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5The Integrated Ecological Framework (IEF) is a peer-reviewed, nine-step technical framework that supports transportation/infrastructure planners and resource special- ists in the use of a standardized, science-based approach to identifying and integrating ecological priorities into transportation and infrastructure decision making. The IEF draws on both well-established and new approaches to conservation analyses, as well as on existing efforts being led by federal and state natural resource and transporta- tion/infrastructure agencies to address known organizational, process, and policy chal- lenges related to accelerating project delivery while still achieving net environmental benefi ts. BENEFITS OF THE IEF â¢ Supports more coordinated and consolidated administrative and decision-making processes that result in signifi cant time and resource effi ciencies for transportation/ infrastructure and natural resource agencies. â¢ Creates a more effi cient and predictable consultation and project development process through early identifi cation of needs and solutions. â¢ Allows for a clearer understanding of regional-scale considerations and oppor- tunities including goals and priorities, and the potential for impact avoidance or minimization, restoration, and recovery. â¢ Directs resources for mitigation to regional-scale conservation priorities. â¢ Provides transparent and measurable processes that can be duplicated, contribut- ing to better accountability and the ability to measure success. â¢ Creates additional knowledge about priority conservation areas thus driving in- centives to develop programs and funding to conserve and restore those areas. 2 THE INTEGRATED ECOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK AT A GLANCE
6MANAGERâS GUIDE TO THE INTEGRATED ECOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK MAJOR IEF PRODUCTS â¢ Regional maps of conservation and restoration priorities; â¢ Regional maps identifying affected resources and the quantification of the direct and cumulative impacts for each transportation scenario being considered; â¢ Identification and evaluation of potential mitigation and enhancement areas within a state or region; and â¢ A dynamic database of regional resources, goals, gaps, and achievements. The fundamental objective of the IEF is to help natural resource, transportation, and infrastructure practitioners integrate their vision, goals, and objectives so that, working together, they can implement transportation and infrastructure needs more efficiently and at a lower cost while not only minimizing impacts to the environment, but also contributing more effectively to existing environmental goals. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS How is the IEF different from other conservation planning frameworks and/or what makes it unique? Although the IEF draws on many existing processes and approaches to planning, it was specifically designed to frame issues and challenges that are unique to integrating conservation and transportation planning, and to provide scientifically based methods for addressing those issues. What are the upfront costs to implementing the IEF? Implementing the IEF may require more collaboration, information, and analyses up- front. However, using the IEF will very likely yield significant, long-term ecosystem and economic benefits and cost savings that could outweigh the additional, upfront costs necessary to establish this new regional-scale approach to achieving transporta- tion and ecological goals (Cambridge Systematics 2011). Can the IEF support other regional, ecosystem-based initiatives happening across the country? Yes, and vice versa, especially by directing mitigation actions and resources to identified conservation priorities. The IEF should draw from a variety of federal, state, and NGO conservation plans and activities. (See Chapter 3, Leveraging Existing Resources.) How do you implement different parts of the IEF at different stages of transportation/infrastructure work (in other words, does the IEF have âon rampsâ)? Can you start the IEF at any step? How can we take advantage of prior work? Although the IEF is presented as a set of nine steps arranged in a linear process, dif- ferent agencies and regions will have different starting points and needs. The IEF is intended to be flexible with regard to starting point and emphasis; in reality it is a
7MANAGERâS GUIDE TO THE INTEGRATED ECOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK cyclical process. (See Figure 2.1 and Chapter 3, On-Ramps.) Transportation and re- source agencies often begin the IEF with a number of activities already under way, such as development of a long-range transportation plan or state wildlife action plan (SWAP). These activities are likely to contribute to accomplishing some steps of the IEF. Most of the IEF steps can be done independently, but some steps are prerequisites for the IEF to be successful. For example, Steps 1 and 2 are fundamental to the IEF and must be in place since they set the stage for all other IEF steps. What is the core component of the IEF? The Regional Ecosystem Framework (REF) is the core of the IEF. Essentially, the REF is a spatial database of the priority resources in a predefined area and preferably in- cludes already-identified priority areas to avoid or to invest in mitigation (ecological improvement) or restoration actions. The REF represents natural resources as well as the values of partners and stakeholders; it may also include other concerns besides eco- logical resources, such as cultural resources and environmental justice (University of California, Davis Road Ecology Center 2013). The REIDF is the Regional Ecosystem and Infrastructure Development Framework. Figure 2.1. Visual representation of IEF steps.
