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Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-i APPENDIX A LITERATURE REVIEW, SURVEY, AND PRACTITIONER INTERVIEW REPORT
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-ii APPENDIX A TABLE OF CONTENTS APPENDIX A TABLE OF CONTENTS ........................................................................................................ ii 1.0 ONLINE SURVEY .............................................................................................................................. 1 1.1 Online Survey Methods ............................................................................................................... 1 1.2 Online Survey Results .................................................................................................................. 1 1.2.1 Characteristics of Survey Respondents ............................................................................ 1 1.2.2 States Incorporating Wildlife Connectivity Early in the Transportation Planning Process ...................................................................................... 5 1.2.3 Stakeholder Agreement(s) to Preserve or Enhance Wildlife Connectivity ...................... 7 1.2.4 Regulatory Mechanisms for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation ........................................ 8 1.2.5 Funding Sources for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation .................................................. 11 1.2.6 Funding Sources for Mitigation Credits ......................................................................... 12 1.2.7 Focal Species for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation ....................................................... 13 1.2.8 Availability of Mitigation Credits to Offset Wildlife Connectivity Impacts .................. 17 1.2.9 Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation Covered by Habitat Conservation Plans ................... 17 1.2.10 Out-of-kind Mitigation to Offset Wildlife Connectivity Impacts .................................. 17 1.2.11 Permittee Required Mitigation for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation ............................ 19 1.2.12 Advance Mitigation for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation ............................................. 19 1.2.13 In-lieu Fee Programs for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation ........................................... 19 1.2.14 Quantitative Methods to Evaluate Improved Permeability from Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation Actions ...................................................................... 19 1.2.15 Level of Interest in Generating Mitigation Credits from Wildlife Connectivity Projects ....................................................................................... 20 1.2.16 Methods and Protocols to Calculate Mitigation Credits ................................................. 21 1.3 Potential Case Studies ................................................................................................................ 22 1.4 Key Findings .............................................................................................................................. 22 2.0 FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS WITH KEY PRACTITIONERS .................................................. 23 2.1 Characteristics of Key Practitioners Interviewed ....................................................................... 23 2.2 Practitioner Observations, Obstacles, and Recommendations ................................................... 23 2.2.1 Legal, Planning, and Policy Framework for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation ............. 23 2.2.2 Valuation Metrics for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation ................................................ 25 2.2.3 Monitoring and Performance Requirements .................................................................. 28 2.2.4 Funding Mechanisms and Program Costs ...................................................................... 30
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-iii LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. Frequency of the respondents of the survey by state. ............................................................. A-3 Figure 2. Primary job title or role of respondents................................................................................... A-4 Figure 3. Percent of survey respondents that have engaged in transportation-related wildlife connectivity projects. .............................................................................................................. A-4 Figure 4. Percent of survey respondents that agree their state incorporates wildlife connectivity assessments and mitigation needs early in the programming, planning and project processes. ................................................................................................................................ A-5 Figure 5. Number of wildlife projects worked on by survey respondents.............................................. A-7 Figure 6. Response rates that identified potential regulatory triggers for wildlife crossing structures or other connectivity enhancements that could be required by their state. ............. A-9 Figure 7. The types of wildlife connectivity mitigation respondents have experience in implementing under a regulatory framework. ....................................................................... A-10 Figure 8. Identification of the regulatory framework by survey respondents that led to the implementation of wildlife crossing structures in their state. ............................................... A-11 Figure 9. The sources of funding identified in the survey that pay for wildlife connectivity mitigation measures, such as wildlife crossing infrastructure. .............................................. A-12 Figure 10. Percent of the respondents to the survey who listed each category as a primary source of funding for wildlife connectivity mitigation credits. ............................................................ A-13 Figure 11. Estimated number of large carnivore connectivity mitigation projects in respondent's state. ...................................................................................................................................... A-14 Figure 12. Estimated number of ungulate (hoofed animals) connectivity mitigation projects in respondent's state. ................................................................................................................. A-14 Figure 13. Estimated number of small mammals (smaller than a coyote) connectivity mitigation projects in respondent's state. ................................................................................................ A-15 Figure 14. Estimated number of large carnivore connectivity mitigation projects in respondent's state. ...................................................................................................................................... A-15 Figure 15. Estimated number of amphibian connectivity mitigation projects in respondent's state. ..... A-16 Figure 16. Estimated number of aquatic fauna connectivity mitigation projects in respondent's state. ...................................................................................................................................... A-16 Figure 17. Responses to the question of whether wildlife connectivity mitigation from one transportation project the respondents worked on was used to offset wildlife connectivity mitigation needed for another separate transportation project. ........................ A-17 Figure 18. Response rates of survey participants when asked whether wildlife connectivity mitigation projects they worked on were used for impacts to wildlife connectivity by the project itself (in-kind mitigation) or for mitigation actions that were used for another transportation project's impacts to wildlife connectivity (out-of-kind mitigation). .............. A-18 Figure 19. Responses to the question, "for the wildlife connectivity mitigation projects you worked on, was the enhancement to improve permeability at a particular location determined quantitatively?â ..................................................................................................................... A-20 Figure 20. Responses to whether the survey participant would employ an opportunity to generate mitigation credits from wildlife connectivity projects if their state had the option. ............. A-21
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-iv LIST OF TABLES Table 1. Agencies and corresponding number of respondents that participated in the online survey. ..................................................................................................................................... A-2
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-1 1.0 ONLINE SURVEY The purpose of the survey was to develop a national perspective on the state of the practice of wildlife connectivity mitigation in the United States. The survey sought to elicit information from experienced practitioners on how they were developing approaches, protocols, and requirements for wildlife connectivity mitigation. The information gathered from the survey was also to provide insight into the current use of mitigation credits for wildlife crossings and other connectivity enhancements recognized by a permitting authority, including which states or regions are actively using this or a similar approach to meet their mitigation needs for wildlife connectivity impacts, and if applicable, the valuation methods and metrics used. Because the literature review revealed limited information about valuation methods and crediting systems for wildlife connectivity mitigation, the survey was also developed to identify the most- experienced individuals willing to discuss their specific programs and projects in follow-up phone interviews. An online national survey of key environmental staff at state DOTs and federal and state natural resource agencies was conducted using Qualtricsâ¢ research software in April 2019. To maximize the response rate and to reduce the time demand on respondents, the questionnaire was limited to 26 questions. The participants were asked to respond within four weeks. After one week, the research team re-engaged each potential survey participant to confirm receipt of the survey and to inquire if the participant had any questions pertaining to the questionnaire, or if they required additional time to complete the survey. A final reminder was sent the last week of the survey. Appendix A contains a copy of the interview questions. Note that for some questions, survey respondents could select multiple responses (i.e., questions 9, 11, 12, and 18), so the total percentages reported could exceed 100%. Also, survey respondents could skip any question that they were unable to answer, so the total percentages reported for some questions could be less than 100% of respondents. 1.2.1 Characteristics of Survey Respondents A total of 1,035 individuals were invited to complete the online survey from which 234 respondents (23%) participated in the online survey. These individuals represented a variety of agencies and organizations: 54% were state transportation agency staff; 1 (0.6%) was federal transportation agency staff; 26% were state natural resource agency staff; 5% were federal natural resource agency staff; 3% were academic researchers; and 11% were affiliated with other organizations. Of the 234 respondents, 168 identified the type of organization to which they belonged (Table 1). Unsurprisingly, the highest number of respondents were from state transportation agencies (91), and only one federal transportation agency member responded. There were more than 50 state and federal natural resource agency respondents. Of the 19 respondents who described their organization as "other" (Table 1), six were private consultants, five were from non-profit organizations, two were from Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and the remaining six were single categories such as a tribal wildlife program officer, an attorney, or they did not categorize themselves. There was broad representation from across the nation, with at least one respondent in every state except Alabama, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Tennessee (Figure 1). Three states had 10 or more respondents, California (20), Utah (11), and Idaho (10) (Figure 1). Seven states had between 5 to 9 respondents each,
