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2013/2014 Eco-Logical Program Annual Report
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Cover Photos (clockwise, from top left): North Central Texas Council of Governments (Regional Ecosystem Framework); New Hampshire Department of Transportation (Pequawket Pond Mitigation Site, Conway, New Hampshire); Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (Stakeholder Meeting).
This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The United States Government assumes no liability for the contents or use thereof.
Standard Form 298 (Rev. 2-89)
The U.S. Department of Transportation John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, prepared this report for the Federal Highway Administration Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty. The project team included Rachel Strauss and Scott Middleton of the Volpe Center's Organizational Performance Division and Logan Nash and Haley Peckett of the Volpe Center's Transportation Planning Division.
Table of Contents
This 2013/2014 Eco-Logical Program Annual Report reviews both the recent activities and successes of the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Eco-Logical Program, and examines the state of the practice of the Eco-Logical approach.
A key focus of this report is Implementing Eco-Logical, FHWA's new initiative, in partnership with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Transportation Research Board (TRB) under the Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2).1 Implementing Eco-Logical includes an Implementation Assistance Program (IAP), which provided $1.9 million in funding to State departments of transportation (State DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to engage in the Eco-Logical approach.2 This annual report includes insights from IAP recipients as well as past recipients of FHWA's Eco-Logical Grant Program to gauge applications of Eco-Logical across the country and identify areas where additional technical assistance may be needed.
Program Activity Since the 2012 Annual Report
In September 2012, FHWA, AASHTO, TRB, State DOTs, MPOs, and Federal resource and regulatory agencies convened a meeting to discuss Implementing Eco-Logical. The event created the Implementing Eco-Logical Implementation Plan, which listed a variety of activities and products to help encourage widespread adoption of Eco-Logical.
FHWA and AASHTO are actively developing and delivering the resources identified in the Implementing Eco-Logical Implementation Plan. Recent accomplishments include:
Current State of the Eco-Logical Practice
At present, there are approximately 25 States that have applied the Eco-Logical approach in some form. The majority of the applications occur at a regional level, rather than statewide. Through Implementing Eco-Logical, FHWA and AASHTO intend to continue to expand the number of States and MPOs using the Eco-Logical approach.
Early Formulation and Testing of Eco-Logical
To test the Eco-Logical approach and encourage awareness and adoption among transportation and resource agencies, FHWA established its Eco-Logical Grant Program in 2007. The program funded 15 projects across the country in ten different States, and one six-State U.S. Environmental Protection Agency region. During this time, additional States began programs that related closely to the Eco-Logical approach, including: the Vermont Staying Connected Initiative and the Maryland Watershed Resources Registry. Though FHWA did not track these efforts as part of its Eco-Logical Program, it documented many of these practices through its State Practices Database.
Through SHRP2 research, additional areas of the country were asked to pilot test the Eco-Logical approach as outlined through C06 A and B, through the SHRP2 Solution C21. Subsequently, during the implementation of the SHRP2 Implementing Eco-Logical initiative, the Implementing Eco-Logical IAP provided awards to a total of 13 State DOTs and MPOs that are actively pursuing Eco-Logical. These recipient agencies are using their SHRP2 funding to leverage existing knowledge and applications of Eco-Logical, collaborate with partners, use and share data, and streamline practices.
2014 AASHTO Questionnaire
Key Findings and Recommendations
Recommendations for Agencies Interested in Applying Eco-Logical
Table 1: Annual Report Key Categories and Findings
Recommendations for the Implementing Eco-Logical Program
Recommendations for Future Eco-Logical Technical Assistance Opportunities
The Eco-Logical Annual Report
The 2013/2014 Eco-Logical Program Annual Report introduces the Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) Implementing Eco-Logical initiative led by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and shares updates on the program's recent achievements. One of the completed activities under Implementing Eco-Logical is an Implementation Assistance Program (IAP), which offered $1.9 million in SHRP2 funding to 13 State departments of transportation (State DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs).
The report also:
Since 2009, FHWA has released annual reports on its Eco-Logical Program to communicate the state of the practice of the Eco-Logical approach. Past annual reports focused on FHWA's Eco-Logical Grant Program and presented findings and lessons learned from the 15 original grant recipients for calendar years 2009 to 2012.6 The reports presented insights, best practices, and status updates for the grant projects, and included recommendations and guidance on implementing the Eco-Logical approach from the recipients on topics such as tools, partnership strategies, and organizational adoption.
This section introduces the approach used for the 2013/2014 annual report and provides an overview of the Eco-Logical approach, which set the foundation for Implementing Eco-Logical. Subsequent sections of the report describe program accomplishments for Implementing Eco-Logical, the funded IAP projects and their performance goals, insights from the IAP projects as well as from the grant projects, and next steps for FHWA's Eco-Logical Program.
The Eco-Logical Approach
In 2006, an interagency steering team of eight Federal and four State agencies recognized the potential benefits of integrating infrastructure and ecosystem considerations in the jointly published document, Eco-Logical: An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects (Eco-Logical).7 The publication outlined the Eco-Logical approach, a process designed to help transportation, resource, and regulatory agencies integrate their infrastructure development and conservation planning processes, arrive at a joint set of environmental priorities, and then use those priorities to make and implement infrastructure and conservation decisions.
Eco-Logical articulates a vision that endorses ecosystem-based avoidance, minimization, and mitigation through integrating data, plans, design, and reviews across agency and disciplinary boundaries. The approach values ecosystem-based mitigation to enhance environmental outcomes as part of an efficient process for developing infrastructure projects and promotes conservation and sustainable use.
The FHWA Eco-Logical Program, through the SHRP2 Implementing Eco-Logical IAP funding and past Eco-Logical grants, helps State DOTs and MPOs apply the Eco-Logical approach and realize tangible improvements to transportation projects and processes. Further Implementing Eco-Logical efforts will provide direct assistance, support, and resources to agencies using this approach.
This 2013/2014 annual report presents the progress and current status of Implementing Eco-Logical activities through summer 2014. To track and manage these activities, FHWA and AASHTO regularly coordinate through frequent check-ins and biweekly meetings to share updates and discuss deliverables. Information presented in this report is based upon these FHWA-AASHTO status tracking activities.
This annual report also assesses the current state of the practice of Eco-Logical, based in part from information collected as part of an AASHTO questionnaire and updates shared by the IAP and grant recipients.
In April 2014, AASHTO began a business readiness evaluation effort to better understand how State DOTs and MPOs were applying the Eco-Logical approach across the country. AASHTO circulated an online questionnaire to collect feedback from State DOTs and MPOs. Upon concluding the feedback period, AASHTO evaluated the responses received and held follow-up discussions with respondents to obtain additional information about their needs and challenges in using Eco-Logical.
This 2013/2014 annual report also provides updates on the projects funded through the Implementing Eco-Logical IAP and presents applicable updates and findings from the completed Eco-Logical Grant Program projects. In summer 2013, FHWA and the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center) project team held kick-off calls with the 13 IAP recipients to identify performance measure(s) to track the progress of each IAP project. FHWA provided examples of possible measures and also encouraged recipients to identify their own project-specific measures. The measures represent targets and milestones and are meant to help FHWA and the IAP recipients monitor the progress of individual projects and better understand the Eco-Logical approach in action. The measures also allow FHWA to identify any challenges or needed resources and match those with technical assistance resources available through the FHWA Eco-Logical Program.
The performance measures served as the basis for semi-annual progress reports submitted by recipients in winter 2013. In May and June 2014, FHWA and the Volpe Center project team held 60-minute telephone discussions with the IAP recipients to collect updates on the measures and project status (the interview questions are available in Appendix C). The team also used supplemental information provided by recipients, including stakeholder meeting notes, project websites and tools, and draft and completed deliverables, to inform their analysis.
In addition, the team gathered information from the grant recipients via electronic questionnaire to better understand how their Eco-Logical grant projects continue to influence their organizations. The brief questionnaire asked grant recipients about their perspectives on using the Eco-Logical approach and how their participation in the Eco-Logical Grant Program impacted their agencies' current activities or practices. Nine of the 15 grant recipients completed the electronic Grant Program questionnaire, which is provided in Appendix D.8
Together, the information gathered from the FHWA-AASHTO Implementing Eco-Logical status tracking activities and collected from AASHTO business readiness evaluation and the IAP and grant recipients present a comprehensive look at how agencies are applying Eco-Logical at the national, State, regional, and local levels. This 2013/2014 annual report offers examples of completed and upcoming Implementing Eco-Logical activities and demonstrates successes and challenges faced by the IAP and past grant recipients to date. In doing so, the report presents an overview of the state of the practice of Eco-Logical, evaluating its benefits and identifying areas for future potential research.
Introduction to Implementing Eco-Logical
Implementing Eco-Logical began as a joint research project among FHWA, AASHTO, and the Transportation Research Board (TRB) under SHRP2 to operationalize the Eco-Logical approach. FHWA and AASHTO currently lead implementation activities for Implementing Eco-Logical.
Connections to SHRP2
FHWA, AASHTO, and TRB work collaboratively to advance SHRP2. TRB administered the research phase of SHRP2. FHWA, in partnership with AASHTO, serves as the primary implementation entity for delivering technical assistance and implementation activities. FHWA and AASHTO are collaborating to deploy the initial research products, including Implementing Eco-Logical.
The goals of Implementing Eco-Logical are to:
Context in FHWA's Eco-Logical Program
The Implementing Eco-Logical initiative builds on FHWA's Eco-Logical Program by offering an Integrated Eco-Logical Conservation and Transportation Planning Framework (IEF) for integrating infrastructure development activities across agency and political boundaries and identifying a region's ecological priorities. The nine-step IEF includes developing a Regional Ecosystem Framework (REF) to help agencies integrate conservation strategies with transportation and land-use data and plans (Figure 1).
