3% remains. The area is considered by the County's Biodiversity Network Assessment to be one of the "most biologically and ecologically rich areas remaining in the lower elevations of Pierce County," containing old-growth Oregon white oak, Douglas fir, and ponderosa pine interspersed among prairie and wetlands. The prairie provides essential habitat for 19 plants and animals facing extinction, including streaked horned lark, Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, western gray squirrel, Mazama pocket gopher, and water howellia.

"The road proponents failed to take into account the disastrous and irreversible environmental impacts in its rush to build the Cross-Base Highway," said Bryan Flint, executive director of Tahoma Audubon Society, "This four lane highway rips through pristine and endangered habitat." Rather than consider alternative routes, the Federal Highway Administration, Washington State Department of Transportation, and Pierce County proposed a brand new six-mile-long, four-lane Cross-Base Highway across rare prairie habitat on Joint Base Lewis-McChord at a cost likely to approach half a billion dollars.

The prairie is also key to the operations of the historic Woodbrook Hunt Club. "Our members have been riding in this area for nearly 100 years; we are the oldest hunt club west of the Mississippi," said Jennifer Hansen, member of the Woodbrook Hunt Club. "This road is unnecessary, too expensive, and would harm the economic and historical value of the hunt club and surrounding equestrian businesses."

The organizations filing the suit are represented by David Bricklin of Bricklin & Newman, LLP, and Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center.

For more information, click on the links below:
- Motion for stay
- Background on opposition to the Cross Base Highway
- SR 704 Cross Base Highway Project Page

Bryan Flint, Tahoma Audubon Society 253-327-9677
Jen Watkins, Conservation Northwest, 206-940-7914
Jennifer Hansen, Woodbrook Hunt Club, 253-377-4892

Roadkill Counts and Mapping of Wildlife Crossing "Hot Spots" in China

They're even doing roadkill counts and GPS mapping of wildlife crossing "hot spots" in China!

The World Wildlife Fund reported in 2007 that an estimated 5,800 animals were killed on highways in northern Sichuan's Ruo'ergai wetland-prairie area. Ruo'ergai is surrounded by three highways including Highway 213. In 2009, China's first online auto sales platform,, reported that Highway 213 was one of China's 10 most dangerous roads for drivers.

Volunteers collect and record roadkill data in Ruo'ergai on a monthly basis. Specifically, they count the number of wildlife passageways across roads, record speeds of vehicles, and map roadkill hotspots.

"Slowdown zones" exist in wildlife crossing hotspots, but drivers rarely slow as a response to mere warning signs. Volunteers advocate enforced reduced speed limits, as well as wildlife tunnels and fencing.

- Global Times: "Dead yaks in the middle of the road"

Wildlife Movement Threatened in Serengeti

A major part of the huge wildlife migration through Tanzania and Kenya occurs within the Serengeti National Park. Millions of wildebeest, zebras, elephants, rhinos, gazelles, and predators like cheetahs and lions, follow movement patterns established there thousands of years ago. However, the Tanzanian government is planning to build a road right through the northern part of the park, due for construction in 2012.

Scientists are saying that a road like this could lead to the collapse of the Serengeti ecosystem, as well as a collapse of tourism in the region. Though the proposed road would be gravel, the presence of increased traffic would disrupt wildlife to the point of their avoidance of the area, would lead to roadkill especially at night, would be even more damaging to wildlife by being fenced, and would most likely result in paving the road in the future.

There is an alternative route -- the road could be built to the south of the park, which would be far less disruptive to the migration. Thousands of signatures on petitions opposing the proposed road, combined with several conservation experts who have publicly condemned the plan in the journal Nature, and a United Nations statement will hopefully convince the government to scrap plans for the road. The government of Kenya is also reportedly in talks with Tanzania concerning diverting the road to the alternate route, though the Tanzanian president doesn't sound too receptive.

- Business Daily Africa: "Controversy over Serengeti road plan deepens"
- The New York Times: "Road kill in the Serengeti"
- The Guardian: "Serengeti wildebeest spectacle under threat from development"
- The Telegraph: "Tanzania's Serengeti National Park facing 'collapse' due to highway plans"
- CNN: "Serengeti on road to ruin, scientists warn"

Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

Defenders' Habitat and Highways Program Turns Ten!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the Habitat and Highways Program!
Defenders of Wildlife's Habitat and Highways program works to reduce the negative impacts of roads and highways on wildlife and supports efforts to keep new roads and development out of wildlife habitat.

Check out these inspiring success stories, describing a great "Ten Years on the Road"

1. Building Bridges for Wildlife
2. Protecting Panthers in Florida
3. Writing the Book on Wildlife and Highways
4. Teaching Americans to Watch Out for Wildlife
5. Forging an Alliance for Wildlife (it's all about TransWild!)
6. Planning for Wildlife
7. Creating Crossing Zones in Colorado
8. Helping Jaguars on the Move in Mexico
9. Creating Safe Passages for Salamanders
10. Witnessing the Wolf’s Return in Washington

WA and CA Pass Laws to Prevent Copper Pollution from Roadways

Amazing but true -- a long-term collaboration with unlikely partners...that is, between the auto industry, brake pad manufacturers, environmental groups, stormwater agencies, and cities. This year, in the states of Washington and California, these groups worked together to research, discuss, and work out agreements to phase out copper from vehicle brake pads -- a huge contributor to water pollution which harms numerous aquatic species.

One of the ways that roads negatively impact wildlife and habitat is by their contribution to water pollution. High levels of chemical pollutants from vehicles wash off roads and highways into storm drains, and end up in streams and water bodies. Every time drivers step on their brake, the resulting friction releases fine copper particles from the copper brake pads. And most of today’s automotive brake pads contain between 5% and 25% copper.

* WA state Dept. of Ecology officials estimated that between 70,000 and 318,000 pounds of copper are released into Puget Sound every year, with 1/3 coming from brake pads. Scientific studies show that with copper dissolved in the water, salmon can't detect predators and can't find their spawning grounds.
* A 2003 study by the nonprofit group Sustainable Conservation, showed that 1/3 of all copper in the San Francisco Bay watershed that could be tracked to human activity was found to come from automotive brake pads.

The new laws in Washington state (March 2010) and California (Sept 2010) require brake pad manufacturers to reduce the use of copper in brake pads sold in those states to no more than 5% by 2021. In Washington state, the allowable amount could drop almost to zero in 2023. In California the allowable amount drops to 0.5% by 2025.

- The Stormwater Journal's "Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Law Protecting Waterways From Copper in Vehicle Brake Pads"
- The Log Newspaper's Editorial "A More Sensible Move to Prevent Copper Pollution"

Becky Beard
TransWild Alliance

Colorado Governor Signs Wildlife Crossing Zones Traffic Safety Bill into Law

On June 9, 2010, Governor Ritter of the State of Colorado signed HB 1238, Wildlife Crossing Zones Traffic Safety Bill, into law in Vail, Colorado.

“Wildlife plays an integral role in Colorado’s natural heritage, and provides a reliable source of tourism dollars for the state. Helping animals safely cross roads is crucial to maintaining healthy wildlife populations into the future,” said Caitlin Balch-Burnett, Colorado outreach representative for Defenders of Wildlife.

“As wildlife move in response to climate change and increasing habitat fragmentation, one of the first barriers they will confront are roads,” said Monique DiGiorgio, conservation strategist for Western Environmental Law Center. “HB 1238 is seminal legislation that will slow drivers down in critical movement corridors, thereby increasing driver reaction time and reducing collisions with wildlife. It is a model for the nation and WELC is thrilled to have played an instrumental role in its passage.”

"By reducing speeds and alerting motorists to the risk of migrating wildlife, this Act will protect our state’s natural resources and save lives,” said Bethany Gravell, executive director of Center for Native Ecosystems. “We hope this legislation will raise awareness of the need to protect natural passageways that allow wildlife to stay off roads and move safely within their habitat.”

“It brings tears to my eyes to think of all the human and animal lives that will be saved by this important bill,” said Frosty Merriott, the Carbondale Town Trustee who initiated the legislative effort. “Passing this bill was truly a team effort, thanks to the Division of Wildlife, Department of Transportation, and the State Patrol, and I am so grateful for the hard work and perseverance shown by Representative Curry and Senator Schwartz.”