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-2 31 of the states had 2 to 4 respondents, and five had one respondent, including the District of Columbia (Figure 1). Table 1. Agencies and corresponding number of respondents that participated in the online survey. Organization Type Number of Responses Federal transportation agency 1 State transportation agency 91 Federal natural resource agency 9 State natural resource agency 43 Academic institution 5 Other 19 Total 168
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-3 Figure 1. Frequency of the respondents of the survey by state. Of the state transportation agencies in states with the highest number of wildlife crossings according to Bissonette and Cramer (2008)âFlorida, Arizona, Montana, California, and Massachusettsâall five states had representatives responding to the survey. Respondents with the primary job title or role as wildlife biologists (31.5%) and environmental specialists (20%), together, comprised more than 50% of the respondents to the survey (Figure 2). Of the 13.3% of the respondents who chose "other" to describe their position, the variety of position descriptions ranged from resident engineer to geomorphologist to asset manager. 0 5 10 15 20 25 Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware Dist of Columbia Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming Respondents by State
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-4 Figure 2. Primary job title or role of respondents. A large majority of the survey respondents, more than 90%, have worked on wildlife connectivity projects related to transportation (Figure 3). Figure 3. Percent of survey respondents that have engaged in transportation-related wildlife connectivity projects. 11.5% 4.8% 20.0% 31.5% 5.5% 2.4% 3.6% 2.4% 4.8% 13.3% 0.0% 5.0% 10.0% 15.0% 20.0% 25.0% 30.0% 35.0% Primary Job Title or Role 91.6% 8.4% Yes No
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-5 1.2.2 States Incorporating Wildlife Connectivity Early in the Transportation Planning Process To identify the states where wildlife connectivity is an important consideration during transportation project development, we asked the following question: â¢ âDoes your state ever incorporate wildlife connectivity assessment and mitigation needs early in the transportation project programming, planning, and design process?â The respondents, to a large degree (84%), confirmed their state incorporates wildlife connectivity assessment and mitigation considerations early in the programming, planning, and project design processes (Figure 4). Figure 4. Percent of survey respondents that agree their state incorporates wildlife connectivity assessments and mitigation needs early in the programming, planning and project processes. If the respondents answered yes, they were asked to explain the methods that are used to consider the needs of wildlife connectivity in the transportation processes of their state. Examples of responses include: â¢ âWe engage agencies and wildlife interest groups early to solicit their input and knowledgeâ (North Carolina). â¢ âWe work with state game agency and other stakeholders.â Also, utilize a recent process of statewide priority projects that was developed through an agencyâNGO collaborative effort (Wyoming). At the project level, wildlife connectivity mitigation is typically considered collaboratively during the environmental review process, usually involving state DOTs engaging with their state natural resource agencies. When federally listed threatened or endangered species could be impacted, USFWS is
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-6 consulted. In several states, respondents said that wildlife advocacy groups were also included in pre- project planning efforts involving wildlife connectivity assessments or evaluations of mitigation needs. The CDFW gave examples of the types of plans or connectivity analyses it uses to inform long-term transportation plans, programs, and projects: California Essential Habitat Connectivity Project, Natural Community Conservation Plans, and RCIS, as well as county-level plans. Respondents suggested that their state DOTs typically consider wildlife connectivity mitigation for projects on a case-by-case basis, typically for the following reasons: (1) project impacts to threatened and endangered species; (2) project impacts to aquatic habitat connectivity; (3) statewide multispecies connectivity analyses: For example, in southern California, they consult the South Coast Missing Linkages Project (created by the NGO South Coast Wildlands), which shows wildlife connectivity within the region and prioritizes linkages. In addition, they use the California Essential Habitat Connectivity Project, which also shows areas that are essential for wildlife connectivity throughout California. California also uses information from the Habitat Connectivity & Wildlife Corridor Overlay Zone and associated ordinances from Ventura County as well as the Los Angeles County Significant Ecological Areas Program. They also use data from wildlife movement studies conducted by the National Park Service. All information gathered from these various conservation plans is used when doing a biological analysis during the project identification phase and the natural environment study during the project approval and environmental document phase; (4) research project findings about animal movements; (5) known WVC hotspots; and (6) state initiatives focused on big game migration routes. Respondents from the following states replied âno,â their state does not incorporate wildlife connectivity assessment and mitigation needs early in the transportation project programming, planning, and design process: Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana. The survey sought to identify the relative experience that the respondents had in conducting wildlife connectivity mitigation and the type of framework or regulatory requirements they followed to implement such mitigation, and to elicit which types of wildlife connectivity and focal species groups (large carnivores, ungulates, small mammals, reptiles, and aquatic fauna) the respondents have experience with. Most survey respondents, over 91%, noted that they have already worked on wildlife connectivity mitigation projects. Just over one-quarter of the respondents, 25.2%, have worked on more than 10 projects, representing a cadre of seasoned experts in the survey (Figure 5).
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-7 Figure 5. Number of wildlife projects worked on by survey respondents. 1.2.3 Stakeholder Agreement(s) to Preserve or Enhance Wildlife Connectivity One rationale for incorporating wildlife connectivity considerations into transportation projects may be related to state DOT stakeholder agreements (see Figure 6). Furthermore, stakeholder agreements would be necessary for the development of wildlife connectivity mitigation crediting program. A total of 59.8% of survey respondents said that their state DOT had such agreements to preserve or enhance connectivity in, or adjacent to, their right-of-ways (ROWs). Stakeholder agreements to preserve or enhance wildlife connectivity included the following examples: â¢ Since 1980, CDOT has had a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife for managing wildlife within highway ROWs. This MOU is being updated in 2019 to focus on data sharing and interagency cooperation to improve highway design to benefit wildlife and habitat connectivity. Recently, to enhance habitat connectivity and reduce WVCs associated with the Interstate I-70 Mountain Corridor project, an interagency committee known as âA Landscape-Level Inventory of Valued Ecosystem Componentsâ (ALIVE)â was formed (CDOT et al. 2008). The ALIVE committee identified 13 areas potentially limiting wildlife migration (including elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and Canada lynx), referred to as linkage interference zones, and recommended mitigation actions that 8.4% 22.1% 29.8% 14.5% 25.2% 0.0% 5.0% 10.0% 15.0% 20.0% 25.0% 30.0% 35.0% None 1 to 2 3 to 5 6 to 10 Greater than 10
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-8 included enhancing existing or creating new wildlife crossing structures. An MOU between CDOT, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, USFWS, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and FHWA, signed in April 2008, details the responsibilities of each agency and outlines areas where wildlife connectivity should be preserved or enhanced. â¢ In Wyoming, a respondent described that âThere are MOUs with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on signing, and sometimes other mitigation tactics. Wyoming DOT is in the process of working with the stakeholders to allow the stakeholders to possibly perform some mitigation work.â â¢ In Idaho, a respondent referenced an MOU between the Idaho DOT and Idaho Department of Fish and Game for improved collaboration for reducing highway impacts on wildlife. Both agencies agree to share roadkill data, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will use roadkill data to map and prioritize wildlife crossings, linkages, and public safety concerns. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will also develop collaborative highway treatment plans and funding to reduce road kill, increase wildlife linkage/connectivity/corridors, and reduce hazards to drivers. Both parties will meet annually to discuss issues of mutual concern, including: (1) opportunities for wildlife crossing improvements and inclusion with current highway construction projects, and (2) evaluating joint funding sources for wildlife crossings. â¢ Caltrans has MOUs with various entities. Some are site-specific, while others cover a wider geographic area. â¢ VTrans has an Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to collaborate and enhance wildlife connectivity and habitat in regular projects whenever practicable. â¢ In Colorado, there are a few stakeholder agreements within the state, in particular one focused on its I-70 Mountain Corridor Project. This MOU, which includes multiple agencies, helps to include landscape-level planning for wildlife connectivity. â¢ Massachusetts DOT has Agreements with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife; Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and USACE. â¢ The Alaska DOT and Fish and Game have an MOU to âestablish a Wildlife Working Group as means for identifying cost-effective programmatic approaches affecting both wildlife safety and wildlife sustainabilityâ (State of Alaska 2013). 1.2.4 Regulatory Mechanisms for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation In addition to stakeholder agreements, there may be regulatory mechanisms that state DOTs must follow when they consider wildlife connectivity mitigation. A total of 62.3% of survey respondents responded yes when asked: "Are there any regulatory mechanisms in your state under which wildlife crossing structures or wildlife connectivity enhancements have been or could be required to mitigate for transportation-related impacts to wildlife connectivity?". When asked to describe such regulatory mechanisms, it was unanimous that state DOTs had to follow the requirements of the federal ESA and Clean Water Act. In addition, wildlife connectivity mitigation actions could be required under state statutes, including the California, Nebraska, and Massachusetts
