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Environmental Review Toolkit
Step 2: Characterize resource status and integrate natural environmental plans
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The goals of Step 2 are:

  1. Compile the existing available data and plans into a refined map that identifies locations of all resources of interest and areas for conservation and mitigation action.
  2. Understand historical/long-term trends, priorities, and concerns related to aquatic and terrestrial species and habitats in the region.
  3. Identify data gaps that need to be addressed to achieve a complete and reliable product at the appropriate level of resolution and accuracy.
  4. Identify past impacts at critical locations, such as stream crossings and migration corridors (especially if retrofitting will be a mitigation option).
  5. Arrive at an agreed-upon set of conservation and mitigation goals.

Mapping Tools. Web-based mapping tools are available that reference a number of national datasets. Some also allow adding more-detailed local layers to the REF spatial database base map and sharing that data.

The most effective format of the base mapping is one that is compatible with and accessible by all potential users, including the stakeholder agencies, planning consultants, agency and consulting design engineers, and construction managers. If the IEF process will be the new mode of operation, all who are expected to follow it must have easy access and be able to integrate their data and plans.

The knowledge of our ecological systems, the list of threatened and endangered species, and even climate change will continue to modify the base map over which the transportation plan is laid. The transportation plan will change with changing transportation needs. The system must be able to be updated, and the updates able to be made easily, and by more than one stakeholder. The more integrated the base map is with the resource agencies’ own products, the more likely it will be a living database. Ideally, the transportation planning organization’s planned improvements must interface readily and automatically update as the plans are modified. The better the system is “shared,” with a division of labor among the stakeholders for keeping the information up to date, the more likely it will be used and valued.

Defining Important Resources to be Included. Define the list of sensitive habitats that will be considered, based on regulations, habitat uniqueness, water quality assessments, or rare species habitat requirements. Using available data, identify features and categorize them with a weighting system. The weighting system could be as straightforward as assigning points for location, habitat features, historical protection, and restoration potential. A consolidated score identifies the more “valuable” habitats. The sites can also be separately scored for a number of habitat features with different intent, such as a separate score for a particular species or for wetlands. The weighting and habitat categorization is at the discretion of the stakeholders and will depend on the quality and resolution of the data available.

The base map with categorized habitats provides the basis for assessing the current resources, historical impacts, data gaps, and conservation and restoration goals.

Documentation. It is important to establish a clear history of the sources of information and basis for prioritization of resources. Document the REF objectives, decisions, and methods based on stakeholder input, and the technical and scientific methods used.

What is the difference between the terms “Regional Ecosystem Infrastructure Development Framework” (REIDF) and “Region Ecosystem Framework” (REF)?

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Step 1 -
Build and strengthen collaborative partnerships and vision
Step 2 -
Characterize resource status and integrate natural environment plans
Step 3 -
Create a regional ecosystem framework (conservation strategy + transportation plan)
Step 4 -
Assess effects on conservation objectives
Step 5 -
Establish and prioritize ecological actions
Step 6 -
Develop crediting strategy
Step 7 -
Develop programmatic consultation, biological opinion or permits
Step 8 -
Implement agreements, adaptive management, and delivery projects
Step 9 -
Update regional ecosystem framework and plan
How Eco-Logical aligns with other environmental approaches