Press on the bill signing:
- Glenwood Springs Post Independent's "Ritter approves law on wildlife crossing zones"
- Denver Post's "Ritter to sign bill today doubling driver fines in wildlife-crossing zones"
- The Baltimore Sun's "Colorado protects wildlife in speed zones"
- The Daily Sentinel's "Wildlife, pets both benefit from bills signed into law Wednesday"
- Aspen Daily News Online's "Three Schwartz bills signed into law"

Photo (L-R): Caitlin Balch-Burnett (Defenders), Perry Will (Division of Wildlife), Senator Gail Schwartz, Bethany Gravell (CNE), Peter Kozinski (Colorado DOT), Monique DiGiorgio (WELC), Representative Kathleen Curry, Frosty Merriott, Governor Ritter.

Transportation Enhancements Funding for Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Projects

The National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse (NTEC) has published "Transportation Enhancements: Summary of Nationwide Spending as of Fiscal Year 2009"

• What are the country's transportation funding priorities?
• What are transportation enhancements (TE)?
• How does your state compare with other states when it comes to spending federal TE program funds?
-- This report provides a view into this popular federal transportation funding program for transparency and valuable comparisons.

Notes for TransWild Alliance members:
Where does Category 11 (environmental mitigation, including wildlife crossings) stand?

• Figure 9 of the 2009 report shows the Distribution of Federal Funding by TE Activity FY 1992 through FY 2009 (in millions).
-- Category 11 projects received $93 million, or 1.0% of the total funds distributed, with 347 projects.

• The FY2008 TE report showed that Category 11 projects received $94 million, or 1.1% of the total funds distributed, with 353 projects.

• Figure 12 of the 2009 report shows Distribution of ARRA Funds by TE Activity (in millions).
-- Category 11 projects received $8 million, or 0.9% of the total funds distributed, with 13 projects.

BE SURE to read up on the ins and outs of TE funding in the excellent 2008 Defenders of Wildlife publication "The $61 Million Question: How Can Transportation Enhancements Benefit Wildlife?"

Becky Beard
Habitat & Highways Program Coordinator
Defenders of Wildlife

FHWA Busts Out Wildlife Vehicle Collision Reduction Training Website

Be sure to check out the just released WVC Reduction Training website from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The training is intended to be used in conjunction with the August 2008 Wildlife Vehicle Collision Reduction Study: Report to Congress and the October 2008 Wildlife Vehicle Reduction Study Best Practices Manual.

These training modules should be used by state transportation agency staff and state wildlife agency staff across the U.S., as well as NGOs and engineers! Please spread this website link around to colleagues and friends!

Becky Beard
Habitat & Highways Program Coordinator
Defenders of Wildlife

ARC Competition Officially Launched

Design Teams from Around the World Hear the Call

The ARC International Wildlife Crossing Infrastructure Design Competition challenges design teams to reweave the landscape for wildlife in a cost-effective manner using new methods, new materials, and new thinking.

Initiated by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University and the Woodcock Foundation, ARC quickly drew additional support from the Edmonton Community Foundation, the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO). ARC continues to draw mounting support from federal and state agencies, universities, professional associations and non-profit conservation organizations in the United States and Canada.

The site of the ARC design competition is located where natural and human-dominated worlds collide. Between the rapidly urbanizing metropolitan area of Denver and the resort communities of Vail, Aspen and Breckenridge, Colorado, the site sits at approximately 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level and 90 miles (145 kilometers) west of Denver along the I-70 Mountain Corridor just west of Vail Pass. The site is identified as a critical habitat linkage in the Rocky Mountain Corridor, and home to a variety of iconic species such as black bear, cougar, bobcat, Canada lynx, coyote, elk, deer and American marten. It serves as an ideal setting for design teams to explore innovative means to safely reconnect a landscape with the charismatic wildlife that depend on and define this place.

Jurors will be looking not only for beautiful, compelling designs that meet the needs of both people and wildlife but also the use of materials that make infrastructure more affordable and, ultimately, our roads safer from wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Expressions of Interest are due in hard copy by 4pm (Mountain Daylight Time) July 30, 2010.
Hub for all official information about the ARC competition: ARC competition website

ARC is a partnership-driven wildlife crossing design competition. ARC will engage the best and most innovative international, interdisciplinary design teams—comprised of landscape designers, architects, engineers, ecologists, and other experts—to create the next generation of wildlife crossings for North America’s roadways. In doing so, the competition will raise international awareness around wildlife movement and protection while promoting feasible, buildable context-sensitive and compelling design solutions for safe, efficient, cost-effective, and ecologically responsive wildlife crossings.

Media Contacts:
Rob Ament, ARC Project Manager: (406)994-6423,
Monique DiGiorgio, ARC Colorado Liaison: (406)451-0051,

Holt Introduces Bill to Protect Wildlife Corridors

Corridors Are Vital to Hunting and Wildlife Watching Industries

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12), a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Rep. Jared Polis (CO-2) today introduced legislation to protect the nation’s wildlife corridors, which are under threat from urban sprawl and climate change. Wildlife corridors are strips of land in which a wide range of animals – wolves, bison, deer, to name a few - can move and plants can propagate. The bill would help give wildlife the freedom they need to roam and help to continue the hunting and wildlife watching that contribute over $68 billion a year to the economy. The Center for Large Landscape Conservation has identified three essential wildlife corridors in New Jersey.

“The lives of the American people always have been interwoven with the movement of wildlife. Today, wildlife corridors are vital to the outdoor traditions that are a central part of our national character,” Holt said. “As we celebrate Earth Day this week, we recognize that protecting our planet entails protecting all of its inhabitants. Passing this legislation and preserving wildlife corridors would honor the ideals of Earth Day.”

The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act would create a national wildlife corridors information program within the Fish and Wildlife Service to collect and disseminate information about essential movement paths to states and federal agencies. It would establish a Wildlife Corridors Stewardship and Protection Fund to provide grants to federal agencies, states, local governments, nonprofits, and corporations for the management and protection of essential wildlife corridors. Finally, it would require the Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior and the Department of Transportation to consider the preservation of these migration paths in their management plans.

“Smart growth is a popular concept these days, not just on Earth Day, and we need to make decisions about growth with the best information and forethought available.” Polis said. “When development limits wildlife movement, disastrous consequences—from genetic isolation and the spread of disease to over population and car-animal collisions—can occur. This legislation will ensure that our scientific knowledge of wildlife is central to federal planning and provide local communities with the tools they need to maintain healthy ecosystems and public safety.”

“It is vitally important that we identify and maintain habitat connectivity and migration corridors for fish and wildlife in response to the effects of climate change and other landscape level impacts on these critical resources. This bill will facilitate meaningful cooperative endeavors to this end between states, federal agencies, tribes, industry, and private landowners," observed Gary Taylor, Legislative Director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Support for the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act includes New Jersey Conservation, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Freedom to Roam, the Society for Conservation Biology, World Wildlife Fund, the Wildlife Alliance, the National Parks Conservation Association, Defenders of Wildlife, the Wildlife Society, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlands Network, the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Humane Society, Conservation Northwest, American Wildlands, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Center for Large Landscape Conservation, and the Western Environmental Law Center.

Representative Rush Holt, 12th District, New Jersey

Check out a National Parks Traveler online article here: Democrats introduce "Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act" to help wildlife cope with climate change


Alaska Spends Millions on Roads without $$$ to Complete Projects

Alaska Transportation Priorities Project (ATPP) just issued a report representing a statewide analysis of transportation decision-making in Alaska along with recommendations for the Parnell Administration to address systemic problems regarding costly transportation projects.

To view ATTP's entire report: Easy to Start, Impossible to Finish: Alaska Spends Millions on Roads and Bridges without Financial Plans to Complete the Projects

Over several successive administrations, the State of Alaska has spent $133.4 million on five expensive road and bridge projects – Gravina Island Access, Juneau Access Road/Ferry, Knik Arm Bridge, and the Roads to Nome and Umiat. The state also has dedicated another $205.2 million to these projects. With an estimated total cost of $5.4 billion, there is a deficit of over $5 billion for these projects. Continued spending on these roads and bridges preempts funding of other transportation projects with greater and/or nearer-term benefits to travelers in Alaska.

At a time of declining federal transportation revenues, the state only has 6% of the dollars needed to build these projects assuming no unexpected cost overruns. The projects do not have financial plans identifying how they will be paid for, nor is it clear how they will be maintained and preserved should the state build them. It appears financially impossible to complete them.

Fiscally-conservative leadership at the highest level of state government is needed. The state should not continue to spend its increasingly scarce transportation funds on these projects if there is essentially no likelihood of adequate federal, state, or private money available to finish them. The state should suspend spending on these projects until full funding is reasonably assured. If after analysis funding prospects are dim, dedicated funds should be redirected to higher-priority transportation investments.