Figure 2 further demonstrates how Eco-Logical activities over the years fit together.
Figure 1: The nine steps of the IEF. Step 3 focuses on establishing a REF, a resource that agencies can develop to help them implement Eco-Logical.
Figure 2: A Timeline of Eco-Logical. FHWA's Eco-Logical Program has a long-standing history of supporting an ecosystem-based approach for infrastructure projects. FHWA and AASHTO currently lead activities to bring technical assistance to practitioner agencies implementing Eco-Logical.
For information on the SHRP2 products listed (C06, C21, C40), please visit: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/goshrp2/Solutions/Capacity/List
Implementing Eco-Logical Program Accomplishments
Strategies and Products
The products include:
To date, FHWA and AASHTO have accomplished the following:
FHWA Research Program Funded Activities
Since 2007, FHWA has offered several other activities in addition to Implementing Eco-Logical that relate to the Eco-Logical approach. These include the Eco-Logical Grant Program (now complete), the Eco-Logical webinar series, and continued coordination with the Eco-Logical Signatory Agencies.
Eco-Logical Grant Program
The Eco-Logical Grant Program allowed agencies to apply Eco-Logical, exploring how it fits in the transportation development and delivery process. The Implementing Eco-Logical IAP helps advance agencies that have already begun to incorporate Eco-Logical into their activities and also support those that are interested in beginning to implement the approach.
Eco-Logical Webinar Series
Signatory Agency Coordination
Moving Eco-Logical Forward
FHWA and AASHTO currently lead multiple activities related to Implementing Eco-Logical. These activities provide a comprehensive deployment approach for implementing Eco-Logical. Many of the activities are anticipated for release in 2015. FHWA and AASHTO may consider incorporating the findings of this annual report into future management of these activities.
Implementing Eco-Logical IAP
Workshops and Peer Exchanges
On-Call Technical Assistance
Recommendations for the Implementing Eco-Logical Program
The Implementing Eco-Logical Implementation Plan calls for developing resources that will encourage using the Eco-Logical approach across the country. These activities and products include continued support of the IAP, starter kit, Practitioner's Handbook, and peer exchanges and workshops. Each of these resources may benefit from the findings of the IAP projects, particularly with regard to common challenges and specific opportunities for additional research or resources. Based on feedback provided by the IAP recipients, FHWA and AASHTO should consider the following next steps:
IAP and Pilot Implementation of the Eco-Logical Approach
Eco-Logical's State of the Practice
From its early roots in 2006 as a concept focused on integrating infrastructure and ecosystem considerations to its initial testing by recipients in FHWA's Eco-Logical Grant Program, Eco-Logical represents a long-standing commitment to transportation and the environment. It is dedicated to encouraging collaboration, engaging partners, and identifying opportunities to use an ecosystem-based mitigation approach to broaden infrastructure development and conservation planning processes so that they consider a variety of environmental priorities, data, plans, and designs.
The Implementing Eco-Logical IAP serves as the next step in Eco-Logical's history, as it further advances the state of the practice. Today's IAP recipients use knowledge gained by past Eco-Logical grant recipients as a starting point. They continue to test the Eco-Logical approach, its applications, and uses. The IAP projects discussed in this report demonstrate how the State DOT and MPO recipients are tackling difficult issues using innovative methods; these activities are helping recipients realize tangible improvements to transportation projects and processes and enhance the environment. The insights shared here also connect to AASHTO's business readiness evaluation, which assesses the current state of the practice of Eco-Logical across transportation agencies based on the feedback received.
IAP Lead Adopter and User Incentive Recipients
The IAP features 14 Lead Adopter and User Incentive projects led by 13 recipients, representing a range of agencies, States and regions, and projects (Table 2).12 Project timelines range from one to approximately two years. Project funding Appendix A includes detailed summaries of each project. Figure 3 provides a map of both the IAP recipients and past Eco-Logical grant recipients.13
The IAP provides two types of funding assistance to help State DOTs and MPOs apply and integrate Eco-Logical principles in their activities:
Table 2: IAP Lead Adopter and User Incentive Recipients
Figure 3: Map of Eco-Logical Grant and IAP Recipients
IAP Performance Measures and Focus Areas
During the summer 2013 kick-off calls, IAP Lead Adopter and User Incentive recipients identified performance measures for their projects. The measures represent targets and milestones to help FHWA and the IAP recipients gauge progress and identify issues or areas of concern in implementing the Eco-Logical approach. Recipients' feedback about the IAP projects and milestones also provides FHWA with practitioner-based input to guide the development of technical assistance resources available through the Eco-Logical Program.
IAP recipients were asked to select performance measures under three focus areas, as shown in Table 3.
Table 3: IAP Measure Descriptions
Lead Adopter IAP recipients selected three performance measures, one under each of three focus areas important in formalizing the Eco-Logical approach within their agencies.
User Incentive IAP recipients identified one measure using the same focus areas as the Lead Adopters. In some cases, User Incentive recipients indicated other possible, secondary measures that could be used.16
The majority of User Incentive recipients identified measures that fell under the integration of planning and decisionmaking between agencies focus area (Figure 4).
Figure 4: User Incentive Measures
User Incentive recipients selected one measure to track milestones for their projects. Six recipients identified integration of planning and decisionmaking between agencies as their focus area of choice. Two recipients selected REF in decisionmaking, and one chose agency culture and management adoption. Two recipients selected additional measures, which are reflected in the numbers shown.
Over the past year, IAP recipients have actively engaged stakeholders, coordinated with project partners, and began outreach efforts to integrate Eco-Logical into their agencies' practices and encourage an ecosystem-based approach. From establishing data-sharing agreements and MOUs to building partnerships and engaging stakeholders, recipients have demonstrated a variety of ways to implement Eco-Logical under the three focus areas described above. A few examples of milestones and progress towards the IAP project goals are provided in Table 4.
Table 4: IAP Measures and Recipient Examples
Findings for the Eco-Logical Approach
The project team analyzed the information and perspectives shared by the IAP and grant recipients through the interviews, electronic questionnaire, and other project materials and data to identify key findings about the state of the practice of the Eco-Logical approach. These findings fit into four categories:
Establishing Diverse Partnerships, Interagency Coordination, and Stakeholder Buy-In
1. Long-term implementation of an Eco-Logical project frequently depends upon the partnerships established under the project and the extent to which agencies can leverage these partnerships to pursue new collaborative efforts. Interagency partnerships continue to be an important element of agencies' successful implementation of Eco-Logical. Eco-Logical grant and IAP recipients repeatedly noted that interagency partnerships were one of the most significant outcomes of their projects. Eco-Logical grant recipients have used partnerships stemming from their grant projects as starting points for new planning and project delivery efforts, including strategies for proactive conservation at the region plan, program, and project levels. Similarly, IAP recipients observed that the partnerships allow for a cross-agency dialogue around potential issues and present opportunities for continued collaboration. These partnerships play a major role in how recipients apply the results from their Eco-Logical projects to future initiatives.
2. Advancing the Eco-Logical approach among partner agencies requires ongoing education and outreach efforts by grant and IAP recipients. Ongoing outreach is necessary to ensure Eco-Logical remains a priority for partners (e.g., local agencies, State resource agencies) and to preserve the momentum of Eco-Logical projects following completion of the initial grant or IAP projects. Many Eco-Logical grant recipients continue to share information about their projects and related current activities with partners through stakeholder and public meetings, webinars, conferences, and workshops. Project websites and online or printed materials can also provide background information and updates. As grant or IAP recipients may not be implementing agencies, having continued outreach efforts in place can help keep Eco-Logical at the forefront of implementing agencies' priorities.
Developing Data-Sharing Strategies and Protocols
3. Agencies use informal collaboration and MOUs to overcome legal issues and sensitivity concerns surrounding data sharing. Data used in Eco-Logical grant and IAP projects often relate to areas of significant environmental concern or priority. With highly sensitive data involved, Eco-Logical grant and IAP recipients sometimes find that initial requests for such data may be difficult to advance. Agencies may have different protocols for sharing this type of data, particularly given its sensitive nature. Understanding an agency's data-sharing limitations is a key preliminary step for many Eco-Logical grant and IAP recipients. With this understanding in place, the recipients can then work with partner agencies that maintain the data to determine appropriate approaches, whether informal or formal, for sharing data while respecting the sensitivity of the datasets. Informal approaches may include partnerships with resource agencies, while more formal methods often involve official data-sharing agreements. The discussions between agencies regarding the appropriate use of this data, whether or not a formal agreement is signed, help establish a strong, collaborative starting point for a continued agency partnership as well as opportunities for future integration of the Eco-Logical approach into agencies' practices.
4. Developing standard interagency templates can help overcome technical issues related to data quality, which often complicate the process of sharing data between agencies. Transportation agencies often do not have consistent access to resource data for transportation planning and project development, as agencies may have different approaches for categorizing or tracking data. Data quality issues may include inconsistently formatted or incomplete datasets, or data that have not been fully digitized. The Eco-Logical approach can provide the opportunity to address these technical issues as agencies partner to build and refine transportation and conservation databases that are consistent, accurate, and comprehensive. Customized data-sharing templates allow agencies to address potential data-quality issues and integrate datasets more effectively. These templates can then help agencies save time and resources in applying Eco-Logical.