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-9 ESAs, and the CEQA. Also, New Jersey has a Flood Hazard Control Act that was identified, as was New York's Adirondack Park Travel Corridors Unit Management Plan. When asked to identify potential regulatory triggers that could require wildlife connectivity mitigation in their state, the survey respondents' largest response was ESA compliance (41%), followed by highway safety (35%) (Figure 6). Figure 6. Response rates that identified potential regulatory triggers for wildlife crossing structures or other connectivity enhancements that could be required by their state. When respondents were asked to identify other regulatory triggers (Figure 6) that might require wildlife crossings or other connectivity mitigation, they suggested such things as the Clean Water Act, Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, municipal and regional long-term transportation plans, and Federal Land Management Agency resource management plans. For example, the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass Project, East Hyak to Easton, is located in an area recognized as a critical connective link to the north-south movement of species between relatively undeveloped U.S. Forest Service (USFS) land in the Cascade Range. This project setting led FHWA and Washington State DOT to include ecological connectivity as part of the projectâs purpose and need (online at: https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2019/03/06/chapter-1-eis-i-90-project.pdf [accessed June 20,2019]). The survey sought to identify the types of wildlife connectivity mitigation measures that were deployed as a result of following a regulatory framework. There was no clear favorite measure deployed as a result of regulations, although many of the responses were for structural mitigation measures (Figure 7). 35% 41% 22% 20% 15% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45% Roadway safety concerns Endangered Species Act compliance State wildlife regulations compliance Corridor planning Other
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-10 Figure 7. The types of wildlife connectivity mitigation respondents have experience in implementing under a regulatory framework. Figure 7 shows many other mitigation measures used as a result of regulations under the "other" category, such as: animal detection systems, cattle guards on private easements, culverts, bridges, fish passage, habitat management, removing fencing, fixing mitigation fencing, and landscaping for pollinators. Respondents were queried, based on their experience, which types of regulatory frameworks led to the implementation of wildlife crossing structures. The most cited law was the ESA, 23 times, and that was followed by requirements under NEPA, at 18 times (Figure 8). If they responded "other" they were asked to identify the regulatory framework. Responses to "other" included such laws, policies or regulations as 2014 Presidential Memorandum on Pollinators, Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, a Tribal MOA, and USFS plans. 41% 37% 42% 24% 29% 15% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45% New overpasses or underpasses Enhancements of existing structures Fencing Jump outs or lateral escape measures Public information and education, including signage Other
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-11 Figure 8. Identification of the regulatory framework by survey respondents that led to the implementation of wildlife crossing structures in their state. 1.2.5 Funding Sources for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation The survey sought to determine who funded wildlife connectivity mitigation projects and relatedly, who funded mitigation credits. Survey respondents identified that the most common sources of funding were federal (40%) and state DOT (38%) sources (Figure 9). The types of federal sources of funding identified by the respondents were a variety of FHWA programs, environmental agencies, USFWS, and USFS. State sources of funding included general funds, DOT funds, gas tax, ROW funds, trust funds, state planning and research funds and state legislatively allocated funds. Non-profit organizations were the third highest mentioned source of funding (15%) and respondents listed many different national to local wildlife, sporting, and conservation organizations. A total of 14% of the respondents identified state wildlife agencies as a funding source (Figure 9) and mentioned many different programs, depending on the state. 17% 25% 16% 18% 19% 14% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% Safety regulations Endangered Species Act compliance State wildlife regulations compliance Corridor planning NEPA FONSI/ROD Other
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-12 Figure 9. The sources of funding identified in the survey that pay for wildlife connectivity mitigation measures, such as wildlife crossing infrastructure. 1.2.6 Funding Sources for Mitigation Credits The primary sources of funding for mitigation credits (e.g., wetlands mitigation banking and conservation banking credits) were identified by survey participants; the two most often selected sources were federal, 14% and state DOTs, 12% (Figure 10). When asked to specify federal sources, most often it was the FHWA (FWHA) and environmental agencies. For the state DOTs, sources identified were the project's funds, general funds, and the State Transportation Improvement Program. One source for private funds that was mentioned several times was road infrastructure agency/concessionaire. Several respondents mentioned that their state does not yet have a program for credits. 38% 40% 14% 4% 15% 10% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45% Federal funding State DOT funding State wildlife agency funding State/regional wildlife trust funds Non-profit or private contributions/grants Other
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-13 Figure 10. Percent of the respondents to the survey who listed each category as a primary source of funding for wildlife connectivity mitigation credits. Many respondents suggested that the availability of funding for wildlife crossings often dictates the level of consideration for incorporating wildlife connectivity when planning transportation projects. 1.2.7 Focal Species for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation The survey sought to identify which groups of taxa were the focus of existing wildlife connectivity mitigation by state DOTs. The taxonomic groups in the survey were separated into large carnivores, ungulates (hoofed animals), small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and aquatic species. Respondents who did not know if their state had mitigation projects for each group varied between 27.5% for large carnivores (Figure 11) to 36.6% for amphibians (Figure 15). Respondents who noted that there were zero projects in their state for a particular taxonomic group ranged from a low of 10.8% for aquatic fauna (Figure 16) to a high of 36.6% for amphibians (Figure 15). Conversely, 33.8% of the respondents estimated their state had 10 or more wildlife connectivity mitigation projects for aquatic fauna (Figure 16); only 7.6% estimated they had 10 or more mitigation projects for amphibians (Figure 15). 14% 12% 2% 1% 2% 5% 0% 2% 4% 6% 8% 10% 12% 14% 16% Federal funding State DOT funding State wildlife agency funding State/regional wildlife trust funds Non-profit or private contributions/grants Other
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-14 Figure 11. Estimated number of large carnivore connectivity mitigation projects in respondent's state. Figure 12. Estimated number of ungulate (hoofed animals) connectivity mitigation projects in respondent's state. 27.5% 30.5% 22.1% 5.3% 5.3% 9.2% 0.0% 5.0% 10.0% 15.0% 20.0% 25.0% 30.0% 35.0% I donât know None 1 to 2 3 to 5 6 to 10 Greater than 10 Large carnivores 29.0% 13.0% 14.5% 16.8% 9.2% 17.6% 0.0% 5.0% 10.0% 15.0% 20.0% 25.0% 30.0% 35.0% I donât know None 1 to 2 3 to 5 6 to 10 Greater than 10 Ungulates
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-15 Figure 13. Estimated number of small mammals (smaller than a coyote) connectivity mitigation projects in respondent's state. Figure 14. Estimated number of large carnivore connectivity mitigation projects in respondent's state. 35.4% 27.7% 10.8% 8.5% 5.4% 12.3% 0.0% 5.0% 10.0% 15.0% 20.0% 25.0% 30.0% 35.0% 40.0% I donât know None 1 to 2 3 to 5 6 to 10 Greater than 10 Small mammals 31.3% 24.4% 17.6% 12.2% 3.8% 10.7% 0.0% 5.0% 10.0% 15.0% 20.0% 25.0% 30.0% 35.0% I donât know None 1 to 2 3 to 5 6 to 10 Greater than 10 Reptiles
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-16 Figure 15. Estimated number of amphibian connectivity mitigation projects in respondent's state. Figure 16. Estimated number of aquatic fauna connectivity mitigation projects in respondent's state. 36.6% 36.6% 14.5% 3.1% 1.5% 7.6% 0.0% 5.0% 10.0% 15.0% 20.0% 25.0% 30.0% 35.0% 40.0% I donât know None 1 to 2 3 to 5 6 to 10 Greater than 10 Amphibians 33.8% 10.8% 6.2% 13.1% 2.3% 33.8% 0.0% 5.0% 10.0% 15.0% 20.0% 25.0% 30.0% 35.0% 40.0% I donât know None 1 to 2 3 to 5 6 to 10 Greater than 10 Aquatic fauna
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-17 1.2.8 Availability of Mitigation Credits to Offset Wildlife Connectivity Impacts For the various taxonomic groups that were the focus of connectivity mitigation projects (Figures 11 thru Figure 16), respondents were asked if there were credits available in various banking programs to provide for the mitigation. The responses were overwhelmingly no (91.9%). The yes responses (8.9%) indicate few of the current wildlife connectivity mitigation projects that have occurred to date across the nation are part of mitigation banking programs. The respondents who answered yes were asked to recognize specific programs, and they identified such in-lieu fee programs for bats and Canada lynx and a mitigation bank for Florida panther. Each of these species are threatened or endangered under the ESA. 1.2.9 Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation Covered by Habitat Conservation Plans HCPs are required under the ESA for private entities seeking an application for an incidental take permit for projects that might result in the destruction of a threatened or endangered species. When asked whether connectivity impacts of a transportation project in their state were covered under a HCP, 75.7% responded no. Those that responded yes (24.3%) were asked for more specifics and they identified a variety of HCPs for various species such as desert tortoises, Karner blue butterfly and Florida panther. They also identified a variety of HCPs for different geographies such as San Diego County Multispecies HCP (CA), Clark County Multispecies HCP (NV) and Eastern Collier County Multiple Species HCP (FL). 1.2.10 Out-of-kind Mitigation to Offset Wildlife Connectivity Impacts Respondents were asked about the wildlife connectivity mitigation projects they worked on and whether the mitigation actions of that project were used to offset wildlife connectivity mitigation for other, separate transportation projects. Over 66% said no, 21.3 % responded they had not worked on mitigation connectivity projects and 12.3% responded yes (Figure 17). Figure 17. Responses to the question of whether wildlife connectivity mitigation from one transportation project the respondents worked on was used to offset wildlife connectivity mitigation needed for another separate transportation project.