In November 2009, the federal government sent a letter to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT) expressing its concern over the state’s lack of “fiscal constraint.” If the state does not suspend or cancel one or more of these projects, it’s likely that future federal transportation funding for Alaska may be in jeopardy.

State leaders should:
1) Not start or continue projects that do not have the financial resources to be finished. Includes preparing reasonable and credible financial plans for projects prior to construction to ensure that project scale and scope will be roughly within budget.
2) Not let project momentum obscure the need to re-evaluate projects when adverse facts become available.
3) Develop state and local transportation revenue sources.
4) Pursue projects which address critical transportation needs, e.g., increasing safety, reducing congestion, fixing deteriorating infrastructure, and addressing air quality problems.

Governor Parnell, ADOT leadership, and state legislators should examine the funding prospects to complete these five projects, the ongoing expenses of the projects, and new information developed since the projects began. Once this information has been analyzed and thoroughly reviewed, state decision-makers should reassess the status of each of these projects.

The Governor or the state legislature consider creating a multi-stakeholder Surface Transportation Task Force including ADOT that can:
1) Analyze project funding shortfalls and potential revenue sources, and
2) Using objective criteria, make recommendations on proceeding with these transportation projects or spending the projects’ dedicated money on more critical transportation infrastructure needs.
Until the Task Force completes its work, the Governor should suspend spending on these five road and bridge projects.

To access ATTP's website: Alaska Transportation Priorities Project - Website

Become a fan of ATTP on Facebook! Join here: Alaska Transportation Priorities Project - Facebook Page

Lois Epstein
Alaska Transportation Priorities Project

Highways Threaten Desert Tortoises in Mojave Desert

Check out this amazing and information March 2010 joint USGS & USFWS video on threats to desert tortoise habitat and the recovery efforts of USGS scientists:
"The Heat Is On: Desert Tortoises and Survival"

Found in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts of the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico, desert tortoises are listed as a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Desert tortoises inhabit areas with well-drained, sandy loam soils in plains and alluvial fans. They live in areas with native grasses and remain in underground burrows when they are inactive. They're even able to live where ground temperatures may exceed 140 degrees F!

Number of individuals remaining in the wild: 10,000 – 1,000,000

**Why are roads bad news for this species?**
In California alone, desert tortoise habitat has been reduced by 50 to 60 percent since the 1920s and habitat destruction and fragmentation is still a threat. Roads serve as corridors for invasive species, which have particularly detrimental effects on native desert grasses that tortoises depend on. As new roads are built, they attract ravens, natural predators to tortoises.

Threats to desert tortoises include:
* highways and roads through tortoise habitat
* mortality on roadways
* human development
* non-native invasive plant species
* unnatural burn regimes
* siting of solar and wind energy projects
* climate change
* ravens as predators (increasing dramatically in the Mojave Desert due to urban sprawl and power lines)

For more facts and info about desert tortoises and their habitat, check out this Defenders of Wildlife factsheet

What can you do to make a difference in desert tortoise recovery?
❖ If you see one on the roadway, carefully and safely move the tortoise onto the side of the road that it was facing.
❖ If you encounter a tortoise in the wild (not on a road), leave it alone.
❖ Keep the desert clean and don't litter. Tortoises can get tangled in trash, and garbage attracts ravens and other predators that feed on desert tortoises, their eggs and hatchlings.
❖ "Raven-proof" your trash. Stash it in containers with tightly secured lids and don’t put it out until collection day. Make sure dumpsters are closed and secure at all times.
❖ Encourage landfill managers to reduce raven attractants.
❖ Don’t water your lawn to the point it runs over the curb or fills in depressions. Water early in the morning when soil is most absorbent.
❖ Landscape with native plants.
❖ Encourage power companies to inspect their lines for raven nests, to remove any they find and to install underground lines whenever possible.
❖ Keep dogs leashed at all times.
❖ Don’t drive, bike or walk off trails or roads.
❖ Watch for tortoises on roads and trails.
❖ Don’t release pet tortoises in the desert. A pet tortoise probably won’t survive in the wild and may infect resident tortoises with disease.
❖ Stay informed. For up-to-date info on desert tortoises, visit

Becky Beard
Habitat & Highways Campaign Coordinator
Defenders of Wildlife

Record Number of Florida Panthers Killed by Vehicles in 2009

SEVENTEEN Florida panthers were killed by vehicles in 2009, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC). Last year's tally surpassed that of the 2007 record -- 15 panther deaths caused by vehicle collisions. There were 24 panther deaths overall in 2009.

In December, environmental groups, including The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Council for Civic Associations, asked the wildlife service to designate critical habitat for the Florida panther, a requirement under the endangered species act since 1978. But because the panther was listed in 1967 and federal regulators are pursuing panther protection through different means, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) denied the request.
On February 18, the groups filed a lawsuit against the FWS and the Department of the Interior, in an attempt to force regulators to step up their protections for the species.

Environment News Service article on the federal lawsuit: "Lawsuit filed to secure critical habitat for endangered Florida panther"

The Audubon of Florida, the Collier County Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Florida Wildlife Federation are working on the Florida Panther Protection Program with landowners, ranchers, government representatives, and other stakeholders to achieve "science-based protections for more than 800,000 acres of privately owned occupied habitat, starting with 182,000 acres in Collier County."

New Times article on 2009 panther deaths: "Record number of Florida panthers killed by vehicles last year"

State and county governments should take the following actions:
* The creation of a regional transportation plan that protects panthers, other wildlife and motorists in southwest FL counties
* The protection of habitat and corridors on public and private lands that provide a network of panther range
* The protection of panthers along more highway segments by incorporating wildlife crossings, fencing and additional speed zones in appropriate locations by the FWS, Florida FWCC, southwest Florida transportation departments and area developers
* Using both conventional and innovative technologies that result in safe driving practices and safe passage for people and wildlife
* Accelerating the building of wildlife crossings by FDOT and county road commissions in identified areas of critical need
* Consultations between FDOT and panther biologists to determine shortcomings at particular crossings and appropriate fixes tailored to the problem areas
* Avoiding building new roads that harm the state's natural resource areas and wildlife habitat
* Having Governor Crist and the Florida legislature provide funding to the Florida Forever land acquisition program, which will help secure the necessary habitat for panthers and other wildlife and allow them to roam freely and safely

Check out this video on panther-vehicle collisions made by Brian Czarnik in 2007: "15 Florida Panthers Killed!"

Becky Beard
Habitat & Highways Campaign Coordinator
Defenders of Wildlife

Attempting to Reduce WVCs in Washington State

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) blogger Jeff Adamson describes the numerous ways WSDOT has attempted to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs). Some work in certain locations (wildlife detection systems), some appear to be effective solutions (wildlife underpasses), and some fail miserably (deer whistles).

Some ideas studied and tested by WSDOT include:
(1) reduction of speed limits;
(2) vehicle-mounted deer whistles;
(3) mirrored reflectors on road shoulders to frighten wildlife away from roadways at night;
(4) radio-collared elk paired with wildlife detection system sensors and flashing beacons, to alert drivers of elk presence on or near roadways;
(5) laser beam wildlife detection system with flashing beacons, to alert drivers of wildlife presence on or near roadways;
(6) replacement of culverts with wider/taller wildlife underpasses, paired with fencing; and
(7) wildlife overpasses paired with fencing

Current case study:
North of Wenatchee, WSDOT is installing a fence on US 97A between Rocky Reach Dam and Entiat.
The project constructs a 9 mile long fence from Rocky Reach Dam to Spencer Canyon, two miles south of Entiat, where (’93 to ’03), there was an average of 30 wildlife/vehicle collisions per year. The goal of the project is to reduce those collisions by 50-80%.

Check out the full WSDOT article "What we're doing to reduce vehicle/wildlife collisions"

Check out the work that two TransWild member groups have done to improve habitat connectivity and protect wildlife in Washington State:
"I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition" and "Conservation Northwest"

Great coverage and video of Conservation Northwest's work on wildlife monitoring from KING5 News: "Volunteer wildlife cams open experts' eyes"

Another cool video of Conservation Northwest's work to prevent elk collisions from KING5 News: "New effort to prevent elk collisions"

Becky Beard
Habitat & Highways Campaign Coordinator
Defenders of Wildlife

Wildlife Crossing Zones Traffic Safety Bill Introduced in Colorado

On Feb. 3, Representative Kathleen Curry, of Colorado State House District 61, introduced HB 1238, the Wildlife Crossing Zones Traffic Safety Bill. Working with Rep. Curry on the bill is State Senator Gail Schwartz. TransWild Alliance members working on this initiative include the Western Environmental Law Center, Center for Native Ecosystems and Defenders of Wildlife.