Communicating the Eco-Logical Approach Effectively
5. Messages that target the specific benefits Eco-Logical can bring to a particular stakeholder group are more likely to encourage the group's buy-in for the approach. Eco-Logical has many benefits for many stakeholder groups, but general messages about Eco-Logical do not always have the same impact as tailored messages. When communicating to stakeholders, Eco-Logical IAP and grant recipients have found value in developing presentations and materials that highlight benefits of the Eco-Logical approach that are specific to the audience being addressed. For example, a presentation to transportation planners may focus on how the Eco-Logical approach can help identify priority areas for conservation and mitigation that agencies can then bring in to their transportation planning and long-range planning processes. Materials addressed to a State resource agency might demonstrate how Eco-Logical applies an ecosystem-based approach to encourage enhanced environmental outcomes. Refining these messages based on the stakeholder group will clearly show what they will receive by participating in the Eco-Logical approach, and allows agencies to achieve buy-in more effectively from their stakeholders.
6. Agencies continue to face challenges in quantitatively measuring the benefits of Eco-Logical and in making a “business case” based on cost, time, and other savings measures. Agency leadership consistently requests cost-and time-savings demonstrations for infrastructure projects, but evidence of these savings from using the Eco-Logical approach remains limited. Tracking direct benefits requires establishing baseline measures at the onset of a project and continued monitoring during and after project completion. This quantitative tracking relies on existing data, and in many cases, this data may be inconsistent or incomplete. Agencies may also have limited staff time or resources to develop measures, monitor progress, or analyze results. To date, no publically available standard framework or metrics exist for quantifying benefits for Eco-Logical.17 One grant recipient suggested the implementation of project recommendations may serve as a good way to track projects' success in the absence of formal measures. Having quantitative examples of the benefits realized by agencies applying Eco-Logical builds an even stronger message for agencies needing to make a “business case” for the approach to their stakeholders, partners, or leadership.
Integrating Eco-Logical into Agency Practices
7. Staff “champions” at the project level are key initiators for integrating Eco-Logical into an agency's practices. Several IAP recipients indicated a bottom-up approach to implementing Eco-Logical that starts with staff members involved in the IAP project. Staff members managing Eco-Logical projects often hold training sessions and inter-departmental meetings to help build familiarity with the Eco-Logical approach at their agencies, particularly among their environmental and transportation departments. These trainings and meetings help agency staff not involved directly in an Eco-Logical project learn how the Eco-Logical approach could benefit and connect to their work. In addition, staff “champions” may guide the coordination activities and informal interagency partnerships that regularly stem from Eco-Logical projects into more formal actions that demonstrate an agency's commitment to the Eco-Logical approach. These more formal activities may include leadership recognition, signed MOUs, or inclusion of Eco-Logical project data into regional transportation planning and long-term planning activities. The efforts of these staff “champions” lead to a stronger understanding of Eco-Logical across their agencies, allowing for intra-agency education and formalized pathways for supporting the approach.
8. Existing “Eco-Logical”-like activities within an agency may not be formally associated with FHWA's Eco-Logical Program but still promote similar activities, offering an opportunity for future research. Agency staff are sometimes unfamiliar with the terms “Eco-Logical” or “REF,” particularly if they are not directly engaged in an Eco-Logical grant or IAP project. In some cases, staff within the recipient agency may be more familiar with terms such as “landscape-scale” or “environmental consultation.” As “environmental consultation” follows more closely from SAFETEA-LU, agencies may be more likely to use this term than “Eco-Logical,” which is not expressly referenced in Federal legislation.19 Several IAP recipients observed their agencies use an ecosystem-based approach for infrastructure projects, but the term “Eco-Logical” is not specifically used in conjunction with the projects. As part of FHWA's Eco-Logical Program, future materials could address how Eco-Logical may fit with an agency's existing practices even though the agency uses different phrasing. These resources could then help FHWA bridge connections between Eco-Logical and agencies' current work, providing more familiarity to agency staff about the Eco-Logical approach.
9. Eco-Logical's connections to non-transportation-related infrastructure present opportunities to integrate it into other areas of practice and to engage new partners. While the majority of IAP and grant recipient projects focus primarily on applying Eco-Logical to transportation or transportation-related projects, Eco-Logical offers an ecosystem-based approach for all infrastructure projects. IAP and grant recipients noted opportunities to use the Eco-Logical approach to apply a comprehensive outlook for improving infrastructure that includes sectors outside of transportation (e.g., water infrastructure, land use planning). The improved data sources, maps, and other resources resulting from the Eco-Logical grant and IAP projects can often extend to other uses in the project regions and States. In addition, Eco-Logical's flexibility and focus on partnerships and collaboration helps make it relevant to all stakeholders. These connections to other types of infrastructure provide a possible avenue for additional research or best practice examples to creatively apply the Eco-Logical approach to a range of infrastructure projects.
Recommendations for Agencies New to Eco-Logical and for Future FHWA Eco-Logical Activities
Based on the feedback provided by the Eco-Logical grant and IAP recipients, the following section offers recommendations for agencies interested in applying the Eco-Logical approach. It also provides considerations for FHWA as it thinks about future technical assistance opportunities for the Eco-Logical Program.
Recommendations for Agencies Interested in Applying Eco-Logical
As discussed in the previous section, the experiences of Eco-Logical funding recipients offer findings about the state of the practice of the Eco-Logical approach, within four key categories. The perspectives shared by the IAP and grant recipients present recommendations under these categories for other organizations seeking to apply the Eco-Logical approach or advance the practice of Eco-Logical. These recommendations are summarized below.
Establishing Diverse Partnerships, Interagency Coordination, and Stakeholder Buy-In
Developing Data-Sharing Strategies and Protocols
Communicating the Eco-Logical Approach Effectively
Integrating Eco-Logical into Agency Practices
Recommendations for Future Eco-Logical Technical Assistance Opportunities
Guiding the Future of the Eco-Logical Program
The 2013/2014 Eco-Logical Program Annual Report summarizes accomplishments of the Implementing Eco-Logical Program and project updates from the IAP and grant recipients. By integrating this information, the report provides a basis for the current state of the practice of Eco-Logical and identifies elements for FHWA and AASHTO to consider as they continue to implement the strategies and products identified in the Implementing Eco-Logical Implementation Plan.
Implementing Eco-Logical continues the focus on advancing the Eco-Logical approach using examples from the field to identify best practices and areas where challenges remain. The accomplishments of Implementing Eco-Logical to date and its anticipated upcoming activities aim to operationalize how State DOTs and MPOs use Eco-Logical to support transportation projects. The insights shared by the IAP and grant recipients in this report help capture applications of Eco-Logical “on the ground” and identify opportunities for future technical assistance activities. These recipient perspectives further provide case study examples that highlight effective practices and continued issues.
Through these field experiences, transportation agencies not yet engaged in the Eco-Logical approach but considering its use can better understand the early steps often applied that can lead to successful outcomes. These steps may focus on building partnerships, developing resources such as data-sharing templates or targeted presentations, encouraging staff to become “champions,” and finding ways to connect agencies' existing activities and practices to the Eco-Logical approach.
The IAP and grant recipient perspectives also provide FHWA and AASHTO with practitioner feedback for developing future Implementing Eco-Logical resources. Materials such as the starter kit and Practitioner's Handbook will benefit from the information shared by the recipients to provide robust examples for transportation agencies striving to implement the Eco-Logical approach.
In addition, the recommendations presented in this report serve as a strong starting point for future technical assistance activities for FHWA's Eco-Logical Program. Many of these recommendations stem from existing challenges identified by IAP and grant recipients and offer an opportunity to address these issues. Future technical assistance activities should include ways to demonstrate accountability for the Eco-Logical approach or how Eco-Logical principles may already be present in an agency's activities.
Ultimately, this report and subsequent resources provided through Implementing Eco-Logical and the FHWA Eco-Logical Program will allow FHWA and its partners to achieve their goals of increasing awareness of Eco-Logical; integrating Eco-Logical principles into transportation, resource, and regulatory agency business practices; and producing time- and cost-savings and improved environmental outcomes through implementation of the Eco-Logical approach.
Appendix A. Implementing Eco-Logical Implementation Assistance Program (IAP) Project Summaries
Lead Adopter Incentives
Developing a REF for the Proctor Creek Environmental District
Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC)
Project Goals: ARC is developing and implementing a REF for the Proctor Creek Environmental District (PCED), a key watershed in the Atlanta metropolitan area. The REF will link economic factors in this district with green infrastructure to enhance environmental and urban development outcomes. ARC aims to leverage its existing regional-scale environmental analyses to support this more local framework, which could in turn be adapted as a repeatable framework for other environmentally-sensitive local areas. In addition, ARC is using this project to begin more formally working Eco-Logical principles into its upcoming update of The Regional Plan.
Project Activities and Accomplishments: In late fall 2013, ARC conducted a site visit to Proctor Creek with key stakeholders, including staff from the city of Atlanta. This site visit and other early meetings with partners helped ARC establish relationships with local stakeholders that may benefit from implementing the REF. Some of these partners are currently considering a strategic implementation framework for the district, which ARC's REF analysis would help support.
ARC's existing processes for considering the environmental effects of transportation projects in regional planning will play an important role in developing the PCED REF. Prior to beginning its Lead Adopter project, ARC was already practicing some of the core elements of the Eco-Logical approach. For example, the agency currently uses geographic information systems (GIS) spatial analysis to anticipate potential transportation impacts to environmental assets on the regional scale. ARC is now using these regional analyses as the basis for the PCED REF, and potentially, other locally specific plans.