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-18 The survey sought to identify whether wildlife connectivity mitigation projects were used for impacts to wildlife connectivity by the project itself (self-mitigation) or as mitigation for another transportation project's impacts to wildlife connectivity (out-of-kind mitigation) (Figure 18). Most survey participants responded yes (47.5%) meaning it was for either in- or out-of-kind mitigation. Fewer answered no (31.5%) and 21.3% indicated they hadnât worked on a mitigation project for wildlife connectivity. Figure 18. Response rates of survey participants when asked whether wildlife connectivity mitigation projects they worked on were used for impacts to wildlife connectivity by the project itself (in-kind mitigation) or for mitigation actions that were used for another transportation project's impacts to wildlife connectivity (out-of-kind mitigation). A variety of examples were given by participants who responded yes to self- or out-of-kind mitigation for wildlife connectivity. Self- mitigation actions included building crossing structures for fencing that reduced WVCs, building tunnels for small animals, constructing fences and crossings due to the highway's severance of habitat connectivity, building crossings to mitigate the highway's barrier effect on ungulates, carnivores, reptiles and a variety of other taxa. It also included expanding existing culverts to improve wildlife passage. In Nevada, a respondent suggested that â[a]ll of our large mammal projects have been to self-mitigate transportation projects and increase driver safety. Some were put in place because we included them within the NEPA documents, or done after the fact, due to safety concerns and partnerships with the wildlife agencies.â Examples of out-of-kind mitigation for wildlife connectivity were for culverts that were installed for wildlife that also allowed for fish passage to rectify past transportation projects' impacts on fish passage in Idaho, mitigation packages were developed for the loss of habitat for the San Joaquin kit fox in California, and mitigation credits were accumulated by Maryland DOT by participating in the Bloede
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-19 Dam removal. In Maryland, the credits were based, in part, on protected streams and streams opened up for fish spawning. 1.2.11 Permittee Required Mitigation for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation All of the survey participants were asked if they were "â¦aware of any recent, ongoing, or planned transportation projects that seek to mitigate wildlife connectivity impacts, through permittee-responsible mitigation, using a crediting process or valuation methodology?" Not all responded to this question, 34% indicated no and a mere 3% answered with a yes. One example given, was the California High Speed Rail Project that would need to address wildlife connectivity. For those answering yes, they were asked how credits were calculated. The calculations were based on compensatory stream mitigation credits in Wyoming when they removed a dam. Two other respondents indicated the UMAM was used for wetlands mitigation. 1.2.12 Advance Mitigation for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation Advance mitigation programs allow a state DOT to implement conservation actions that generate credits based on mitigation actions that provide ecological gain or environmental benefit to offset the predicted impacts of future transportation projects (e.g., see Caltransâ Advance Mitigation Program, online at: http://www.dot.ca.gov/env/advancemitigation/). When survey participants were asked if they had been involved in establishing advance mitigation in their state, 10.9% checked yes. The respondents were from California, Colorado, and Florida. Survey respondents described Caltransâ Advance Mitigation Program, which allows for wildlife crossing structures to qualify as enhancement actions that can generate mitigation credits when a Resource Conservation Investment Strategy (RCIS) has been developed per Fish and Game Code Â§Â§ 1850 â 1861. The CDFW suggested that California can also potentially use a RCIS to evaluate habitat connectivity for focal species and identify wildlife linkages where wildlife connectivity could be maintained or enhanced. 1.2.13 In-lieu Fee Programs for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation In-lieu fee programs allow DOTs to set aside funding for offsite mitigation, which for certain focal species, included funding for wildlife crossing projects. Thus, the method used to calculate the amount of contribution required for a given transportation project could provide insight into potential methods used to generate mitigation credits for wildlife crossings. To understand how in-lieu programs have been used to address wildlife connectivity, survey participants were asked if their state had any in-lieu fee mitigation programs that could provide for wildlife crossings or other enhancements. A total of 5% of the respondents said yes. The only reported in-lieu fee program that addresses wildlife connectivity is for Canada lynx in western Colorado, administered by CDOT. Other in-lieu fee programs mentioned by survey participants would not likely be used for wildlife connectivity mitigation, including Vermont's program managed by Ducks Unlimited for wetlands to upland habitats and a Range-wide Indiana Bat In- lieu Fee Program Instrument. New Jersey is making its new in-lieu fee program operational, so had nothing to report at the time of the survey. 1.2.14 Quantitative Methods to Evaluate Improved Permeability from Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation Actions The survey sought to determine the frequency that quantitative methods were used to determine the location and effectiveness of wildlife connectivity mitigation actions. When survey participants were asked if the projects that they worked on were located due to quantitative methods, over 43% responded yes, 37.8% no, and the remaining 18.9% hadn't worked on wildlife connectivity mitigation projects (Figure 19).
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-20 Figure 19. Responses to the question, "for the wildlife connectivity mitigation projects you worked on, was the enhancement to improve permeability at a particular location determined quantitatively?â Those who indicated that they did use quantitative methods to determine wildlife connectivity mitigation locations used the following data: accident data and analyses, research project or study results in the area of the project, wildlife telemetry data, wildlife monitoring data, wildlife tracking data, pitfall traps, and camera trap photos. The types of data analyses that were used included GIS models, Brownian bridge models using GPS data for ungulates, roadkill surveys, and habitat evaluations. 1.2.15 Level of Interest in Generating Mitigation Credits from Wildlife Connectivity Projects Survey participants were asked if their state provided opportunities to generate credits for wildlife connectivity projects, would they employ that option. Nearly half, 42%, responded yes, 52% chose "maybe," while 6% selected no (Figure 20). For those answering yes, they gave a variety of reasons for why they would use an option to generate mitigation credits for wildlife connectivity projects if their state had such opportunities. Some were due to the benefits and incentives mitigation credits would provide for DOTs, wildlife populations, and society in general. Several respondents surmised that credit programs would create financial incentives for state DOTs to fund mitigation actions, provide flexibility on the best mitigation location, so it did not need to be in the existing transportation project's footprint, allow for the restoration of lost connectivity and would be useful for situations where providing mitigation is cost prohibitive. Several respondents said their state was actively exploring or developing such a mitigation program.