This bill would allow for new wildlife crossing zones to be established by the CO Dept. of Safety in cooperation with CDOT and the Division of Wildlife. The bill would require the designation of zones using signage similar to what drivers encounter in school and construction zones. Signage in these zones would compel drivers to slow down to 55 mph on stretches currently posted at 65 or 75 mph. Fines would then be doubled for speeding in those areas.

Increasing Driver Reaction Time and Increasing Safety in Colorado

An automobile needs:
• 210 ft. to stop when traveling 35 MPH
• 403 ft. to stop when traveling 55 MPH
• 650 ft. (nearly 2 football fields) to stop when traveling 75 MPH

What is the problem?
• Animal‐vehicle collisions result in over 200 human deaths and 29,000 human injuries each year.
• Animal‐vehicle collisions result in more than $8 billion in costs each year.
• In Region 3 near Carbondale, animal‐vehicle collisions have increased 35% in 2009.
• In Region 5 near Durango, collisions with wildlife are the number one cause of accidents and account for 60‐75% of accidents along some stretches of US 160.

What is the solution?
The solution is to slow traffic speed down thereby increasing driver reaction time and reducing the number of animal‐vehicle collisions.

Why will this bill be an effective and reasonable solution?
• The bill asks the department of transportation (DOT) to establish “wildlife crossing zones” that are similar to construction zones.
• Zones cannot exceed a total of 100 miles in the state at any one time and are chosen by CDOT.
• Drivers will be notified of wildlife crossings zones by proper signage of a reduced speed limit and increased fines for a speeding traffic violation.

Who supports this bill?
The Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado Division of Wildlife, and Colorado State Patrol have all been working very closely with state policy makers on this important bill.

How many miles of roadway will this legislation effect?
The legislation cannot affect more than 100 miles at a time. Examples of zones can be found below.

Will this legislation be expensive?
No. This bill has no fiscal impact on the state, and in fact, will create revenues for the state in the long‐term as the fines will go into a fund to repay sign costs. Revenues collected over and above the sign costs will be used for wildlife fencing and crossing projects. In fact, the bill will reduce the cost to Colorado Division of Wildlife and CDOT of picking up carcasses.

How will the success of this legislation be determined?
The bill requires a report from CDOT on March 15, 2012 to communicate the efficacy of the zones and whether zones should be continued in the state.

How will this bill affect the Agricultural Community?
By reducing speeds in rural areas, the number of collisions with livestock will also be reduced.

How does slowing down reduce collisions with wildlife?
By decreasing the speed, the motorist can compensate for the increased probability of being involved in a collision.

Is the number of crashes increasing?
The number of all reported motor vehicle crashes has been holding relatively steady at slightly above six million per year. By comparison, the number of reported animal‐vehicle collisions has increased by approximately 50 percent over the same period.

Check out the interview with Frosty Merriott on the KCFR Colorado Public Radio podcast "Biography of a Bill"

Check out the Colorado Independent article "Schwartz, Curry crafting ‘Roadkill Bill’ to slow drivers in wildlife-crossing zones"

West Vail Pass Chosen as Site for International Wildlife Crossing Design Competition

West Vail Pass has been selected as the site for an international competition among teams of architects, engineers, planners and others to design a wildlife crossing structure over Interstate 70.

Vail Pass was chosen from among twenty two candidate locations for ARC, the North American Wildlife Crossing Structure Design Competition. The competition, convened by a partnership of the Western Transportation Institute and other organizations in coordination with Colorado Department of Transportation, will focus national and international attention on a site long acknowledged as one of the most important and impacted wildlife corridors along I-70.

A wide array of species have been documented crossing or attempting to cross the interstate at Vail Pass. Two of the fourteen lynx killed on roads since 1999, when Colorado began reintroducing the native cats, were killed on Vail Pass. In 2005, Congress approved funding for preliminary studies of the Vail Pass site to support the eventual design of a wildlife bridge.

“Vail Pass is an important highway crossing site for so many creatures,” said Bethany Gravell, Executive Director at Center for Native Ecosystems and a representative of the Colorado Safe Passage Coalition. “Everything from elk and mule deer to endangered species like lynx use this vital movement corridor through our mountains. This design competition focuses on the right location, for the right reasons. This competition will help more people understand the importance of wildlife crossing structures within our highway system.”

“Anyone who has driven over Vail Pass can see it is an important connection between the mountain habitats on either side,” said Caitlin Balch-Burnett, Colorado Outreach Representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “Ensuring wildlife can safely cross roads and highways is crucial to keeping wildlife populations healthy into the future. They are part of the natural heritage and an important draw for tourism dollars. Colorado will serve as an example for the rest of the country by creating an innovatively designed wildlife bridge in this prime location.”

The competition will draw on data collected over the past several years by Colorado Safe Passage Coalition member organizations through a citizen science program that used motion-triggered cameras to record wildlife activity adjacent to the roadway. The competition will also rely on site-specific information from the Colorado Department of Transportation about the topography and construction requirements for the location.

“Highway crossings for wildlife can have so many benefits—improved driver safety, fewer animal deaths, healthier wildlife populations, which also means healthier landscapes,” said Monique DiGiorgio, Conservation Strategist for the Western Environmental Law Center. “Colorado needs to take its commitment to safety for drivers and wildlife to the next level, and Vail Pass is the right place to do it. We believe this competition will be good for Colorado’s mountains and wildlife and will make our state a leader in terms of promoting innovative and practical solutions for wildlife crossings.”

“The completion of a wildlife bridge at West Vail Pass will reconnect one of North America’s most endangered wildlife linkages and represents one more stepping stone toward realization of our goal to create a continental wildway along the Spine of the Continent, from Alaska to Mexico,” said Kim Vacariu, Western Director for the Wildlands Network.

The Colorado Safe Passage Coalition includes Western Environmental Law Center, Center for Native Ecosystems, Colorado Wild, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife, and Wildlands Network. The coalition seeks to improve both wildlife health and public safety by facilitating wildlife crossing of roads, highways, and other barriers.

Further information about the ARC Competition and a full list of the eighteen sponsors is available on the ARC website.

Check out the Vail Daily article "Can you design a bridge for wildlife on Vail Pass?"

Check out the Denver Westword article "Designers! Get wild on Vail Pass!"

Funding Approved for Wildlife Overpass and Two Underpasses in Southern AZ

Regional Transportation Authority Approves $8.3 Million for Crossing Structures

Pima County’s Regional Transportation Authority today approved the first wildlife overpass structure in Southern Arizona, and largest in Arizona, utilizing over $8 million of funding from a local transportation sales tax to fund the bridge and two underpasses designed to move wildlife safely between two protected mountain ranges north of Tucson. The funding comes from a 20-year $2.1 billion transportation package that county voters approved in 2006. In this package, voters were asked to support $45 million for wildlife-related infrastructure.

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) proposal was developed jointly by ADOT, Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, and Coalition member groups Sky Island Alliance and Tucson Audubon Society. The wildlife infrastructure will be included in the design of the next phase of an on-going highway widening project of Arizona State Route 77, an urban street in the Tucson metropolitan area that becomes a rural highway as it moves north out of Pima County and into the adjacent, more rural Pinal County.

“This is an exciting step in our efforts to protect the incredible biodiversity that still exists at the urban edges of Tucson,” stated Christina McVie, Conservation Chair for Tucson Audubon Society. “And our state DOT is really a leader in planning for wildlife needs.”

“Over the last decade, we have been able to acquire habitat to expand our mountain parks, take steps with multiple local jurisdictions to assure open space through land use planning, and obtain assured funding sources for wildlife infrastructure”, said Carolyn Campbell, Executive Director of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. I am happy to see the collaboration between agencies, NGOs, and our elected officials, along with such strong support from voters.”

The wildlife crossings will be built on a road that bisects the protected open space between the national forest Santa Catalina Mountain range and the Tortolita Mountains county park. Located between the two protected areas lies 9000 acres of state land, which recently when through a local land use planning process that designated over 5000 acres as an open space Wildlife Corridor. The design was developed by Dr. Paul Beier, a pioneer in science-based approaches to wildlife corridor designs.