Future Steps: ARC is now considering how it can adapt its long-range transportation plan (LRTP) analyses to the scale of PCED and other targeted areas. In 2014 and 2015, ARC will begin analyzing environmental and transportation data that will become a part of the PCED's REF. ARC also plans to use this opportunity to refine how environmental data are considered regionally as it updates The Regional Plan in 2015 and 2016.
Insights on Eco-Logical: Beginning to develop a REF for the PCED helped ARC understand how many of its existing activities fit into the Eco-Logical approach. In particular, staff identified the regional environmental consultations introduced under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users as an important foundation for moving toward an Eco-Logical approach. Using the Eco-Logical framework allows environmental staff at the agency to communicate more effectively with internal colleagues about their role in ARC's planning and project development. ARC staff noted that informal conversations with colleagues have been particularly effective in communicating about the Eco-Logical approach.
Testing Application of an Existing REF in Transportation Projects and Conservation Prioritization
Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO)
Project Goals: The purpose of CAMPO's Lead Adopter project is to apply the Eco-Logical approach to develop capacity-building highway improvements that will alleviate significant congestion issues on the US-250 Crossing of the Rivanna River. As part of this project, CAMPO established a stakeholder committee and developed a facilitated stakeholder process to identify project alternatives. CAMPO will use data from its existing REF developed during its past Eco-Logical grant project, to establish a weighted ranking system for evaluating the impacts of the proposed alternatives on ecosystem and recreation resources connected to the surrounding Rivanna River watershed.
Project Activities and Accomplishments: CAMPO organized four meetings with local and State stakeholders in January, March, and May 2014. The January stakeholder meeting collected feedback about CAMPO's REF tool. The first March meeting, which focused on local stakeholders, addressed the development of specific project alternatives. In addition, the second March stakeholder meeting engaged State agencies to obtain additional feedback on the REF tool and discussed ways the tool could be used in public forums. The May meeting built upon discussions from the earlier events to refine the proposed alternatives and assess construction feasibility.
Figure 1: CAMPO developed maps like this one to show project alternatives and collect stakeholder feedback.
CAMPO's facilitated stakeholder process has allowed it to engage and empower stakeholders and to resolve past concerns around the project. In addition, CAMPO used an independent facilitator, which has helped to add a neutral voice to the stakeholder process. CAMPO also shares meeting materials on its Eco-Logical public website to encourage outreach and stakeholder involvement in the discussions.
Next Steps: CAMPO anticipates holding three additional stakeholder meetings in summer and fall 2014. Discussions will focus on topics such as construction feasibility, overall costs, general impacts, and traffic congestion. CAMPO will use these meeting discussions to guide its final alternatives analysis proposal. CAMPO noted the goal of the stakeholder discussions is not necessarily to identify a final alternative, but to create a collaborative process involving the region's many stakeholders. Given the level of engagement and positive responses to date, however, CAMPO may have the opportunity to finalize a preferred outcome based on stakeholder consensus.
Insights on Eco-Logical: As a past Eco-Logical Grant Program recipient, CAMPO has strong historical knowledge of the Eco-Logical approach and the REF. In contrast to its earlier grant project, the current IAP project focuses on implementation and strong outreach. As a result, CAMPO will be able to convey the uses of the REF tool and the overall Eco-Logical approach to a wider group of stakeholders than the past Eco-Logical grant project. One of CAMPO's biggest challenges in its IAP project has been explaining its REF tool in a way that clearly conveys the tool's uses and application for transparent decisionmaking. CAMPO worked extensively to provide strong background knowledge to all stakeholders before beginning discussions. In addition to stakeholder outreach, staff turnover at CAMPO between the end of the Eco-Logical grant project and the beginning of the IAP project has required it to continue educating staff on Eco-Logical. Because CAMPO sees Eco-Logical as a holistic approach to infrastructure improvements, the IAP project has allowed staff with transportation and environmental expertise to promote Eco-Logical internally with colleagues and externally with stakeholders.
Coordinating Transportation Planning and Wildlife Management
Idaho Transportation Department (ITD)
Project Goals: The goal of the ITD joint Lead Adopter and User Incentive project is to work with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) to improve data delivery and data-sharing via IPLAN;21 refine, develop, and update the DSS/Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT)22 and other Idaho fish and wildlife-related data layers; and establish interagency data-sharing protocols and applications. ITD's User Incentive project will update the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between ITD and IDFG, including new data-sharing protocols and improved coordination between transportation planning and wildlife management in Idaho. The MOU will support ITD and IDFG's partnership, with a focus on improvements to data delivery and data layers.
Project Activities and Accomplishments: ITD and IDFG focused on steps to update their MOU, as it is vital to successful implementation and completion of the Lead Adopter project. ITD and IDFG held facilitated discussions between staff and identified seven key topic areas.23 Three regional stakeholder workshops addressed these topic areas in summer 2014. Approximately 125 staff from ITD, IDFG, and Federal partner agencies attended these workshops.
To prepare for the Lead Adopter activity, ITD started coordinating with GIS practitioners within the agency to determine the feasibility of the proposed IPLAN improvements. IDFG is updating its fish and wildlife data, including its State wildlife action plan and other relevant geospatial layers, and developing data delivery applications.
Figure 2: ITD's IPLAN portal spatially displays data through maps to help users coordinate planning and departmental activities.
Future Steps (User Incentive Project): In fall 2014, ITD will present the proposed MOU to executive staff at both agencies, and then to the Idaho Transportation Board and the IDFG Commission in January 2015.
Future Steps (Lead Adopter Project): As the MOU/User Incentive project moves ahead, ITD and IDFG will work on the Lead Adopter portion of their project in parallel. This will include establishing the mechanisms through which IDFG data layers will be accessed, used, and displayed. The work will also involve defining and building Species of Greatest Conservation Need and other useful data layers to scales and formats suitable for project-level planning and implementation through a State-based CHAT.
Insights on Eco-Logical: One key success during the project's first year has been scheduling and preparing for the stakeholder meetings and securing a high level of participation from IDFG. ITD observed that its relationship with IDFG has improved greatly since the beginning of the project, particularly through the execution of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that established the framework for working jointly on the MOU.
Streamlining Endangered Species Act Consultations
Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT)
Project Goals: The goal of the MaineDOT Lead Adopter project is to apply its existing REF to categorical exclusion (CE) projects through creating preferred construction practices, procedural changes, programmatic agreements, and mechanisms for mitigation. The intended outcome is a streamlined Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 review process in the State of Maine.
Project Activities and Accomplishments: During the first year of the project, MaineDOT completed a gap analysis comparing the Integrated Ecological Framework with MaineDOT's existing environmental screening process. MaineDOT also analyzed its internal ESA Section 7 processes, tracked its ongoing ESA Section 7 consultations, and adjusted its consultation processes to eliminate duplicative steps. MaineDOT is working with partner agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to identify actions that could reduce review timeframes and complete consultations within project schedules.
As part of the project, MaineDOT is also drafting a programmatic biological assessment (BA) for the endangered Atlantic salmon based upon similar programmatic agreements in other States. MaineDOT estimates that 60 percent of its projects will fall within the programmatic BA. MaineDOT also developed a draft mitigation instrument modeled after Maine's successful in-lieu fee program. This separate mitigation instrument will apply to projects that do not fit into the BA. The instrument will facilitate mitigation for biological impacts from non-CE projects through an ecosystem crediting strategy. MaineDOT piloted this approach on a recent stream crossing replacement project. Both the mitigation and instrument and programmatic BA support use of the Eco-Logical approach by integrating conservation and transportation planning in the State of Maine.
Future Steps: MaineDOT is concluding preparation of the draft programmatic BA and mitigation instrument, which will then be shared with FHWA, FWS, and NMFS for review in summer 2014. MaineDOT plans to complete the BA and mitigation instrument before its next Work Plan is finalized in December 2014. Concurrent to these products, MaineDOT will also assess the project schedules and budgets of the 2014 construction season in order to modify its use of the REF for CE-level projects. MaineDOT will also finish developing preferred construction practices and best management practices that will improve its ability to coordinate planning activities with FWS and other resource agencies.
Insights on Eco-Logical: Like many other Lead Adopter funding recipients, MaineDOT anticipates a need for internal support for the Eco-Logical approach within its various departments, especially for the new minimization measures and mitigation practices included in the programmatic BA. MaineDOT sees a need for a high degree of coordination with partner agencies. MaineDOT recognizes that cooperation from certain partner agencies is necessary to accomplish project goals, and they are seeking ways to improve support from agency partners as they work together to define minimization measures and identify opportunities for streamlining ESA Section 7 review processes.
Implementing an Eco-Logical Approach in the I-75 Corridor in Southeast Michigan
Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT)
Project Goals: The goal of MDOT's Lead Adopter project is to implement a REF and Conservation Action Plan (CAP) along the I-75 corridor in the Southeast Michigan/Lake Erie coastal region. As part of this effort, MDOT created a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of State and Federal resource, regulatory, and planning agencies to help build the REF and CAP. These agencies will help identify mitigation opportunities for MDOT's upcoming reconstruction and renovation work in the I-75 corridor over the next two decades.
Project Activities and Accomplishments: In the project's first year, MDOT organized the TAC and convened the group seven times. MDOT experienced a high degree of engagement from its partner agencies in the TAC, particularly in deciding on geographic study areas in the I-75 corridor, and in selecting nine conservation targets (e.g., water quality, fisheries, and coastal wetlands). To reach these decisions collectively, the TAC considered jurisdictional boundaries, watershed characteristics, coastal resources, existing conservation activities, barriers to wildlife connectivity, and water quality concerns in Lake Erie.