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-21 Figure 20. Responses to whether the survey participant would employ an opportunity to generate mitigation credits from wildlife connectivity projects if their state had the option. For the 9.3% who responded no (Figure 20), their rationale for not employing a mitigation option for wildlife connectivity was that it was not a realistic or practical tool; their state only had very localized needs for wildlife connectivity mitigation; or that, since there were no regulations requiring connectivity, a banking program, like what is used for wetlands, would not be needed for wildlife connectivity. 1.2.16 Methods and Protocols to Calculate Mitigation Credits Over 12% of survey participants responded yes when they were asked if they had used methods or protocols to determine mitigation credits or values. Of those responding yes, when asked to specify the methods or protocols that they used, responses included: â¢ "At the Sacramento Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service it was simply a ratio, typically 3:1, to offset the total habitat area impacted per species." â¢ Another respondent stated that they negotiated credits without using any established methods or protocols. â¢ Other methods cited were: cost-benefit analysis, wetland mitigation valuation method, or an acre- to-acre ratio (for Preble's meadow mouse habitat). For the 87.5% of respondents that said no, they did not use methods or protocols to determine mitigation credits or values, they gave a variety of reasons for not doing so. The most often cited rationale was that there was an absence of a mechanism to assess or apply credits. Others mentioned that wildlife connectivity mitigation was a relatively new concept, and others stated there was no need to use credits to offset impacts. One respondent mentioned that there was no agency authorized to recognize such credits or values. Another indicated that it was difficult to give wildlife connectivity a quantitative value. For the 5% of survey participants who said their state had in-lieu fee mitigation programs, they were asked how the credit requirements were calculated. Responses varied from credits are based on the mitigation that would have occurred on the transportation project's site, to credits based on the number of
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-22 acres of habitat the project impacted, to a sliding scale of construction costs based on the project's impacts to a threatened species. One response indicated costs for in-lieu program fees are 1:1. Another response stated that, if on-site mitigation is impractical or unachievable, a fee of 20% of the project is assessed that goes into the in-lieu program's coffers. Another explanation was that the costs per credit are spelled out in the Indiana bat range-wide in-lieu fee program. Survey participants were asked if they used any methods or protocols to determine mitigation credits or values for transportation projects with impacts on wildlife connectivity. Over 87% of the responses stated that they did not use methods or protocols, and only 12.5% indicated that they did. Of those that replied yes, one person cited that they converted their mitigation credits into USACE wetland mitigation values. Another respondent stated they conducted a cost-benefit analysis, and another said for transportation projects that impact the endangered Preble's meadow jumping mouse, acre-to-acre ratios were used, based on whether habitat was temporarily or permanently impacted. Lastly, one respondent indicated that they negotiate credit values based on many different factors. The following transportation projects were mentioned by participants in the survey as either developing valuation or crediting metrics or could be instructive to such efforts: â¢ Caltrans, Laurel Curve Project â¢ Washington State DOT, I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project in Washington â¢ Florida DOT, State Route 40 Corridor; Valuing wildlife crossings: generating mitigation credit for the inclusion of wildlife crossings. Survey results show that the development of crediting and valuation systems for wildlife crossings is in the early stages in less than a handful of states. However, there is keen interest in the development of mitigation crediting or banking systems for wildlife connectivity. Under current practice, only 12% of the respondents stated that they used mitigation on one project for use on another project (see Figure 17). However, more than half of the respondents to the survey indicated that, if their state provided the option to have a credit system for wildlife connectivity mitigation, they would take advantage of such a system (see Figure 20). Survey respondents indicated that there are several states exploring the valuation or crediting of wildlife connectivity mitigation. Most are in the early development or exploration stages such as the Transportation Sub-team of the Panther Recovery Implementation Team in Florida. California's wildlife and transportation agencies are piloting a wildlife connectivity mitigation credit approach and have signed a credit agreement on the first pilot project, the Laurel Curve Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Project on Highway 17 in Santa Cruz County (Keeley et al. 2018) (See press release online at: https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/state-agencies-pilot-wildlife-crossing-mitigation-credit- system/).
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-23 2.0 FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS WITH KEY PRACTITIONERS For further insight into mitigation programs related to wildlife crossings and other enhancements, follow- up interviews were conducted with survey respondents that had extensive experience with wildlife connectivity mitigation programs within their state, which included Arizona, California, Colorado, and Florida. Interviewees included: â¢ 8 state DOT planners or environmental managers â¢ 4 wildlife biologists at state natural resource agencies â¢ 1 federal transportation agency Wildlife connectivity mitigation projects pose unique challenges, such as a need for collaboration across agencies and jurisdictional boundaries, as well as the coordination of funding schedules and stakeholder objectives. Tailoring a mitigation crediting program to value wildlife crossings and other connectivity enhancements would address these challenges, but interviews with experienced practitioners revealed additional obstacles to overcome. 2.2.1 Legal, Planning, and Policy Framework for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation In general, the lack of regulatory requirements and processes requiring compensatory mitigation can be an impediment to the construction of needed wildlife crossings and other enhancements, except for instances where threatened and endangered species are affected or where wildlife connectivity is specified in the Purpose and Need of a NEPA analysis (Colorado Parks and Wildlife pers. comm. 2019). A survey respondent from the Idaho DOT (Idaho DOT pers. comm. 2019) said: âNo coherent DOT policy or valuation of wildlife passage has been articulated by Idaho DOT leadership. Few of our long-range transportation plans incorporate wildlife passage as priorities for future action, barring compliance with federal land owners where we have road easements. Internal efforts have led to the production of a (now dated) prioritization plan for reducing WVCs as well as a recent MOU between Idaho DOT and Idaho Department of Fish and Game to coordinate on data sharing, collaboration, roadkill management but different districts have different views on what it means. So, there is spotty planning/implementation (lots of retrofits into other highway projects) toward a comprehensive treatment to provide wildlife passage across our transportation network.â Furthermore, because of the lack of regulatory requirements, public advocacy and conservation-focused NGOs have been a major motivating factor contributing to the construction of several wildlife crossing projects (Caltrans pers. comm. 2019, Arizona Game and Fish Department pers. comm. 2019). In some cases, citizen groups have formed specifically to advance the need for increased wildlife connectivity. Extending mitigation crediting programs to include wildlife connectivity projects requires a move away from piecemeal, project-by-project mitigation approaches towards a collaborative approach for achieving species conservation. Although institutional challenges remain for creating a regional ecosystem framework that aligns state DOT goals and objectives with those of other resource agencies, numerous state DOTs have effectively coordinated with their respective state natural resource agencies to identify and prioritize landscape linkages or wildlife corridors. For example, a multi-agency MOU was developed by CDOT and other agencies (CDOT et al. 2008) for the I-70 Mountain Corridor programmatic environmental impact statement, which outlines shared vision for enhanced wildlife connectivity and reduced WVCs. An interagency committee (ALIVE) was formed and 13 areas were identified as potentially limiting wildlife migration (including elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and Canada lynx), referred to as linkage interference zones, and recommended mitigation actions that included enhancing
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-24 existing or creating new wildlife crossing structures. Collaborative approaches such as this were widely supported by practitioners interviewed, although it was apparent that some state DOTs have better working relationships with USFWS and their state natural resource agencies. Sciara et al. (2017) described how an Advance Mitigation Program could produce overall cost savings to state DOTs, largely due to reduced permitting delays and improved coordination and consultation with regulatory agencies. Current approaches to wildlife connectivity mitigation are not very effective or efficient because funding is often not available upfront, and wildlife crossing structures and other connectivity enhancements are often constructed only as funding becomes available. For example, the NEPA analysis for a 16.2-mile highway project in Colorado included 19 âmulti-useâ wildlife underpasses for deer and elk, but since signing the project Record of Decision in 2006, only one crossing has been constructed (Colorado Parks and Wildlife pers. comm. 2019). Using an Advance Mitigation Program would provide greater opportunity for state DOTs to implement wildlife connectivity mitigation projects. A practitioner with CDFW (pers. comm. 2019) highlighted three advantages of advance mitigation under its newly created RCIS program: (1) it would provide a cheaper and faster mitigation crediting process than traditional mitigation because approval is only required by one agency (CDFW); (2) it would allow for greater flexibility in terms of types of credits generated and methods use to quantify them; and (3) it would allow for temporary mitigation actions, such as non-permanent habitat enhancements, to quality as eligible for mitigation credits. Wildlife crossings and other connectivity enhancements associated with transportation projects are usually justified by evidence documenting adverse effects of highways to populations of sensitive species. Because the regulatory framework for required mitigation differs depending on species status (e.g., federal or state threatened or endangered listing), the long-term application (i.e., demand) for mitigation credits could change in instances where the connectivity mitigation focus is on individual species. For example, the Platt Branch Wildlife and Environmental Area in Florida was acquired using funds paid by developers through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Mitigation Park Program (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 2017), but several of the species are no longer listed by the state (FDOT pers. comm. 2019). Changes to species status could affect future project prioritization and funding. However, the Florida black bear was removed from Floridaâs Endangered and Threatened Species List in 2012, but FDOT has still proposed wildlife crossings for their benefit (Stantec 2019). State DOTs may have concerns about encumbrances that may arise after construction of mitigation projects within the ROW, which could occur during highway expansion or other highway modifications. To address this concern with respect to wetland mitigation banking, the banking instrument typically includes language such as this: âIf protected compensatory mitigation property is taken in whole or in part through eminent domain, the consequential loss in the value of the property protected by the USACEâs regulatory program is the cost of the replacement of the conservation functions, service and values of the aquatic and terrestrial resources on the compensatory mitigation propertyâ (Wood and Martin 2016). Likewise, issues with wildlife crossings and other connectivity enhancements within the ROW could arise if there was a need to replace or repair structures due to reduced function. Although federal funds often largely pay for the construction of wildlife crossing structures, state DOTs bear the cost burden of maintenance (ARC Solutions 2017). Mitigation structures must be maintained and repaired to ensure their continued use and effectiveness (Cramer and Bissonette 2005). Imposing such requirements for the maintenance of wildlife connectivity mitigation projects was noted as a legal concern by a practitioner at FDOT (FDOT pers. comm. 2019). However, a California practitioner suggested that, because the mitigation would be within the ROW, it would be easier for Caltrans to uphold maintenance requirements when compared to other offsite mitigation projects (Caltrans pers. comm. 2019).