“I am delighted to see my work being implemented on the ground,” said Dr. Beier. “I congratulate the entire local community – ADOT, activists, bureaucrats, and others – for their commitment to conserve and enhance wildlife movement. This example will inspire similar efforts throughout the country and the world.”

Siobhan Nordhaugen, Wildlife Connectivity Special Projects Manager for ADOT, was pleased with the RTA vote. “The funding allows ADOT to add and complement the environmental stewardship aspect of the ADOT SR 77 widening project by helping to improve public health and safety of traffic on this section of the highway while providing for the safe passage of wildlife,” said Nordhaugen.

The final design phase begins in March 2010, with construction scheduled for 2013.

Check out this Arizona Daily Star article "$8.2M Oracle Rd. wildlife paths OK'd"

And this article from The Explorer "Regional board OK's plan for wildlife bridge"

Carolyn Campbell
Executive Director
Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection

New Website Aims to Protect Wildlife and Improve Driver Safety Along CO I-70

The Center for Native Ecosystems and our partners in the Colorado Wildlife on the Move coalition have just launched a new website, This innovative website, created by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University, will allow motorists to report wildlife they see along Colorado’s Interstate 70 between Golden and Glenwood Springs. The website launch is timed to coincide with the fall migration season -- November and December have the highest rates of wildlife-vehicle collisions as more deer and elk cross roads to get to their winter range.

The Colorado Wildlife on the Move coalition, a group of less-than-traditional allies including Center for Native Ecosystems, the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, and Eco-Resolutions, works together to decrease the incidence of wildlife-vehicle collisions on our state’s roadways.

Drivers who see wildlife (both live and roadkill) along this stretch of I-70 can use maps embedded in the website to identify the specific location where they saw the animal. This information will be used by Center for Native Ecosystems and the Colorado Department of Transportation to identify locations on I-70 where animals are most frequently trying to cross. Our goal is to create a system of crossing structures along I-70 (including culverts, underpasses, and a vegetated overpass) to ensure that wildlife can move safely throughout the landscape.

You can help make I-70 safer for motorists and wildlife by participating in the I-70 Wildlife Watch website. It's easy -- you log on, report wildlife sightings along the interstate, and by doing so, help contribute to our work to make this interstate safer for drivers and wildlife. Learn more about our habitat connectivity work and see recent images from our motion-triggered cameras along I-70!

Andrea West
Development Director
Center for Native Ecosystems

CSDP and the Tucson-Tortolita-Santa Catalina Wildlife Linkage

The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, including TransWild Alliance member groups Defenders of Wildlife and Sky Island Alliance, is a regional alliance of environmental and community groups dedicated to the long-term conservation of biological diversity and ecological function of the Sonoran Desert through comprehensive land-use planning. The Coalition is currently engaging in an exciting campaign to preserve the Tucson-Tortolita-Santa Catalina wildlife linkage in Pima County, Arizona. Interstate 10 bisects the Tucson-Tortolita Mountains linkage and State Route 77 bisects the Tortolita-Santa Catalina Mountains linkage. Both of these transportation corridors have been targeted for wildlife crossing structure enhancements. These two interrelated wildlife linkages were also identified as high priorities for conservation and restoration by the Arizona Wildlife Linkages Assessment.

With funding from TransWild Alliance, the Coalition produced artist’s renderings of possible crossing structures over and under these two major roadways. At the Avra Valley Road exit on Interstate 10, an abandoned railroad underpass has been identified by regional stakeholders as the only viable crossing point for wildlife. Renderings of both an expanded underpass and an overpass were created for this site; these renderings have helped stakeholders move forward with the planning process for enhancing the functionality of the crossing point and preserving the linkage as a whole.
Avra Valley wildlife underpass aerial view rendering
Avra Valley wildlife underpass ground view rendering
Avra Valley wildlife overpass aerial view rendering
The Coalition also produced a poster highlighting the Avra Valley Road crossing point with additional background information on wildlife linkages in Pima County.
"Potential Wildlife Crossing Structures at Avra Valley / I-10" Poster

Along State Route 77, the Coalition, along with the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Town of Oro Valley, identified three locations for crossing structures: two underpasses and one overpass. These structures will be integrated into a road-widening project along State Route 77 currently slated to begin construction in 2013. The Coalition produced artist’s renderings for these structures and the renderings were included in a funding proposal that was presented by the Arizona Department of Transportation to the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), along with numerous newspaper articles in local media.
SR 77 wildlife underpass rendering
SR 77 wildlife overpass rendering
The RTA was formed after a 2006 election that included $45 million in funding for wildlife linkage projects over a 20-year period. On August 14, 2009, the RTA Wildlife Linkages Committee recommended approval of $8 million in funding for the State Route 77 crossing structures; the project will be reviewed by additional RTA committees and the RTA Board, with final approval expected by November 2009. If the project is officially funded by the RTA Board, the Coalition will be working with Arizona Department of Transportation and other stakeholders on project implementation in the next few years.

Kathleen Kennedy
Program Associate
Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection

Watch Out for Wildlife Awareness Week Officially Recognized in Montana

In a letter to the Rocky Mountain Regional Office of Defenders of Wildlife, Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana officially recognized Watch Out for Wildlife (WOW) Awareness Week as the third week in September.

Governor Schweitzer stated that "wildlife protection and conservation initiatives are top priorities for [his] administration" and asked to be kept informed of our "efforts to promote transportation alternatives and solutions that address this important ecological and public safety issue."

Check out Defenders' Watch Out for Wildlife website to find tips for drivers, contact information in the case of a wildlife-vehicle collision, fact sheets, multimedia presentations, and materials for kids and teachers:

Becky Beard
Habitat & Highways Campaign Coordinator
Defenders of Wildlife

Maine Audubon's Traffic Volume Wildlife Tool

At the 2009 International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (ICOET), Maine Audubon's road ecology expert, Barbara Charry, presented "Traffic Volume as a Primary Road Characteristic Impacting Wildlife: A Model for Land Use and Transportation Planning." Barbara and Maine Audubon's Jody Jones have developed the "Traffic Volume Wildlife Tool" to help land-use and transportation experts make wildlife-friendly decisions about where to locate and upgrade roads and wildlife crossings.

Check out the full coverage here: "New Tool Measures Road Traffic's Impact on Wildlife"

While road width and traffic speed have an impact on wildlife, the most-significant threats are road location and traffic volume (number of vehicles using the road per day). The new tool identifies traffic-volume levels to assess the risks, at various levels, to groups of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
- What volume of vehicles creates enough noise that breeding birds avoid grassland habitat near the road?
- What volume means, coyote, mink, shrew, weasel, fox, and bats will die when vehicles pass through wetland habitat daily?
- What level of traffic volume means turtles can’t cross a road to their feeding pond?

To create the Traffic Volume Wildlife Tool, Charry and Jones used studies that measured road and traffic impacts to wildlife in a variety of habitats in North America and Europe.

Misinformation Surrounding Florida Panther Crossing Project

The Florida Defenders of Wildlife office is having a heck of a time in Collier County, where misinformation is prevalent concerning a federally funded study of the best placement for a Florida panther crossing structure under US 41. A short stretch of this highway is one of the most dangerous road segments for panthers in the state, and more panthers have been hit by cars and trucks in a concentrated area of 2.2 miles than anywhere else on U.S. 41.

Here's the skinny:
In 2006, Elizabeth Fleming, Florida Representative for Defenders of Wildlife, applied for Transportation Enhancement (TE) funding to help reduce the numbers of Florida panthers being struck and killed by vehicles in the vicinity of Turner River Bridge on U.S. 41. The proposal envisioned extending Turner River Bridge to allow wildlife to cross safely underneath. TE funding in the amount of $650,000 was allocated to Florida DOT (FDOT) to complete a Project Development and Environment Study.

***Remember, TransWilders, this is a great source of funding for wildlife crossing studies/construction costs! Visit the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse at and explore the underused opportunities of Activity 11: "Environmental mitigation of runoff pollution and provision of wildlife connectivity."

In 2007 and 2008, FDOT held meetings among panther biologists from the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Defenders of Wildlife, to work on a design for the crossing. Information concerning panther movement, vegetative corridors and vehicle strikes was considered. Ultimately, FDOT engineers determined that two crossings would be more cost-effective than the original proposal, and they do have the final say.