Representatives of the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) helped MDOT staff prepare for the TAC meetings and plan outreach activities. MDOT's relationship with MNFI and SEMCOG has been crucial to the success of this project, particularly in the project's early stages, when these three agencies established joint work plans to lay out their plan for collaboration.
Future Steps: MDOT and the TAC plan to assess the conservation targets' viability and use the REF to measure environmental outcomes associated with transportation activities in the I-75 corridor. After the viability assessment is complete, MDOT and the TAC will rank threats to the targets and identify measures that can be incorporated into project development and mitigation to address them. MDOT environmental staff also plan to conduct continuous and frequent outreach to other MDOT business units and partner agencies throughout the project, including tours of the I-75 corridor and ongoing training sessions on the Eco-Logical approach. MDOT predicts that the project's initial success will generate work on related projects with MNFI, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and other TAC member agencies.
Insights on Eco-Logical: MDOT staff found the Eco-Logical approach allowed them to leverage relationships with resource and regulatory agencies and become more involved in conservation activities outside of highway corridors. MDOT observed the upfront costs of building relationships and establishing agreements, which can pay dividends over time as these partnerships often result in streamlined decisionmaking and improved environmental outcomes. MDOT believes expanding partnerships from the staff level to the organizational level through MOUs and Standard Operating Procedures for evaluating projects with the REF are useful strategies for continuing the valuable relationships built through this Lead Adopter project.
Applying a REF and Implementing Mitigation as Part of a Regional Shared Mitigation Program
North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG)
Project Goals: The primary goal of NCTCOG's IAP project is to update the REF the agency developed during a prior Eco-Logical grant project. As part of the update, NCTCOG is incorporating additional environmental data from stakeholders to build a priority sub-watershed map and identify focus areas for potential mitigation and enhancement. NCTCOG also plans to apply the REF to a pilot corridor feasibility study, which will assess the use of the REF as a tool for addressing conservation needs and potential mitigation strategies related to transportation projects throughout the region. Finally, NCTCOG aims to implement a pilot regional shared value mitigation program focused on coordinating with resource agencies to identify mitigation needs.
Project Activities and Accomplishments: In June 2014, NCTCOG held a stakeholder meeting with representatives of resource agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations, water districts, transportation agencies, and other partners. The purpose of the meeting was to reengage NCTCOG's partners in the Eco-Logical effort, solicit their feedback on priority resource areas to enhance potential sites for mitigation, discuss partnership opportunities, and request access to additional datasets to refine the REF. NCTCOG also completed refinements to the REF by updating supporting GIS datasets.
Figure 3: NCTCOG's REF incorporates data layers relating to green infrastructure, water quality and flooding, and ecosystem valuing (e.g., diversity, sustainability).
Future Steps: NCTCOG will next focus on applying the REF to a corridor pilot study and developing the pilot regional shared value mitigation program. NCTCOG will identify potential areas for mitigation enhancement and continue to request feedback from partners. Using this input, NCTCOG will incorporate environmental resource data from its partners into the REF. NCTCOG will then use the REF to identify possible mitigation banking sites and consider the efficacy of establishing a formal mitigation banking program for the region.
One intended outcome of the Lead Adopter project is a formalized approach for using the REF and encouraging resource agency participation in developing NCTCOG's Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP). NCTCOG staff also plan to further engage departmental leaders to gain management support for the newly formalized processes.
Insights on Eco-Logical: During the execution of its Eco-Logical grant, NCTCOG discovered the value of demonstrating the benefits of Eco-Logical that are specific to the stakeholder audience it is addressing. NCTCOG also remarked on the value of tailoring messages to particular stakeholders' understanding of the complex transportation planning process.
NCTCOG is building region-wide awareness and use of the Eco-Logical approach through outreach to additional partner agencies. In particular, NCTCOG sees opportunities for advancing the Eco-Logical approach in the Dallas-Fort Worth area by generating interest from partner agencies outside of the transportation field. Applications of Eco-Logical potentially exist outside of traditional transportation projects, such as with water infrastructure and bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
Establishing an Integrated Regional Mitigation Plan
Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG)
Project Goals: PPACG is establishing an Integrated Regional Mitigation Plan to improve mitigation projects in the Pikes Peak area in Colorado and to enhance project evaluation in its Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). PPACG will update its existing REF to reflect new data developed since its SHRP2 C18 project ended and prepare data layers that allow users to view information and assess impacts using a Google Earth platform.24 Using the updated REF, PPACG will also conduct a GIS analysis to evaluate the current mitigation plan in its 2035 Moving Forward RTP and identify new mitigation needs and opportunities to be included in the 2040 RTP.
Project Activities and Accomplishments: PPACG held a kick-off stakeholder meeting in May 2014. PPACG will now conduct monthly meetings of a “SHRP2 Advisory Committee” that includes the Fountain Creek Watershed District, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, the Sierra Club, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and other local, State, and Federal stakeholders.
PPACG is beginning to update its 2040 RTP and the environmental data in its REF. In June 2014, the agency determined its list of proposed projects, and staff are now overlaying these projects with existing REF data to highlight and document potential mitigation opportunities. Through this analysis, PPACG aims to identify opportunities and potential locations for advance mitigation.
Future Steps: PPACG is exploring how it could potentially coordinate its efforts for mitigation associated with non-transportation projects such as stormwater or fire. For example, Colorado's major Southern Delivery System water infrastructure project includes mitigation activities; this may be an opportunity to maximize the effect of transportation mitigation by leveraging with these efforts. There are also several potential project mitigation opportunities that are being evaluated by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.
As part of its REF Google Earth update, PPACG will ensure compliance with data licensing agreements and accessibility of the tool's interface so that users can effectively process and understand the information presented.
Insights on Eco-Logical: The estimated project costs that agencies use to plan for and program transportation investments often do not include the cost of mitigation. By examining environmental effects as part of an integrated planning approach, PPACG hopes to use the Eco-Logical approach as a way to better understand the full costs of a project, including associated mitigation. Through early coordination, costs incurred later in project development can potentially be reduced. The relationships PPACG established in its earlier SHRP2 project were also crucial in obtaining the data and buy-in necessary for updating its REF. In addition, stakeholder agencies may not be familiar with MPOs' roles in regional mitigation. The DOT may be a more familiar partner for these statewide agencies, and can help MPOs with outreach.
Developing a REF for the Monterey Bay Area Regional Mitigation Plan
Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG)
Project Goals: AMBAG is using User Incentive funding to gather transportation and natural resource data and to develop a REF, which will include information on species, protected land, and other natural heritage information. The new REF is a series of maps showing environmental resources in areas where the agency expects transportation projects to be constructed in the next 30 years. The maps will help AMBAG and its partners highlight advanced mitigation opportunities and proactively communicate with resource agencies to determine potential mitigation strategies.
Project Activities and Accomplishments
AMBAG is exploring funding sources for the next phase of its Eco-Logical effort, which includes ongoing coordination for regional transportation mitigation. The effort would advance implementation of the IEF by identifying opportunities for advance mitigation or avoidance of environmental impacts. It would also allow AMBAG to build on relationships established through its Implementing Eco-Logical project.
Insights on Eco-Logical
Applying Lessons Learned from the Highway 89 Stewardship Team
California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)
Project Goals: The Highway 89 Stewardship Team (89ST) is a multi-agency team dedicated to reducing animal-vehicle collisions and providing wildlife access through public lands along Highway 89, a two-lane highway in Sierra County, in northeast California. Caltrans is expanding lessons from the 89ST to two newly created teams in Southern Sierra (Southern Team) and Modoc County (Northern Team). The User Incentive funding provides opportunities for Caltrans to establish the new Northern and Southern teams based on the experiences of the 89ST, provides team member training at a wildlife and highway interactions course, and develops a potential long-term mitigation strategy for the teams.
Project Activities and Accomplishments: In August 2013, six members from the Northern and Southern teams attended a training course on “Innovative Approaches to Wildlife and Highway Interactions,” designed to educate environmental and transportation professionals on wildlife and highway issues, mitigation approaches, and current research. The Northern Team is focusing primarily on large mammals such as migratory deer, while the Southern Team is addressing small mammals, including the pine marten and Pacific fisher. The training brought together a multi-agency group to discuss opportunities for protecting these species while supporting transportation projects.
Along with this capacity-building, the 89ST also provided in-person support for growing the expertise of the Northern and Southern Teams. In February 2014, 89ST team members held a strategic planning meeting with the Northern Team to set learning objectives, identify steps for field research, and explore areas of concern and possible mitigation concepts. The Northern Team includes approximately 8-10 entities, with staff from Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. In April 2014, the 89ST met with the Southern Team, a slightly larger team of about 12-14 entities, to review existing locations of State highway structures where the U.S. Forest Service has monitored small mammal activity and potential mitigation locations.
Next Steps: At an August 2014 iteration of the “Innovative Approaches” workshop, Caltrans sponsored staff attendance for Northern and Southern Team members who did not participate previously in the training. Caltrans plans to continue documenting and sharing past activities and successes of the 89ST to encourage and grow the Northern and Southern Teams. Working together, the 89ST and the Northern and Southern Teams aim to identify targeted short- and long-term objectives and milestones for the Northern and Southern Teams' work on reducing animal-vehicle collisions. The 89ST is also working on a long-term research strategy, which will allow Caltrans to better leverage future funding opportunities.