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-25 2.2.2 Valuation Metrics for Wildlife Connectivity Mitigation Methods to quantify mitigation credits for a given wildlife connectivity mitigation project are not well developed. Only California has generated credits for a single wildlife crossing âpilotâ project, and the credits were calculated based on structural, or condition-based, metrics. Although other function-based or model-based metrics could have been used, Caltrans used a simple condition-based metric to calculate the number of mitigation credits generated; the method used was inexpensive to calculate, and is straightforward and repeatable. Bennett et al. (2017) recommend that credits for mitigation markets incorporate measures of ecological function and biodiversity. State DOT practitioners in California and Colorado generally agreed that other metrics could have been used that would better relate to the ecological gain from the project but were not used because of several obstacles identified through this research (Caltrans pers. comm. 2019, CDFW pers. comm. 2019). The input datasets and metrics used for various statewide or regional analyses of wildlife connectivity, as presented in the literature review, provide many potential metrics for calculating the ecological gain from a wildlife crossing or other enhancements. Analyses such as these are an essential first step for state DOTs to develop a program to value wildlife connectivity mitigation. However, to date, there are few metrics for which states may have adequate data to calculate function-based metrics related to wildlife enhancements. In particular, high-precision data exist from numerous studies of big game within the western United States, and most states maintain WVC data. However, a practitioner in Colorado suggested that, even with a large number of GPS collar data from numerous big game studies, the lack of comprehensive data from certain herds, including migration routes and seasonal habitat use, would be an obstacle to developing a metric that quantifies the ecological gain from a wildlife crossing structure (Colorado Parks and Wildlife pers. comm. 2019). This is in spite of the fact that big game are among the most easily monitored wildlife due to their large size and visibility. The lack of data about other, more elusive focal species could be an even greater obstacle to developing mitigation credits for a wildlife connectivity mitigation project. For example, in Colorado, a CDOT practitioner suggested that, for low-density, wide-ranging focal species such as Canada lynx, it would be difficult to quantify mitigation credits for a wildlife connectivity project because the degree of benefit to Canada lynx (gain) would be difficult to measure. Although Canada lynx have been documented crossing at-grade over Colorado highways on numerous occasions, CDOT has not documented the speciesâ use of existing wildlife connectivity mitigation projects in the state (CDOT pers. comm. 2019). Video surveillance (Dodd et al. 2007) or noninvasive genetic sampling (Clevenger and Sawaya 2009, Dixon et al. 2006), potentially combined with spatial capture-recapture models (Royle et al. 2017), could quantify increased habitat connectivity provided by wildlife crossing structures; however, these methods are not certain to be effective for Canada lynx. Furthermore, although the highway crossing behavior of Canada lynx has been studied in Colorado (Crooks et al. 2008, Baigas et al. 2016), the effects of various types of highway structures on Canada lynx are unknown and would be difficult to quantify in terms of mitigation credit debits. Lastly, another obstacle encountered could be that many data sets consist of observations and expert opinions gathered over decades and may not necessarily reflect current conditions because new development or other human impacts occur rapidly and could have altered the movements of focal species (Colorado Parks and Wildlife pers. comm. 2018). Generally, planners and environmental managers at state DOTs support the use of ecological metrics (i.e., function-based metrics) for calculating the value of mitigation credits for wildlife crossings and other connectivity enhancements and associated debits for the impacts of transportation projects. Function- based metrics used to quantify credits would be based upon the estimated increase in wildlife connectivity that results from successful project implementation. To quantify increased wildlife connectivity, a potential metric would enumerate the number of individual wildlife, by species, identified to use the
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-26 crossing structures. Several well-placed motion-sensitive camera traps can be placed at each crossing structure to measure its use by large-to-medium and even small body-sized mammals. These numbers can be compared to pre-construction numbers as measured by camera traps and/or track beds built along the edge of the highway at the mitigation site. Another function-based metric could be the amount of roadkill reduced by the wildlife crossing. To calculate this metric, roadkill surveys would be necessary. Such surveys are often used to quantify wildlife mitigation needs (Costa et al. 2015) and state DOTs often have monitoring programs in place or have partnered with state natural resource agencies and/or universities to study roadkill. However, in some cases, due to very high traffic volumes, roadkill hotspots do not effectively indicate locations where wildlife connectivity mitigation is needed (Eberhardt and Fahrig 2013). Mitigation credits could be quantified for wildlife connectivity mitigation by calculating an improvement in motorist safety via a measured reduction in WVCs. Reduction in WVCs is one common metric used in the literature to value wildlife crossings and was suggested by practitioners for quantifying improved motorist safety. A California practitioner highlighted the value of roadkill data collection for identifying areas where mitigation credit values should be highest for wildlife crossings and other connectivity enhancements that maintain or restore genetic connectivity for desert bighorn sheep (CDFW pers. comm. 2019). Because many state DOTs have existing programs for collecting data about WVCs, in certain situations, this metric could be among the most straightforward metrics available to calculate mitigation credits for wildlife connectivity projects. In California, Shilling et al. (2018) evaluated WVCs and identified stretches of highway where WVC are most likely. They reported five recommendations that would apply to state DOTs seeking to apply mitigation credits for wildlife crossings that use a motorist safety metric as part of the credit calculation: (1) systematically collect and share WVC data; (2) require collection and analysis of WVC data for transportation projects before they are approved and funded; (3) protect driver safety and wildlife by building WVC-reduction projects; (4) form new partnerships among university and NGO scientists, citizen groups, and local agencies interested in reducing WVC impacts; and (5) systematically evaluate effectiveness of WVC reduction to keep improving. Whatever methodology is used to calculate mitigation credits for wildlife connectivity mitigation, the practitioners interviewed generally agreed that there should be consistent quantification of both debits (impacts) and credits (benefits). Ideally, the metrics used to calculate wildlife connectivity mitigation credits should be based on the focal speciesâ biology, would be easy to measure, and include communication among stakeholders. Because different species have widely variable life histories, habitat requirements, and dispersal abilities, there are inherent difficulties to accommodating the needs of multiple species (Mimet et al. 2016); quantifying mitigation credits for multiple focal species would prove equally challenging. When asked about the metrics potentially used to value mitigation credits, in general, most practitioners interviewed responded that âit would depend on the species.â Also, when asked if the calculation of mitigation credits for wildlife connectivity projects should be based on metrics for single or multiple species, practitioners responded that only single species metrics seem feasible. Highly mobile species requiring large habitat area are the most sensitive to highways (Mimet et al. 2016), which would also include the large mammals that are economically valuable for recreation and/or more costly in terms of vehicle damage and human injuries due to WVCs. Thus, metrics used to quantify the value of wildlife connectivity mitigation would be most likely based upon populations of large-ranging mammals. Furthermore, the context of the surrounding ecosystems differs greatly among wildlife crossing structures, so mitigation credit agreements and metrics could differ widely among projects. State guidelines for the development of mitigation credit agreements could suggest types of metrics recommended based on previous analysis and available types of datasets. However, every mitigation credit agreement would differ, and it would likely be necessary to negotiate mitigation credit agreements