The August 14 article below stems from an erroneous document distributed by FDOT at a Summer 2009 public workshop (yes, the public is VERY involved!), stating that Defenders would make the final decision on project design, thus fueling mistrust of Defenders role in the project. However, the September 2 editorial aims to dispel the myth that Defenders is in control of the project. Wow, if we WERE in control, I'd like to think that the crossings would already have been built! One can dream...

Years may pass before construction, but Defenders hopes to work with all agencies involved, as well as the local community, to ensure that traffic calming, signage, enforcement and other safety measures can be implemented at the site as soon as possible. Though Defenders did not receive the federal funding for this project (FDOT did!), we have contributed thousands of dollars in in-kind contributions via volunteer work.
Florida drivers and Florida wildlife will benefit from a successful wildlife crossing project at this dangerous site.

"Defender’s role in project misunderstood"
Elizabeth Fleming
Collier Citizen
September 2, 2009

"Who's calling the shots on road project - FDOT or Defenders of Wildlife?"
Kaydee Tuff
Collier Citizen
August 14, 2009

Becky Beard
Habitat & Highways Campaign Coordinator
Defenders of Wildlife

Please Link the TransWild Alliance Website to YOUR Site!

Please help our stellar coalition promote our common goals by sharing the TransWild Alliance website with your colleagues and by linking it to your own website.

The more times that a website is linked to other sites, the more “trustworthy” it becomes to search engines. Thus, the search engines will provide the TransWild website as a result in searches more often.

Thank you for all that you do to reduce the impact of highways/roads on North America's wildlife!

To suggest any of your partner organizations as potential new members for TransWild, please contact Trisha White at

If you have any questions about the website, please contact Becky Beard at

Becky Beard
Habitat & Highways Campaign Coordinator
Defenders of Wildlife

Wildlife Motorcycle Collisions Are Typically the Worst WVCs

Back in March, a jury ordered the State of California to pay $8.6 million to a biker who was severely injured when he struck six wild pigs with his motorcycle on Hwy 1. Though the biker was drunk at the time, the jury concluded that his blood-alcohol level wasn't a major factor. The jury ruled that the state DOT should have done something to prevent the wild pigs from crossing the road, as state officials knew the pigs were crossing to feed on vegetation in a nearby environmental restoration project. The state later put up a pig-crossing sign and used hunters to help control the wild pig population.

Sacramento Area Local News: Man Awarded $8.6 Million After Crashing Into Pigs

Wow, $8.6 million is a HUGE award against a state DOT for what the jury deemed as negligence. It's something that the state DOT put up a pig crossing sign, but let's face it -- signs are minimally effective measures in preventing wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs).

One other well-known huge award was Booth vs. the Arizona DOT in an elk/vehicle collision. And that award was considerably less: $3 million.
Arizona Court of Appeals. 2004. Booth v. State of Arizona

Wild pigs: Many regions across North America have been infested by invasive wild pigs. I've seen first-hand how they tear up my family's crops and pastures in South Texas. Here is another good reason to work to eradicate them.

The habitat restoration element of the California story is relevant for land management agencies. Environmental restoration near a roadway is many times an effort to mitigate the effects that the road has on wildlife habitat or water quality -- any other wildlife species would logically be attracted to these areas and could be involved in WVCs. How do we solve this issue?

Motorcyclists typically fare very poorly in WVCs. The fatality rate for motorcyclists is the greatest contributor to the overall fatality rate nationally for WVCs.
Check out this Oct 2008 article from the Insurance Journal:
Fatalities Up 50% in Animal-Vehicle Crashes

Motorcyclists "typically make up about half of the deaths in vehicle-animal crashes each year, even though registrations of cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks outnumber motorcycles on the road 40-to-1."

Most collision deaths occur when a vehicle strikes an animal and then runs off the road, or a motorcyclist falls off a bike. "The study found that 60 percent of the people killed riding in vehicles weren't using safety belts, and 65 percent of those killed riding on motorcycles weren't wearing helmets."

Other than the peak in WVCs in October/November during migrations and rut, there is also a peak in the summer when motorcycling is more common.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety article

And more examples of how motorcycles and wildlife don't share the road well, from across North America:
Calgary Herald: Motorcycle Crash Kills Bear
Jackson Hole Daily: Motorcycle, Pronghorn Collide in National Park
Idaho News: Motorcycle Hits Deer on Idaho 21

Becky Beard
Habitat & Highways Campaign Coordinator
Defenders of Wildlife

Maine Audubon's Efforts Towards Safe Fish Passage

Under the roads and through the culverts, down the river they go...without getting stuck along the way.

Currently, thousands of culverts and stream crossings in Maine are inadequate, inappropriate for the area, or not well maintained. This leads to the upstream passage for fish and other aquatic organisms being blocked, reduced reproduction rates, and declining populations overall. Aquatic species must be able to move upstream in search of food, spawning habitat, and cooler water.

"An Act to Ensure that Replacement Culverts Permit Fish Passage," or LD 1333, was passed by the Maine State Legislature this summer. LD 1333 amends existing exemptions to the Natural Resources Protection Act requiring that natural stream flow be maintained when culverts are repaired or replaced. Plus, LD 1333 provides for aquatic organism passage.

Sponsored by Speaker of the House, Representative Hannah Pingree, the bill was originally proposed as "An Act to Establish Climate and Energy Planning in Maine," in an effort to help meet Maine’s goals to substantially reduce, by the year 2050, the use of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming. However, the bill was pared down to focus on one component of the original version: safe fish passage through culverts.

For the background on their initiation of the bill, check out Maine Audubon's 2009 Legislative Preview

Ted Koffman, of Maine Audubon, and George Smith, of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine discuss New rules coming to help fish navigate Maine's culverts

George Smith also writes about Maine's Fishy Culverts

Good work Maine Audubon! Congrats!

Becky Beard
Habitat & Highways Campaign Coordinator
Defenders of Wildlife

"Division Street" Making an Impression Around the Country

Check out this road ecology film at free screenings around the country!

"Division Street," produced by Frogpondia Films and directed by Eric Bendick, explores the impact that highways have on wildlife and wildlife habitat, and underlines the need for proper transportation and development planning by taking wildlife corridors into consideration. The film presents a new generation of ecologists, engineers, planners, and everyday citizens who are making way for wildlife by transforming the future of the American road.

View the "Division Street" trailer here

"Roads are the largest human artifact on the planet; they have fragmented wild landscapes and ushered in the age of urban sprawl."
- Dr. Richard Foreman, Harvard University

"Division Street" chronicles the 'eco-journey of a lifetime' - a quest to visit the most remote place from any road in the lower 48 states. Join filmmaker Eric Bendick as he tours North America from pristine roadless areas to concrete jungles, dodging Yellowstone's grizzlies and Miami's taxicabs, and highlighting sustainable road projects and wildlife corridors for the 21st century. The film explores the fascinating concept of wildlife corridors, the potential for 'greening' modern highway systems, and the fusion of high-tech engineering with the best and brightest ecological research happening today. “Division Street" is at once a portrait of both ancient wilderness and new technologies and a call for connectivity, innovation, and solutions to shape the emerging green transportation movement.

In June, screenings were held in Maine, Montana, and Colorado!
Plus, Frogpondia Films was recently awarded a 2009 TransWild Alliance mini grant:
TransWild Alliance 2009 Mini Grants

Becky Beard
Habitat & Highways Campaign Coordinator
Defenders of Wildlife

Lake Jackson Ecopassage: A Worthy Shovel-Ready Project

The Lake Jackson wildlife crossing was listed as Item No. 5 in Senator Coburn's (OK) list of 100 foolish uses for stimulus money. But nobody from his office bothered to talk to Matthew Aresco. "When you understand the project and what's at stake, you would support it."
More to Florida turtle crossing than Oklahoma Sen. Coburn claims (06/16/09)

This wildlife crossing project will construct a permanent, safe path for turtles and other wildlife attempting to cross Highway 27. Now the highway, which runs across the northwest portion of Lake Jackson, is a virtually impassable barrier for wildlife trying to cross from one side of the lake to the other -– resulting in high levels of attempted crossings and wildlife road mortality.
Source: The National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse Newsletter

Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, provides informative background info about how the “Florida Turtle Tunnel Protects Motorists Too” on his Animals and Politics blog.
Florida Turtle Tunnel Protects Motorists Too (06/19/09)

At one time, Matt Aresco picked up 90 dead turtles -- some weighing 20 lbs. -- in a third of a mile stretch of Hwy 27. He documented the highest rate of turtle mortality on any road in North America -- more than 2,000 turtles per mile per year. Ninety-eight percent of the turtles who try to cross get killed.