Insights on Eco-Logical: Caltrans noted the team coordination has been one of the project's successes to date, particularly through the teams' successful kick-off meetings and continued strategic discussions. Caltrans documents these successes through summaries of each team meeting to capture updates and share information. Since there is no official agency or entity in charge of the teams, Caltrans has observed challenges in implementing assignments or prioritizing actions, particularly as the teams are not tied to a current Caltrans project. This early coordination, however, provides the teams with a good foundation to respond quickly to emerging problems and to take advantage of new funding opportunities as they arise.
Scoping Natural Heritage Review Website Updates
Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT)
Project Goals: MoDOT is developing a MOU with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) that will improve the sharing of natural resource information, integrate transportation and conservation planning, and establish best management practices (BMPs) to protect sensitive species from the impacts of transportation projects.
MDC is currently creating a visioning and scoping document that will outline future updates and expansions for MDC's Missouri Natural Heritage Review website, a publicly available site that identifies environmentally sensitive locations of species and/or high-quality communities of conservation concern. Providing integrated natural resource data on the Natural Heritage Review website will enhance the abilities of MoDOT and others to make decisions that conserve natural resources before projects are in the final phases. Among the anticipated website improvements are new data layers and features that will streamline MoDOT's screening of transportation projects for potential environmental effects and that allow for real-time data updates.
Project Activities and Accomplishments: In January 2014, MoDOT and MDC met with stakeholders from 24 different agencies, including FHWA, USACE, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to discuss potential improvements to the Natural Heritage Review website. The meeting was the first time that such a large group of stakeholders had met on these issues, and the face-to-face forum fostered productive conversation and strong engagement. Based on forum input, the MoDOT and MDC project team developed a scoping document for website improvements and solicited additional feedback from partner agencies.
Future Steps: In July 2014, MoDOT and MDC met with MDC natural heritage specialists to discuss their own requirements for improvements in further detail. After confirming the scoped technical improvements, MoDOT and MDC will explore funding options to implement these recommendations. The final improvements plan will identify clear steps to improve the website in a way that benefits MoDOT, MDC, and other stakeholders.
MoDOT and MDC are also currently working independently on Best Management Practices (BMPs) and are discussing how the website updates will help disseminate BMPs to different management organizations.
Insights into Eco-Logical: Staffs at both MoDOT and MDC agree that the User Incentive project has strengthened data-sharing communication between their agencies. MoDOT and MDC used their January stakeholder meeting to share information about available data and discussed data challenges such as legal issues or technological data compatibility. Other stakeholder agencies recognize benefits of improving and using the Missouri Natural Heritage Review website, such as a greater availability of data that they can use for their own work. Based on the January meeting and follow-up activities, MoDOT and MDC observed that face-to-face interaction is crucial for engaging and creating excitement among stakeholders, who often have many competing demands.
Ecological Integrity Assessment Pilot Project
New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT)
Project Goals: NHDOT is piloting an assessment of wetlands impacted by roadway projects using a standardized wetland assessment methodology known as the Ecological Integrity Assessment (EIA).25 In partnership with the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development's Natural Heritage Bureau (NHB), NHDOT will compare the EIA to the wetland assessment method it currently uses, the USACE Highway Methodology. A MOU is guiding the cooperation between the two agencies on this project. If the pilot project demonstrates that the EIA is the preferred method for wetland assessments, NHB and NHDOT intend to complete a MOA to guide future wetland assessment and mitigation. The key outcome of this project is a standardized wetland assessment method.
Project Activities and Accomplishments: In October 2013, the NHDOT Bureau of Environment entered into a MOU with NHB for exporting technology, training staff, and developing the pilot wetland mitigation evaluation program. After granting NHDOT access to EIA materials and technology in accordance with the MOU, NHB conducted pre-field training with NHDOT staff between April and June 2014. The training introduced methods for field data collection and provided information on the use of the EIA Scorecard Database and other materials. In addition to NHDOT's work with NHB, the two agencies have been collaborating with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) to ensure that the EIA protocol will adhere with the NHDES's permitting regulations.
Future Steps: NHDOT staff began evaluating wetland sites following the EIA methodology in June 2014. NHB provided field EIA training to NHDOT staff from June through October 2014. After the initial field data collection, NHDOT staff conducted field reviews of wetlands to test the EIA method by evaluating sites that are scheduled to be impacted by an upcoming transportation project, as well as one wetland creation site. In winter 2014, NHDOT will work with NHB to draft an analysis report on the EIA approach that will demonstrate findings from the field data collection and training sessions.
Insights on Eco-Logical: NHDOT noted that, like many agencies, it may follow strategies that are similar to the Eco-Logical approach but may not be branded as Eco-Logical. NHDOT and other agencies may be able to increase the level of awareness of the Eco-Logical approach by tapping into existing resources and technical assistance from FHWA. Additionally, NHDOT observed that one potential challenge for the project may be conducting environmental analysis in house. To overcome this challenge, NHDOT plans to build familiarity with botany and ecology through internal training materials based on the training sessions performed by NHB. Finally, one key success of NHDOT's project is its positive working relationship with NHB, which has helped build trust over time.
State Natural Heritage Database Data Coordination
Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI)
Project Goals: OKI used User Incentive funding to integrate data from three State Natural Heritage Databases with its Regionally Significant Environmental Resource database to inform the development of its LRTP. With the natural heritage data from each State, OKI prepared a series of maps, produced a summary of the method and criteria used to map the datasets, and drafted a report on how the new data improves understanding of regionally significant environmental resources. OKI also plans to update its project prioritization criteria.
Project Activities and Accomplishments: OKI completed its performance goal to execute a data-sharing agreement with each of the three State agencies and recently completed its final project report. The report addresses how OKI is using the data in its Regionally Significant Environmental Resources and as part of its project prioritization criteria. In addition, OKI created analytical maps based on the new data and a summary of its methodology. OKI will continue to analyze and organize the data to apply to its next LRTP.
OKI's objective was to achieve consistency for the three data-sharing arrangements, and it developed a common agreement template for all of the agencies. OKI then worked with each State agency to tailor the agreement to support State-specific needs or interests. This coordination resulted in a series of agreements that set similar conditions for the sharing, usage, and redistribution of data. The shared basis for the agreements allows OKI to perform consistent kinds and levels of analysis across its entire region. Additionally, some data characteristics provided by one State agency led to OKI requesting similar additions from the other State agencies. For example, one State suggested providing its data using a one-square mile area to define its geography without divulging sensitive information on the species; OKI saw the advantage of mapping data at this scale and worked with the other States to obtain their species information in the same manner.
Figure 6: OKI developed a series of maps, like the Area of Natural Heritage Data Base Sites shown here, using natural heritage data from Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.
Future Steps: As OKI has completed its User Incentive activities, it is now beginning to consider how to integrate the project findings into transportation planning and project development, including its Regionally Significant Environmental Resource data. The information from the User Incentive project may allow for more specific descriptions of local environmental assets in the project planning and prioritization process. OKI will soon hold a working session with the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to discuss the data obtained through this project and applications for the environmental review process.
In fall 2014, OKI plans to launch an interactive web mapping tool that allows the public to view environmental data on its website. The tool will allow OKI's member communities and other agencies to use this data for other uses, such as land use and green space planning. This effort is part of a wider OKI initiative to communicate planning and environmental information to the public using online maps and social media.
Insights on Eco-Logical: Environmental datasets can be helpful for more than just an MPO's transportation planning responsibilities. The OKI Region's land-use planners, stormwater management agencies, and land trusts and conservancies can also benefit from access to the new data. Local communities and conservation organizations can soon access the data with OKI's online mapping tool. Sharing and communicating data can help agencies realize the co-benefits from Eco-Logical for both the implementing agency and its partners.
Creating a Regional Open Space Database
Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)
Project Goals: SCAG is developing a regional open space GIS database that will collect and organize plans, programs, studies, and data on open space and biotic resources within its planning area. SCAG is also working on an assessment methodology that will help identify important areas for conservation for use by County Transportation Commissions (CTCs) and local jurisdictions, some of whom are developing their own mitigation programs.
Project Activities and Accomplishments: SCAG's project team developed its open space database and reviewed an initial version in spring 2014. The draft database currently includes approximately 70 datasets. SCAG shared this draft with environmental partners, who provided feedback as well as additional datasets for inclusion. The agency also developed a data gaps report, which highlights areas in the region that may not be covered by particular datasets. SCAG held a workshop in March 2014 about the assessment methodology for using this data to identify the most important areas for conservation and mitigation. The workshop included staff from the CTCs, a primary audience for the methodology, and input from the workshop led to a finalized methodology in summer 2014.
SCAG views the database and its development as a way to build trust among municipalities, CTCs, and other transportation and environmental stakeholders. The agency now has joint work program MOUs with four of the six CTCs in its region, accomplishing a milestone SCAG set for this project. All of these MOUs state that SCAG and the CTC will collaborate on habitat and open space conservation. In addition, some of SCAG's local transportation partners have begun using the GIS database in their planning and project development activities.
Figure 7: SCAG's User Incentive project focuses on the development of a regional open space GIS database, including maps of the region.
Next Steps: In fall 2014, SCAG will hold outreach meetings to share the database and assessment methodology with intended users, including the leadership of all six regional CTCs. SCAG staff will outline possible uses of the tool in upcoming projects such as mitigation for potential high-speed rail development in California.
At these outreach meetings, SCAG will also solicit ideas for how the information can be used in its upcoming 2016 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Community Strategy.
Insights on Eco-Logical: SCAG noted that some local open space programs in its region are already very advanced. The experiences of these existing local programs are helping SCAG develop effective programmatic partnerships with other areas. Eco-Logical data may also provide different benefits for different users. In presenting its work, SCAG tailored its narrative and examples to meet the needs of particular audience. For example, municipalities may be interested in Eco-Logical data that can be used in developing their comprehensive plans, whereas CTCs may prefer to focus on the benefits the Eco-Logical approach can provide to project development.