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-27 for wildlife crossings and other connectivity enhancements on a case-by-case basis, which is the current approach taken by CDFW (pers. comm. 2019). Developing a standardized currency for wildlife connectivity mitigation credits is difficult because the metrics used to quantify wildlife connectivity differ among species. For this reason, wildlife crossing structures and other connectivity enhancements are generally designed to enhance connectivity for a small number of focal species known to be adversely impacted by the lack of permeability at that site. For some focal species, it would be reasonable to define a single metric, or set of metrics, that could be used to quantify the value of wildlife connectivity mitigation for that particular species, in that particular landscape in terms of population abundance, animal movement (e.g., GPS-collared animals), roadside habitat quantity and quality, or/and genetic diversity. Also, for some focal species, researchers have developed models that could inform credit valuation for wildlife crossing connectivity mitigation, which could include distribution models, animal movement models, and habitat-based population viability models. Confidence in the application of models to the valuation of wildlife connectivity mitigation will be greatest if they have been validated to assess their predictive power on other road sections in similar landscapes (Gunson et al. 2011). The valuation of wildlife connectivity mitigation explored by this research is improved when empirical biological data exists for each target species on a road-by-road basis in order to identify the most cost- effective decisions. Decision makers need information on the ecological importance of each linkage area and ways to identify the most important linkages. Typically, a suite of focal species and associated habitats are identified that have the greatest need for enhanced connectivity. When cost is not a consideration, developing a crediting system for wildlife connectivity mitigation actions would require a robust analysis of focal species' habitat and movement patterns, including migration corridors, breeding sites, and seasonal ranges, and how they are impacted by transportation infrastructure. CDFW (pers. comm. 2019) suggested that they anticipate that future mitigation credit agreements for wildlife crossings or other connectivity enhancements will consider these factors to quantify ecological gain, such as improved access to breeding sites or improved gene flow. Statewide prioritization of wildlife crossings, or regional prioritization in large states such as California, would be a necessary first step to developing a mitigation credit program for big game wildlife crossings or other enhancements. However, some statewide analyses have identified large numbers of unprioritized corridors, such as 232 corridors in California (Penrod et al. 2001) and 150 corridors in Arizona (Nordhaugen 2006). Although such analyses may be biologically accurate in terms of threats to connectivity, transportation planners need more detailed information on the ecological importance of each linkage area, and some way to identify the most important linkages. To address this issue, several collaborative projects have prioritized wildlife connectivity mitigation by considering collision risk to big game and motorist safety, such as those in Idaho (Cramer et al. 2014) and Colorado (Kintsch et al. 2019). In California, the RCIS program developed by CDFW would provide finer scale details about the species and habitats associated with each linkage in the context of regional conservation priorities. Because there is no existing mitigation program of its kind in the United States, CDFWâs RCIS program has a flexible framework that allows for project proponents to propose the metrics used to calculate mitigation credits (CDFW pers. comm. 2018). Once stakeholders agree about the metrics used to calculate mitigation credits for a wildlife connectivity mitigation project, there could be uncertainty about the accuracy of protocols to quantify credits. However, wildlife connectivity mitigation is a collaborative effort between individuals with expertise in both ecology and transportation infrastructure, so the best available science and local knowledge would be used to develop mitigation credit agreements. Furthermore, each mitigation credit agreement in
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-28 California would be subject to public comment, which would provide another level of scrutiny of the protocols used (CDFW pers. comm. 2018). Before creating a system for wildlife connectivity mitigation banking, demand for such mitigation must be assessed. In the Results from a Survey of Conservation Banking Sponsors and Managers, DOI (2018b) found that one of the most substantial obstacles for conservation banking is that demand for bank credits is often weak or poorly understood. Therefore, as part of its Advance Mitigation Program, Caltrans is performing a statewide advance mitigation needs assessment that will quantify the demand and estimate the potential impacts of future planned transportation projects. Impacts are estimated by overlaying transportation project footprints with natural resource data layers and will be used to determine regions for regions for conceptualizing advance mitigation projects. Once the statewide needs assessment is completed, Caltrans will develop regional advance mitigation assessments within the identified regions, identify conservation goals and objectives, identify conservation plans and recovery plans for focal species, and identify existing mitigation opportunities (Caltrans pers. comm. 2019). Credit issuance under conservation banks approved by USFWS must use the same system (i.e., metrics) to quantify both the biological values of mitigation sites and the adverse impacts of the development for which the credits will be used as mitigation (DOI 2013). In some instances, mitigation ratios are used to ensure that mitigation is proportionate to the impact being offset. For example, if a transportation project will affect the movement of an estimated number of migratory mule deer, then the wildlife crossing or other connectivity enhancement used for mitigation should provide benefits to a greater number of mule deer. USFWS (2003) notes that the use of mitigation ratios must be based on sound biological rationale that is easily explained, readily understood, and consistently applied. Establishing equivalency between project impacts and mitigation credits is generally straightforward for conservation banks, where metrics are easily quantifiable such as acres of habitat or the number of breeding pairs of a species. However, for wildlife connectivity mitigation, this approach is less straightforward. Practitioners interviewed from California, Colorado, and Florida did not have experience using any metrics that could be evaluated for equivalency between the ecological gain from a wildlife crossing or other connectivity enhancement and the ecological loss from a transportation project. 2.2.3 Monitoring and Performance Requirements As with other forms of compensatory mitigation, it is essential to monitor the effectiveness of wildlife connectivity mitigation projects to ensure they meet their objectives of reduced impacts on wildlife, increased highway crossings via mitigation structures, or improved motorist safety. Monitoring would verify if the ecological gain from a wildlife crossing or other enhancement adequately offsets impacts from other transportation projects. In wetland mitigation banks and conservation banks for threatened and endangered species, such performance standards or release criteria are typically required to be met before credits can be sold. However, for wildlife connectivity mitigation, the lack of standard procedures and criteria for monitoring performance standards could be an obstacle to implementing a mitigation crediting program. Standard monitoring protocols would need to be developed that are cost-effective to implement and able to conclusively measure performance standards for focal species. Although most wildlife crossing structures in the United States are monitored to evaluate their effectiveness at providing wildlife passage, according to practitioners surveyed, few projects have had clearly defined success criteria other than documenting their use by wildlife. One of the most straightforward metrics used to evaluate the effectiveness of a wildlife connectivity mitigation project would be to measure increased driver safety via the number of reduced WVCs after implementation. To quantify WVCs, most state DOTs have data-collection protocols in place. In Colorado, CDOT has standard operating procedures for collecting data about all accidents involving