8MANAGERâS GUIDE TO THE INTEGRATED ECOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK How can the IEF help me in the long term? The IEF is intended to be a continuous process, as is transportation/infrastructure planning overall. The key data sets and partnerships of the IEF, maintained over time, can continue to efficiently support assessment and planning into the future. Ongoing maintenance of these data and partnerships will greatly reduce the time and costs needed to keep the data updated and will contribute to improving the accuracy and quality of the results over time. LAUNCHING THE IEF PROCESS If you are getting ready to implement the IEF process, the steps in this section should be helpful. You may already have completed some of them; you will see that although the steps are presented sequentially, some aspects of them are concurrent and iterative. Secure Partner Commitments Because contributions of partners (expertise, funding, or in-kind) can greatly affect the budget and activities such as project extent, scope, and the need for coordination meet- ings, it is important to establish who the partners are and what they are contributing and expecting. â¢ Identify the benefits of a multipartner project. Overall and individual costs savings can accrue by distributing costs over multiple partners; access to a broader set of knowledge, data, and expertise may streamline many tasks and allow them to be conducted through in-kind contributions. Scope the Project A general scoping developed either internally or with partners is needed to determine the higher-level criteria for the project with an understanding of the approximate re- sources available. A detailed technical scoping of deliverables, budget, and schedule may be completed by appropriate internal and partner staff, or by a consultant using relevant portions of the SHRP 2 C06 documents. â¢ Consider what is really needed. What products are needed to make decisions; what level of precision is required of the data and results; how much time, funding, and staff capacity are available? â¢ Define the geographic extent of the project. There are no hard and fast rules for defining the planning region extent. It can include planning jurisdictions (e.g., a metropolitan planning organization, or MPO) or watersheds, or be organized by ecological resources and processes. However, the size of the planning region must be manageable relative to the desired precision of spatial products and the com- puting power needed to process information at the desired resolution. For exam- ple, a very large region may require sacrifices in spatial detail and limit the utility of outputs for some purposes. â¢ Build in excellent documentation and data management. Most projects intended for broad and long-term utility fail because they lacked adequate attention to (and
9MANAGERâS GUIDE TO THE INTEGRATED ECOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK funding for) documenting all decisions, inputs, methods, and outputs and lacked the ongoing data management necessary to keep the inputs and outputs available and current. Investing in those aspects during the course of the project and there- after will minimize the costs of accessing, updating, and applying the information in the future. Obtain Funding and Specific In-Kind Commitments Failure to reach the estimated funding needs may make it necessary to negotiate ad- ditional in-kind support or rescope the project within available resources. Assemble the Teams In this step, contracting (if needed) is completed and the team members are assembled into the desired Project Team structure (e.g., thematic work groups). The Partners Team provides leadership and direction to the other teams to ensure that common and accepted objectives are met. Partners represent the agencies and organizations investing in the project. The Science Team ensures that the REF represents best available scientific knowl- edge, makes recommendations about the natural resources that should be included in the REF, and populates the REF with information about the resourcesâ conservation requirements and response to stressors that would appear in the transportation and land use scenarios. Because all knowledge cannot be integrated into the REF, the team should also be engaged to review and validate assessments and inform decisions. The team itself is composed of subject matter experts for the resources and may be drawn from state and federal agencies, universities, and NGOs among others. The Technical Team manages and conducts the technical work of the IEF. A single project team member may have more than one of the necessary skill sets; for example, a staff member managing the project may also facilitate the partnership. IEF partners may have internal capacity to cover these skills, or they may need to look to an exter- nal contractor to fill some of the following Technical Team roles: â¢ Is highly scalable. â¢ Can be time intensive and span a long time period coincident with transportation plan- ning cycles. â¢ May be conducted over several years with intervening updates and iterations requiring varying levels of involvement by specific participants depending on what step is being implemented at any point in time. The IEF...
10 MANAGERâS GUIDE TO THE INTEGRATED ECOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK â¢ Project Manager oversees all aspects of the project, ensuring that participants un- derstand and perform their roles, securing bids, managing consultant contracts, coordinating all communication, and managing the budget and schedule. â¢ Facilitator leads and facilitates meetings of the partnership and stakeholders. â¢ Science Lead coordinates input of the Science Team consistent with direction of the project leadership. â¢ GIS/Data Manager/Lead oversees all spatial data management and GIS work. This position may be filled by the same individual as the one conducting geospatial analyses (see GIS Analyst). â¢ GIS Analyst acquires and processes data, conducts all geospatial analyses, de- velops interpretive products, presents results, and writes methods and documen- tation. For projects pursuing advanced modeling, a broader team of analysts/ modelers will be required. Initiate the Project Initiation of the project will depend on what starting point (or on-ramp) is used, but it will most likely require a kickoff workshop of relevant partners. At this workshop, team members and partners are introduced; purpose, objectives, and scope are re- viewed; initial information and findings are presented for discussion and initial deci- sions about next steps are made. Plenty of time should be allotted for this workshop as participants will likely have many questions requiring explanations, presentations, and discussion. â¢ Research existing work and determine your starting point. Carefully considering what work has already been accomplished on each IEF step will reduce duplica- tion of effortâsaving time, resources, and partner frustration. Existing work in the area should be researched to gain an understanding of the relevant data and analyses. This activity should be done early and should inform all IEF steps.