Four-lane Highway 27 sliced Lake Jackson, a state aquatic preserve, into two portions. Wildlife follow the same route they’ve traveled for thousands of years, but now it’s a death sentence on a road with 23,500 vehicles daily. As of April 2008, over 11,270 animals of 61 different species (not including birds) have been documented attempting to cross the half-mile section of US Highway 27 at Lake Jackson in the past 8 years.

Sen. Coburn said that the fence that volunteers constructed along Highway 27 "seems to work pretty well." True, it has saved over 8,800 turtles, but...
The temporary fence does NOT stop all wildlife from entering the roadway. Many species can climb over the low fence, which only covers 2000' - 3000' of the crossing hotspot.
The temporary fence is NOT a long-term solution. It degrades rapidly, requires daily maintenance, and is compromised on a daily basis by animals chewing it and digging under it, highway maintenance equipment, falling trees, erosion, and vandals.
A permanent ecopassage (guide wall and culvert system) would provide necessary habitat connectivity between areas of Lake Jackson, and would help to significantly reduce wildlife mortality.

Go straight to the source for info on the issue:
The Lake Jackson Ecopassage Alliance

Becky Beard
Habitat & Highways Campaign Coordinator
Defenders of Wildlife

The Conservation Registry

Does your organization need volunteers, funding, or general assistance towards conservation efforts in your focus area? Are you struggling to understand the context, distribution, or effectiveness of conservation efforts in your region?

Add your organization's work to The Conservation Registry and search for other groups and landowners on the website's user-friendly database and mapping system. Users may enter, search, map, and track conservation projects based on data from multiple sources -- landowners, federal agencies, non-profits, tribes, and foundations. As a TransWild Alliance member, you know that collective efforts make for effective protection and restoration of native ecosystems.
Safe passage for wildlife demands our cooperation!

Conservation Registry Website

Becky Beard
Conservation Policy Assistant, Habitat & Highways Campaign
Defenders of Wildlife

Roads, Roads, Everywhere

A road to somewhere.
Check out the New Scientist's map gallery of "Where's the remotest place on Earth?"

Based on USGS satellite data, the map on Image 3 shows the distribution of road networks all over the planet. The continental U.S. is covered! No wonder figures for wildlife-vehicle collisions are so high: 1 to 2 million crashes between cars and large animals each year, with associated costs totaling more than $8 billion (Western Transportation Institute).

Becky Beard
Conservation Policy Assistant, Habitat & Highways Campaign
Defenders of Wildlife

TransWild Mini Grants: May 15 Deadline!

TransWild Alliance Mini Grants 2009!

Purpose: To assist conservation organizations in meeting their goals and mission through projects, actions or activities that seek to reduce the impacts of highways on wildlife.

Amount: Grants of $2,500 will be awarded

Eligibility: All non-profit, non-governmental conservation advocacy organizations are eligible to apply. You do not have to be a TransWild Alliance member to apply, but you must be affiliated with an organization. If you received a 2008 mini grant, you are still eligible to apply for a 2009 mini grant.

Use TransWild Alliance mini grants to leverage other funding, such as through matching funds!

Review the guidelines and submit the application form in full to by May 15, 2009.

Additional information and the application form are available at:

Becky Beard
Conservation Policy Assistant, Habitat & Highways Campaign
Defenders of Wildlife

Walk to Protect Wildlife

Is it a 5K? 10K? It can be as long as you want.
Bill Bunn of Calgary writes about a clever way to protect wildlife -- walking.

Check out Bill's full article here:

Here are some staggering figures for you:
North American drivers kill 1 million animals each day -- that's nearly 12 animals per second.
The roadkill includes almost 2 million deer and over 50 million birds each year.
Insect populations are dramatically reduced, amphibians are on the decline, and many large mammal species are killed while simultaneously injuring humans in collisions.
BUT...if we walked, we would most likely not squash these guys. Take your place in nature -- with all the other walking species.

And here's a case for lower speed limits, as well as following those limits.
Researchers report that the faster you travel the more tension you experience. When speed increases, negative emotions intensify -- think "road rage".
Plus, our field of vision is reduced with increasing speed, thus reducing our awareness and lowering our response time.
"Dude! That turtle just came out of nowhere!"
Speed impedes perception, thinking, and decision-making. So walk.

Becky Beard
Conservation Policy Assistant, Habitat & Highways Campaign
Defenders of Wildlife

Center for Native Ecosystems Recognized in "Best of Denver"

What could be the Best Tenth-Anniversary Present to Denver?
Well...who is based in the Mile High City and is doing outstanding work for wildlife habitat conservation in the Greater Southern Rockies?

The Center for Native Ecosystems!

Denver's "Westword" publication awarded a 'Best Of Denver' to CNE this year, and highlighted their online collection of guest essays entitled "From Where I’m Standing: Perspectives on Conservation in the American West".

CNE asked, "What is the greatest conservation opportunity we have right now?"
...and people of the American West answered.
Check out these essays from Western scientists, ranchers, authors, sportsmen, economists, conservationists, academics, and politicians on the
CNE website

"Best of Denver 2009"
Becky Beard
Conservation Policy Assistant, Habitat & Highways Campaign
Defenders of Wildlife

Underground Roads to Maintain Wildlife Habitat

Maybe we shouldn't have laughed...

A blog post entitled, "My Brilliant Idea to Save the Animals from Highways" caught our attention.
"Just put ALL roads underground, like a giant subway system. Then people and animals can walk freely above the whizzing vehicles below."
Check it out here at
KittyMowmow's blog

Though KittyMowmow's idea of constructing all roads underground was novel, we thought it was a bit "out there". But then we heard about a tunnel in the United Kingdom:

The longest land road tunnel in the UK is a step closer to completion as excavations from the north and south have met in the middle. The tunnel will carry traffic on the A3, running between London and Portsmouth.
In an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the 1.25 mile tunnel will reduce the traffic at what is a notorious bottleneck, and restore peace and tranquility.
UK Transport Minister Paul Clark said, "This will deliver real benefits to local people, whether they are drivers, horse riders, cyclists or pedestrians, whilst creating a better habitat for local wildlife and preserving the beauty of the landscape."

For the full article, please visit:
ICM's website

Becky Beard
Conservation Policy Assistant, Habitat & Highways Campaign
Defenders of Wildlife

Climate Change and Sprawling Roads Hit Wildlife with a Double-Whammy: Example from Maine

A new article from Maine Audubon highlights projections by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which show that Maine could have a climate similar to Maryland's by century's end.

Studies project that along with the climate, wildlife habitat in Maine will also change dramatically. Trees and vegetation that thrive in a warmer climate will stretch farther north, as Maine's spruce and fir retreat to Canada. As native wildlife lose habitat, they also will have to compete with new species moving in.

Plus, wildlife face increased threat from sprawling roads and scattered development. Because of fossil-fuel pollution, roads significantly contribute to climate change and serve as major barriers to wildlife, by turning them into roadkill and fragmenting their habitat.

Maine Audubon and partners are working with Maine Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree to initiate state legislation. The Climate and Energy Planning Act would emphasize smart growth-planning, make more efficient Maine's buildings and public transportation systems, and protect Maine's wildlife through conservation of connected habitat.

"When it comes to climate change, decisions that benefit wildlife benefit us, too," said Maine Audubon biologist Barbara Charry. "Keeping large blocks of forest intact takes carbon out of the air and conserves habitat. Limiting sprawling roads cuts overall car emissions and allows wildlife to move safely. It's all connected."

For the full article, please visit
Maine Audubon's website
Becky Beard
Conservation Policy Assistant, Habitat & Highways Campaign
Defenders of Wildlife

1% For Wildlife

In December, several conservation partners sent a letter to Russ George, Colorado DOT Director, recommending that 1% of the transportation funding allocated through the stimulus package be set aside for wildlife crossings in Colorado. Signatures on the letter included representatives of TransWild Alliance members Western Environmental Law Center, Center for Native Ecosystems, and Defenders of Wildlife. In Colorado, 1,300 citizens wrote CDOT to request that wildlife be considered in the stimulus infrastructure projects.

In February, American Wildlands and Defenders of Wildlife recommended “1% For Wildlife” to Montana DOT Director James Lynch. Also this month, numerous nationwide conservation organizations collaborated in a letter to Congress to include habitat restoration funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Included in the section devoted to the Dept. of Transportation was a call to allocate 1% of highway funding for habitat connectivity restoration across public highways.