Appendix B. Eco-Logical Grant Project Summaries
The following section contains a brief summary of the completed Eco-Logical grant projects. For a more detailed description of the projects, refer to the 2012 Eco-Logical Grant Program Annual Report.
List of Projects
Developing a Regional Ecosystem Framework for Terrestrial and Aquatic Resources along the I-70 Corridor: An Eco-Logical Field Test
Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)
The goal of the CDOT Eco-Logical grant project was to identify mitigation projects to improve wildlife connectivity for the Interstate 70 (I-70) corridor. To achieve this goal, CDOT staff collaborated with a group of partner agencies to draft a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to cover projects in the corridor and established an MOU for A Landscape Level Inventory of Valued Ecosystem Components, a CDOT-led interagency program that promotes environmental streamlining in the I-70 corridor. CDOT and its partners also created an REF matrix for the corridor that incorporates wildlife habitat and crossing data into a GIS database to help CDOT implement projects along the corridor. CDOT successfully tested the REF matrix on a small project in the corridor and plans to apply it for future I-70 corridor projects.
Sustainable Infrastructure Standards for Urban Ecology
Chicago Department of Transportation (Chicago DOT)
The Chicago DOT Eco-Logical grant project supported outreach and education activities related to the agency's construction of a sustainable streetscape pilot in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago using Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) principles and featuring sustainable elements such as stormwater catchments and solar-powered streetlights. The project resulted in the creation of a sustainable design manual, a series of educational kiosks, and other products that inform regional governments and the public about the benefits of sustainable infrastructure investment. The project has improved awareness of sustainable urban infrastructure in the Pilsen community and has opened up new markets for sustainable technologies by demonstrating their utility.
Regional Transportation, Ecosystem, and Land-Use Integration Plan
Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Illinois (TCRPC)
The goal of the TCRPC Eco-Logical grant project was to complete an integrated planning document known as “The Big Plan,” which developed strategies for improving the sustainability of the transportation system with respect to ecosystems in the Peoria, Illinois region. The Big Plan, which TCRPC completed in 2010, includes regional priorities and strategies for land-use and infrastructure development, policy concepts, GIS-based scenario-planning models, and technical implementation. The Big Plan put forth a regional vision focused on five themes: agricultural preservation, balanced growth, economic development, environmental stewardship, and transportation infrastructure. TCRPC's grant project helped it move forward in establishing a collaborative culture across jurisdictions and disciplines. By thinking more regionally, TCRPC was able to bring community leaders and transportation and land-use planners together to involve a broader range of stakeholders in the planning process.
An Eco-Logical Approach to Transportation Planning in the Kansas City Region
Mid-America Regional Council (MARC)
The MARC Eco-Logical grant project sought to build a framework for an efficient and sustainable transportation system in the Greater Kansas City region. As part of the project, MARC developed an Action Plan with the goals of formalizing collaboration with regional partners, creating a regional mitigation strategy, and aligning transportation decisionmaking with a regional sustainability vision. MARC's board of directors adopted the Action Plan in 2009. MARC staff then worked with an Action Plan Advisory Group to integrate the Action Plan into its 2040 LRTP, which was adopted in 2010. The plan includes policy direction related to climate protection, energy, and natural resource conservation measures through future transportation investments. MARC staff also revised project selection criteria for the agency's planning and programming processes to include environmental considerations. Ultimately, the Eco-Logical grant project encouraged MARC to build stronger local processes and to consider environmental data earlier in the transportation planning process. In 2013, MARC completed a new $2.5 million, remote-sensing based, geospatial land cover dataset for the Kansas City region. The regional natural resources inventory provides a basis for future regional mitigation and restoration planning. This work is embedded within the context of more proactive, integrated land use, transportation, and environmental planning.
Providing Opportunities for Highway Programs to Remediate Natural Resource Concerns in New York
Tioga County Soil and Water Conservation District (TCSWCD)
The goal of the TCSWCD Eco-Logical grant project was to work with the FHWA New York Division Office and New York State DOT (NYSDOT) staff to develop an REF, consisting of natural resource maps covering the county's watersheds. The project team also assisted in developing an in-lieu fee program in the Upper Susquehanna River Basin, which has helped implement the REF. In 2012, the TCSWCD completed the first version of an online mapping tool for its REF and drafted a report on the project, which details conservation opportunities for a range of “keystone species” within the Susquehanna Basin. The report and the REF enable environmental planners at NYSDOT to consider habitats that may otherwise fall outside the scope of the transportation planning process. As a result of this project, transportation agencies such as NYSDOT can manage and fund one collective mitigation site for multiple transportation projects by purchasing credits for a transportation project and then selecting a high-priority mitigation site, as identified in the REF, to mitigate impacts from several different transportation projects.
Creating Tools to Support Integrated Transportation and Resource Planning in New Hampshire
New Hampshire Audubon (NHA)
NHA used part of its Eco-Logical grant to develop a GIS-based wildlife connectivity framework to integrate transportation and land-use planning by evaluating the impact of transportation projects on wildlife species. To create the model, NHA and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department convened an interagency working group that developed an impact assessment framework that rated the resistance for 16 wildlife species by measuring how natural and unnatural barriers impacted the species' abilities to move across the landscape. The dataset for the connectivity model is now available on the NH Statewide GIS website for anyone with access to GIS software. MPOs and Regional Planning Associations can use this model and framework for environmental screening of transportation projects before they submit their projects to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.
Linking Lands and Communities in the Land-of-Sky Region of Western North Carolina
Land-of-Sky Regional Council, Western North Carolina (LOSRC)
The goal of the LOSRC Eco-Logical grant project was to develop a green infrastructure framework to identify priority ecological resources and areas suited for future development in a four-county region of Western North Carolina. As part of this project, LOSRC created several publicly available resource maps and datasets that address water quality, agricultural suitability, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity. Using GIS data and spatial data integration tools, LOSRC also developed resource assessments and a Regional Green Infrastructure Network map. The agency incorporated information and maps from the Green Infrastructure Network into the “Environmental Analysis” chapter of its LRTP, as well as GroWNC, a three-year regional planning initiative supported by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant funds. GroWNC used the Eco-Logical grant project tools and maps to prepare scenarios that present possible future scenarios related to economic growth and land development patterns for Western North Carolina.
Integration of North Carolina's Conservation and Transportation Planning
North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR)
The goal of the NCDENR Eco-Logical grant project was to produce data for a strategic conservation planning tool for North Carolina, which required the development of data to help enhance the State Wildlife Action Plan and other conservation efforts by identifying high-priority, un-fragmented wildlife habitats based on occurrence data for indicator species and digital aerial photography. The project also resulted in improved cultural resource data. The data developed during this project are included in the NC Conservation Planning Tool (CPT), a comprehensive statewide conservation-planning tool used by a variety of government agencies, regional councils of governments, conservation organizations, and other partners to inform planning and decisionmaking for land use, conservation, watershed, parks and recreation, and transportation projects. The data developed during this project became an integral part of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission's Green Growth Toolbox, which offers technical assistance, training workshops, and GIS data to local governments to support activities that encourage “nature-friendly” development to better conserve wildlife and natural resources. Overall, NCDENR used its Eco-Logical grant project to improve the integration of conservation data into transportation planning processes at the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), MPOs, and rural planning organizations in North Carolina. NCDENR is currently working with the NCDOT on an Interagency Coordination Protocol initiative that will provide documented guidance to transportation planners across the State to better utilize the CPT and other conservation data in long-range transportation planning.
Using the Eco-Logical Approach to Develop and Implement Conservation and Mitigation Priorities for Oregon
Oregon State University (OSU)
OSU used its Eco-Logical grant to identify Oregon's conservation priority areas and to consolidate disparate data from different regions of the State into an online REF tool. Now complete, the REF helps agencies throughout the State plan conservation efforts associated with transportation projects. In particular, the REF's online tool allows agencies to characterize projects relative to conservation priority areas. In response to the project, the EPA, the Oregon Department of State Lands, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality informally agreed to adopt OSU's methods to identify and implement important wetland mitigation sites, and are supporting the development and maintenance of the Oregon Wetlands Explorer to provide easy access to this information. As a result of the project, the Oregon Department of Transportation and other State agencies are working to integrate the Eco-Logical approach into streamlining communications and project reviews between environmental and transportation agencies. In addition, as a result of the work on this project, OSU's Institute for Natural Resources has gone on to help FHWA and TRB develop a number of additional Eco-Logical implementation tools, including a 2014 project to assist in designing crediting frameworks for transportation agencies.
Central Texas Greenprint for Growth: A Tool for Balancing Sustainable Conservation Goals with the Infrastructure Needs of Our Rapidly Urbanizing Region
Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG)
Using its Eco-Logical grant funding, CAPCOG created a “greenprint” for the Central Texas region to help planners and transportation agencies plan for future growth. With input from regional and local stakeholder groups, CAPCOG's Greenprint for Growth plan prioritized the protection of water quality, ecological resources, farm and ranch lands, recreational and cultural resources, and scenic corridors. Greenprint for Growth integrates data into a GIS model that prioritizes conservation opportunities and displays them in a series of maps, which are available on the Greenprint website. CAPCOG's work encouraged the counties and cities within its planning area to consider environmental effects earlier in the transportation planning process.