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-29 wildlife from the Colorado State Patrol (CDOT pers. comm. 2019). In Arizona, WVC data are collected via a smartphone application, Survey123 for ArcGIS, which is shared among state agency staff (AGFD pers. comm. 2019). A similar smartphone application is used by the South Dakota DOT to collect and store WVC data (Cramer 2017). Also, perhaps more than any other impact of highways on wildlife, roadkill is clearly quantifiable and has been very well documented, so roadkill surveys could be used to monitor the effectiveness of a wildlife connectivity mitigation project. Colorado has standard operating protocols for collecting carcass information anytime CDOT staff handles roadkill or wildlife injured by a vehicle (CDOT pers. comm. 2019). Utah collects similar data and publishes it online (https://mapserv.utah.gov/wvc/desktop/). However, there are no standardized road survey protocols and only a handful of studies have sought to identify the optimal sampling approach needed for roadkill surveys of different taxa (Bager and Rosa 2011, Ford et al. 2011, Costa et al. 2015). Furthermore, several biological considerations must be considered if roadkill is used as a metric for evaluating the effectiveness of wildlife connectivity mitigation, such as the relationship between roadkill and surrounding wildlife population abundance, and the road avoidance behavior of some species in response to traffic volume (i.e., roadkill rates decrease as traffic volume increases because animals are less likely to cross the road) (Teixeira et al. 2017). For most function-based metrics that could be used to quantify credits for a wildlife connectivity mitigation project, it would be necessary to monitor animal through-passage of a wildlife crossing structure or other enhancement. If the release of mitigation credits depended upon such a performance standard, a Colorado practitioner suggested that a standard monitoring approach would be necessary to evaluate whether it is effective at providing the promised levels of through-passage to focal species (CDOT pers. comm. 2019). Although most wildlife crossings built in the U.S. have been monitored via remote cameras to verify their usage by focal species (e.g., Cramer and Hamlin 2016), standard protocols are not typically used (Caltrans pers. comm. 2019; FDOT pers. comm. 2019). In a review of the state of the practice over a decade ago, Cramer and Bissonette (2005) found that a limited number of the 460 terrestrial wildlife crossing structures in the U.S. were monitored for effectiveness. Texas DOT has created several ocelot crossings in recent years, but few have been monitored long-term, so no standard guidelines for ocelot crossings have been developed or validated (USFWS 2015b). Currently, only a few states have developed standardized methods for wildlife crossing structure monitoring, including Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Utah (Kintsch and Cramer 2016). The scope of most monitoring elsewhere is typically narrow, focusing primarily on larger carnivores and ungulate, and almost exclusively on use of the structures. In Colorado, few practitioners have followed standardized protocols and only some have documented the presence of focal species (Kintsch and Cramer 2016, CDOT pers. comm. 2019.). For other enhancements, such as fence construction or removal, retrofits to existing structures (e.g., culverts), or jump outs, the lack of standard monitoring protocols would make the establishment of a performance standard and credit release schedule even more difficult. Another consideration for the metrics is the duration of required monitoring. CDFW (pers. comm. 2019) suggested that, under the RCIS program, future mitigation credit agreements for wildlife connectivity mitigation would likely include short-term monitoring to evaluate performance standards (i.e., credit release), and long-term monitoring and maintenance to ensure continued effectiveness. The monitoring specified in a mitigation credit agreement would be determined by the metric used to quantify credits and the biology of the focal species and should consider any available past research. For example, monitoring studies of wildlife crossing structures and other connectivity enhancements have shown that, in general, wildlife use increases slowly over time, over as many as 10 years and varies by species. Thus, for some species, short-term monitoring for less than this duration may mislead stakeholders about the ultimate effectiveness (i.e., ecological gain) of a wildlife connectivity mitigation project (Huijser et al. 2008).
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-30 In summary, although state DOTs have existing WVC and roadkill data-collection programs that could be used to calculate mitigation credits and monitor wildlife connectivity mitigation, the use of such data would depend on the focal species and may not be applicable to many taxa. These metrics could reasonably be used under certain situations to value wildlife crossings and other connectivity enhancements for big game, especially when used in combination with GPS collar data. Also, for many focal species, developing cost-effective performance standards for credit release would present an obstacle that would need to be overcome before mitigation credits could be generated, which would likely be determined on a project-by-project basis via mitigation credit agreements. 2.2.4 Funding Mechanisms and Program Costs Lack of available funding is the greatest obstacle to deploying wildlife crossings and other connectivity enhancements associated with transportation projects (Kociolek 2014, Ament et al. 2015). As noted through the interviews, wildlife connectivity mitigation is typically funded on a case-by-case, project-by- project basis as part of a larger transportation improvement project. Furthermore, transportation project timelines vary greatly, potentially causing a planned wildlife connectivity mitigation project to be misaligned with funding sources, such that mitigation opportunities could be missed. The IEF provides a useful approach for funding wildlife connectivity projects via mitigation credits under an Advance Mitigation Program, which would serve to address many predictable adverse impacts to wildlife resulting from future transportation projects. After project-specific avoidance and minimization measures are taken, unavoidable impacts could be offset by purchasing credits from out-of-kind wildlife crossings and other connectivity enhancements. Effective wildlife connectivity mitigation along highways is expensive: recently constructed wildlife structures in Colorado cost about $300,000 to $2,950,000, with associated fencing ranging from $200,000 to $1,050,000 (Kintsch et al. 2019). Because of this high expense, state DOTs do not generally have dedicated funding for wildlife connectivity mitigation projects. Projects are usually constructed based upon opportunity, either to mitigate a proposed transportation project or where strong public interest exists for conserving economically valuable species (e.g., big game). Practitioners consistently pointed to the lack of funding as one of greatest obstacles to constructing wildlife crossings and other connectivity enhancements. To complete wildlife crossing projects, multi-stakeholder partnerships are thus often necessary to leverage funding. Nevada DOTâs (2018) Prioritization of Wildlife-Vehicle Conflict in Nevada, in chapter 7, provides an excellent overview of funding resources for wildlife connectivity mitigation, including the available federal programs and other potential funding from local governments, non-profit organizations, and citizen initiatives. Lack of funding for wildlife crossings and other connectivity enhancements is largely because the funding of transportation projects gives priority to motorist safety over impacts to wildlife. The cost of WVCs, in terms of motorist death and injury, are usually less than the costs from other factors contributing to hazardous highway conditions. Therefore, although highway segments with elevated WVCs are high- priority mitigation areas in terms of motorist safety, other highways with more frequent motorist injury or fatality are often a higher priority to state DOTs. Under most existing state DOT funding programs, wildlife connectivity mitigation projects must compete with other highway safety projects and often do not receive funding because they would provide less benefit in terms of motorist safety. Their benefits to focal species are currently not considered (CDOT pers. comm. 2019). The in-lieu fee program to fund highway mitigation for Canada lynx in Colorado (FHWA et al. 2015) has not been used for any CDOT projects, so the account balance is $0. When asked why, a CDOT practitioner stated that transportation project managers in the state have found methods to implement on- site avoidance and minimization for projects so that fee payments have not been necessary. From one
Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits A-31 standpoint, the program has thus been successful because it has motivated transportation project managers to find ways to avoid an adverse determination of effects to Canada lynx (CDOT pers. comm. 2019). However, the lack of funding was not the programâs intent. A downside of the in-lieu fee program highlighted by CDOT practitioners was that project managers do not prefer to contribute limited project funding to an offsite mitigation account but would rather see those funds spent on their own project(s). If money was taken from state transportation funding before it was allocated to regions or to specific projects, transportation engineers and project managers would not view the Canada lynx in-lieu fee program as a potential financial burden and would be more willing to use it (CDOT pers. comm. 2019). Other practitioners also suggested that one of the major advantages of developing a wildlife connectivity mitigation crediting program would be the creation of a dedicated funding source for wildlife crossings and other connectivity enhancements. However, establishing a sustainable statewide funding source for wildlife connectivity mitigation could be a significant hurdle to overcome in many states. In California, Thorne et al. (2015b) suggested that, for advance mitigation funding, mandating that a percentage of all transportation project funding be committed to compensatory mitigation would provide Caltrans with funding to purchase mitigation credits before transportation projects have been programmed. Thorne et al. (2015b) further caution that advance mitigation funding should not be reliant on funding sources that could expire. An alternative recommendation to advance mitigation could be to develop a state-sponsored in-lieu fee program for funding wildlife mitigation, which could include wildlife connectivity.