The Western Governors’ Wildlife Council supports the idea of “1% for wildlife” as part of the stimulus package for transportation projects. The Western Governors Association supports the idea for the highway bill.

Please contact your state DOT directors and/or governors, and urge them to adopt “1% for Wildlife”!

Becky Beard
Conservation Policy Assistant, Habitat & Highways Campaign
Defenders of Wildlife

New Conservation Policy Assistant

The TransWild Alliance has a new Conservation Policy Assistant!
Becky Beard is based in D.C. with the Defenders of Wildlife Habitat and Highways Campaign.

Hello Alliance members!
I am very excited to work with all members of the TransWild Alliance towards reducing the impacts of highways on wildlife and natural resources. Also, I am eager to further cooperation with other agencies and organizations to advance the mission of the Alliance.

Prior to joining Defenders, I held positions with the City of Austin and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. I also worked as a research assistant on a land use study of the Ecuadorian Amazon. I started my career in conservation at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality after interning with the USGS Texas Water Science Center. I completed my M.A. in Geography at Arizona State University, and I hold a B.S. in Geography from Texas State University.

Please let me know if you would like something amended or posted to a section of the website.

Becky Beard
Conservation Policy Assistant, Habitat & Highways Campaign
Defenders of Wildlife

A Busy Season for Maine Audubon

From the beaches to the vernal pools to the offices of Maine Audubon, it has been a busy season for people and wildlife in Maine.

Maine’s piping plovers, listed as threatened nationally and endangered in Maine, recovered from what originally appeared to be a dismal year. At the start of the season the breeding population dropped to 22 pairs, its lowest point in 20 years. In addition to low numbers, the birds were faced with other challenges to their survival, including human disturbance on their nesting beaches. Despite these challenges the breeding population successfully raised 42 chicks, nearly double last year’s productivity. The Maine Piping Plover and Least Tern Recovery Project worked throughout the season to monitor adult piping plovers and their chicks, protect nests with signage and fencing, and inform towns and the public about what they can do to help these birds successfully raise their young on Maine’s busy beaches.

Away from the coastline, Maine Audubon received a $47,000 grant from the TogetherGreen Initiative to support vernal pool conservation. Vernal pools are temporary wetlands, home to several species of amphibians and reptiles, and face a high risk of destruction due to sprawl and development. In order to prevent further destruction, Maine Audubon will be working with several Maine communities to map remaining vernal pool areas and incorporate them into regional plans.

Finally, as winter approaches and concerns over energy supplies persist, Maine Audubon is proud to announce a discussion with one of Maine’s leading green-building architects, Rick Renner of Richard Renner Architects, on how green design can significantly reduce our impacts on the environment. Renner will share slides of his work and talk about green building goals, myths and pitfalls, and explain how innovative design can help reduce our carbon footprint. The talk is set to take place on November 19. More information on all of Maine Audubon’s work can be found online at

Barbara Charry
Maine Audubon

2008 Wildlife Crossings Field Course

From June 2-4, 2008, the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project (SREP) hosted the second Wildlife Crossings Field Course in Seattle, WA in conjunction with I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), and the Forest Service. SREP enjoyed great success in providing a constructive forum for sharing experiences and exploring new ideas, perspectives, and concepts in the planning, design and construction of wildlife crossings.

The course was meant to lead to an expansion of the knowledgebase on issues involving wildlife crossings while encouraging an interdisciplinary dialogue. Rather than providing an introduction to wildlife crossings, this advanced-level course tackled the more complex issues that transportation professionals face in the field of Road Ecology. The course consisted of a half-day introductory session for participants newer to the field of road ecology and issues involving wildlife crossings to set the stage for the rest of the Field Course; and one and a half days of presentations and group discussions on topics and case studies geared to first-hand exposure to the challenges and solutions for creating effective wildlife crossings.

The Field Course drew a total of 114 participants from 16 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia). Participants went home with new knowledge, ideas, and practical advice for applying these tools and techniques to projects in their area. Topics covered were State of the Science, I-90 Case Study & Discussion, Agency Partnerships, Engineering Wildlife Crossings, Retrofitting, Measuring Success & Monitoring, Managing the Whole Linkage, WGA-Wildlife Corridors/Crucial Habitats Initiative, and Funding Mechanisms. To see a full agenda, a list of participants and speakers, and video footage of all presentations, please visit

Caitlin Harris, Development Assistant
Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project


Better Roads for Wildlife in the Berkshires

Major road planning in Berkshire County, Massachusetts just became a little more wildlife friendly! Wildlife habitat impacts will now be considered in ranking all major highway projects, something Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) has been pushing for as a member of the Berkshire County Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) to the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

A couple of years ago, BEAT began videotaping the meetings of the MPO. The MPO approves all the major road projects in the county. One of BEAT’s major issues of concern is the impact of the transportation network on wildlife and ecosystems. We had been told by Defenders of Wildlife Habitat and Highways program that the MPO was the most likely place to be able to have an impact. However, road planning often takes10 years, so we didn't think BEAT would have much impact for quite a while.

Last year BEAT was invited to join the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) to the MPO. The TAC is supposed to represent diverse interests and provide more public input on transportation issues. The county Regional Planning Commission (RPC) acts as staff to the MPO.

In the last couple of months, two major changes have taken place:
1. The RPC is working very hard to try to quantify proposed road changes' ecosystem impacts. BEAT helped arrange a presentation by Scott Jackson from UMass on the Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System for the RPC staff. This is a work in progress, but real consideration is being given to wildlife habitat and state-listed species habitat.

2. Mass Highway District 1 (our district of Mass Highway) and the MPO have new Transportation Improvement Project criteria. These criteria, with numerical values attached, are used to rank various road projects. These new criteria include improved stormwater assessments and WILDLIFE HABITAT ASSESSMENT!

Thank you to Alison Church, Transportation Planner at Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) and Peter Frieri at Mass Highway for helping to make these changes possible. Peter also pointed out that when BRPC and Mass Highway work with the towns, it gives them a chance to get the town Departments of Public Works to use these same criteria, so we expect this to have broad reach in improving road projects!

Jane Winn, Executive Director
Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT)

Wolves in Washington!

As we enter August, we are eagerly awaiting results as over 30 digital cameras have been placed into Washington Cascades mountains to help us understand wildlife presence near a proposed highway project on Interstate 90 and in further remote areas of the North Cascades.

The Cascades Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Program is off to a later start this year to install remote cameras into the forested lands of Washington's Cascades due to the high snows that remained through spring, but in August all of our cameras will finally have hit the ground. To date we have enjoyed a wide range of results from our teams that have been able to install including one of our cameras being knocked off a tree by an elk that was spending time in a mile-long forested island in the middle of Interstate 90.

These cameras have also recorded the first wolf pups in Washington State in over 70 years as shown here in the Methow Valley. More cameras to track these wolves throughout their potential range were installed in July including one set sponsored by Defenders of Wildlife along the Twisp River drainage. So stay tuned as more photos come in to remind us how alive the Cascades are in Washington!

Jen Watkins
Conservation Northwest
and I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition

New publication: The $61 Million Question: How Can Transportation Enhancements Benefit Wildlife?

Can you believe it’s been 10 years? June 2008 is the 10th anniversary of TEA-21 and the inclusion of Transportation Enhancements Activity 11, providing federal transportation funding for projects that reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and restore habitat connectivity.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary, Defenders of Wildlife is proud to announce our new publication, “THE $ 61 MILLION QUESTION: How Can Transportation Enhancements Benefit Wildlife?” a guide to Transportation Enhancements Activity 11 and a call for wildlife conservationists and natural resource managers to apply for TE funding. Because even after ten years, this funding opportunity has gone largely unnoticed by the conservation community, leaving as much as $61 million per year for wildlife habitat connectivity on the table.

Do the fuzzy math:
$8.1 billion authorized for TE since 1998
÷ 11 years
= $734 million per year
÷ 12 categories
= $61 million per year possible for wildlife*

Quite simply, if we don’t apply, we won’t get funded. Conservation efforts are in a perpetual funding crisis and we cannot afford to leave any stone unturned, especially one with $61 million beneath it.

That’s why we’re also launching our “Operation TE11 @ 10” to challenge partners across the country to apply for TE Activity 11 funds for wildlife related projects. Send us your ideas for wildlife related TE projects in your own back yards and we will choose five outstanding projects to receive technical support from Defenders of Wildlife.

Download the report at and please forward widely to your friends and colleagues in the conservation community.

Trisha White
Director, Habitat and Highways Campaign
Defenders of Wildlife