Developing a Regional Decision-Support System for the Houston-Galveston Region
Houston-Galveston Area Council of Governments (H-GAC)
The goal of the H-GAC Eco-Logical grant project was to create a GIS-based product, known as the Eco-Logical tool, to identify environmental resource priority areas. H-GAC completed all necessary resource mapping and published a web-based, interactive Eco-Logical tool in 2010. The tool fills a regional need to balance growth with natural resource conservation, and allows for transportation planners to consider environmental impacts in the project prioritization process. Since completing the project, H-GAC developed several mechanisms to promote local government and NGO use of the tool within the region, including a brochure for local governments, an interactive website, and a smartphone application. H-GAC's final report documents the methodology for developing the Eco-Logical tool, which other local or regional government agencies could replicate.
North Central Texas Regional Ecosystem Framework
North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG)
The goals of NCTCOG's Eco-Logical grant project were to develop a REF to help agencies assess environmental impacts of proposed infrastructure projects and to enhance multi-agency understanding of critical resource-protection areas. To develop the REF, NCTCOG analyzed and aggregated GIS data developed by EPA Region 6's Eco-Logical grant project to the subwatershed level for the entire metropolitan planning area. As a result of the data and analysis capabilities contained in the REF, NCTCOG was able to devote a chapter of its 2011 Metropolitan Transportation Plan to environmental considerations. The products of NCTCOG's grant project are currently supporting the agency's IAP Lead Adopter project, through which the agency is updating and applying the REF.
Blueprint Jordan River: A Lake-to-Lake Vision
The goal of the Blueprint Jordan River Eco-Logical grant project was to develop a collective vision for the Jordan River corridor that integrated transportation planning and natural resource restoration. The project team collaborated with the community, local government, and State and Federal agencies to carry out the grant project. As a result of the collaboration, the project team, coordinated by the public-private partnership Envision Utah, produced the Blueprint Jordan River vision document to guide development and restoration along the Jordan River. With the Blueprint complete, Envision Utah helped Salt Lake County establish an interim planning committee. This committee then formally created the Jordan River Commission in 2010, which currently oversees implementation of the Blueprint's vision. The Commission supports projects across the region that uphold the Blueprint vision, such as the completion of the Jordan River Trail. Envision Utah has also integrated Eco-Logical principles into other projects, such as Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow, which addresses transportation challenges and environmental impacts unique to the canyons of the Wasatch Mountains.
Integrating Green Infrastructure and Transportation Planning
Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, Virginia (TJPDC)
The goal of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission Eco-Logical grant project was to develop a green infrastructure plan that integrates transportation, development, and natural resource plans in the five-county planning district. To achieve this goal, the project team developed two GIS-based methodologies to help transportation planners prioritize mitigation projects for streams and wetlands based on potential environmental impacts. TJPDC also created a “Least Environmental Cost Analysis” framework to use in developing alternatives in construction projects. TJPDC provided the resulting framework to numerous local and State transportation and environmental agencies. CAMPO, which is located within TJPDC, is currently using data from the framework to establish a weighted ranking system for evaluating the impacts of the proposed project alternatives on ecosystem and recreation resources connected to the Rivanna River watershed, as part of its IAP Lead Adopter project.
A Regional Ecological Assessment Protocol for the South Central United States
United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 6
EPA Region 6 developed a Regional Ecological Assessment Protocol (REAP) that uses GIS analysis to classify land on the basis of its ecological significance. This project expanded upon the Texas Ecological Assessment Protocol, which collected and analyzed data for the State of Texas. The REAP now includes all five States in Region 6 (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas). All MPOs in those States have access to the REAP, and EPA reports that planners have used the REAP to identify potential impacts of and mitigation for transportation projects in early planning.
Appendix C. Implementing Eco-Logical IAP Interview Questions
In May and June 2014, FHWA and the Volpe Center project team conducted approximately 60-minute discussions with Implementing Eco-Logical IAP recipients. The following questions were used to guide these discussions.
Project Status and Activities
Appendix D. Eco-Logical Grant Program Questionnaire
FHWA and the Volpe Center project team used an electronic questionnaire to collect perspectives from the Eco-Logical grant recipient on the Eco-Logical approach and on how their participation in the Eco-Logical Grant Program impacted their agencies' activities. Nine of the 15 Eco-Logical grant recipients provided responses to the Eco-Logical Grant Program questionnaire:
The following questionnaire was shared with grant recipients. As NCTCOG and CAMPO are current IAP recipients, FHWA and the Volpe Center project team conducted discussions with them to collect project updates.
The FHWA Office of Project Development and Environmental Review prepares an annual report each calendar year (CY) to provide updates about its Eco-Logical Grant Program. The CY2013 report will address both the Eco-Logical Grant Program and FHWA's Implementing Eco-Logical Funding Assistance Program supported through SHRP2. Information about the SHRP2 Implementing Eco-Logical initiative is available at: http://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/ecological/eco_implementing.asp.
As an Eco-Logical Grant Program recipient, FHWA is interested in hearing your perspectives on how your participation in the program has influenced your agency's activities. While some of these questions may look familiar to you, we hope to learn how your perspectives have evolved since the completion of your grant project, focusing on activities that have occurred since December 2012.
SHRP2 is a large-scale cooperative research program funded by Congress and administered by FHWA, AASHTO, and TRB to advance innovative methods for the Nation's highway system. The program's projects, known as “SHRP2 Solutions,” are categorized under four focus areas: Safety, Renewal, Reliability, and Capacity. Implementing Eco-Logical, or C06, is one SHRP2 Solution listed under the Capacity focus area. For more on SHRP2, please visit the FHWA SHRP2 website at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/goshrp2/.
The use of “IAP” in this report refers specifically to the Implementing Eco-Logical IAP as part of SHRP2 C06 activities.
AASHTO is currently developing an Eco-Logical starter kit, in partnership with FHWA. The starter kit will be an online resource for agencies interested in applying the Eco-Logical approach.
FHWA is currently pursuing the development of various case studies highlighting on-the-ground examples of Eco-Logical.
FHWA, with support from the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, previously developed a preliminary Eco-Logical benefits framework to demonstrate examples of the cost- and time-savings the Eco-Logical approach can provide. Deployment of this framework will help agencies encourage a “business case” for Eco-Logical.
To learn more about past Eco-Logical Program annual reports, please visit FHWA's Eco-Logical website.
The interagency steering team comprised eight Federal agencies: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, FHWA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Park Service. These agencies are known as the “Signatory Agencies.” Four State agencies served on the team: Knik Arm Bridge and Tool Authority, North Carolina DOT, Vermont Agency of Transportation, and the Washington State DOT. The Volpe Center also provided support to the team.
Two of the Eco-Logical Grant Program recipients are current IAP recipients and therefore participated in an IAP recipient discussion with FHWA and the Volpe Center instead of the Grant Program questionnaire.
For more on SHRP2, please visit the FHWA SHRP2 website at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/goshrp2/.
For more information on AASHTO practitioner handbooks, please visit: http://www.environment.transportation.org/center/products_programs/practitioners_handbooks.aspx.
Additional information on the grant recipients is provided in the 2012 Eco-Logical Grant Program Annual Report.
One Implementing Eco-Logical IAP recipient—the Idaho Transportation Department—received both Lead Adopter and User Incentive funding.
Two Implementing Eco-Logical IAP Lead Adopter recipients—Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO and North Central Texas Council of Governments—are also past Eco-Logical grant recipients.
The Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool, or CHAT, is a tool sponsored by the Western Governors' Association that aims to bring greater certainty and predictability to transportation and conservation planning through online maps of crucial wildlife habitat and corridors in States such as Idaho and others. For more information, please visit: http://www.westgovchat.org/.
The term “LRTP” is noted here, as it is referred specifically in several of the IAP recipients' planning activities. FHWA uses the term “Metropolitan Transportation Plan,” or “MTP,” to describe LRTP activities.
These measures still fell under the three focus areas of: REF in decisionmaking; integration of planning and decisionmaking between agencies; and agency culture and management adoption.
FHWA, with support from the Volpe Center, developed a preliminary Eco-Logical benefits framework to help agencies demonstrate the differences between the standard transportation delivery process and the Eco-Logical approach. The framework includes a series of process models to demonstrate examples of the economic benefits that using the Eco-Logical approach can bring. After FHWA fully finalizes this document, it can deploy the process.
The seven-member Idaho Transportation Board supervises and administers ITD. Its responsibilities include establishing Idaho's transportation policy and guiding the planning, development, and management of the State's transportation network. The IDFG Commission administers the State's fish and game policies.
Passed in 2005, SAFETEA-LU expanded environmental considerations for metropolitan and statewide transportation planning. Section 6001 of SAFETEA-LU requires that environmental considerations be included in the development of MTPs. Section 1310 of MAP-21 continues this requirement.
ITD is also a User Incentive recipient.
IPLAN is a web-based, cloud portal that enables staff and customers to view ITD's data sources in order to integrate data across agency boundaries, in part to help integrate transportation and conservation planning.
CHAT is a tool sponsored by the Western Governors' Association that aims to bring greater certainty and predictability to transportation and conservation planning through online maps of crucial wildlife habitat and corridors in States such as Idaho.
The seven topic areas are: department missions, interagency communication and coordination, staff resources, data-sharing, wildlife crossings, road kill, and planning and project coordination.
Through its SHRP2 C18 project, PPACG used a collaborative, data-driven planning framework in developing its 2035 Moving Forward RTP. While focused on RTP development in particular, the project allowed PPACG to collect ecological data as part of an REF and reach out to new partners. More information is available at: http://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=3067.
EIA is a multi-level protocol for assessing the health of ecosystems developed by NatureServe. For more information, visit: http://www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/standards-methods/ecological-integrity-assessment.