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This document was funded by the FHWA's Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty's Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Research Program (STEP).
Table of Contents
Eco-Logical: An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects outlines an ecosystem-scale approach to prioritizing, developing, and delivering infrastructure projects. Eco-Logical emphasizes interagency collaboration in order to create infrastructure projects in ways that are more sensitive to terrestrial and aquatic habitats.
The eight Eco-Logical signatory agencies are:
Eco-Logical Successes highlights signatory agencies' strategic environmental programs, projects, and efforts that share the vision set forth in Eco-Logical. This edition of Eco-Logical Successes focuses on two agency programs: the U.S. Forest Service's Open Space Conservation Strategy and the National Park Service's (NPS) Inventory and Monitoring Program.
Forest Service's Open Space Conservation Strategy
The U.S. Forest Service works to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. An interconnected network of open space provides invaluable environmental and social services: it supports healthy ecosystems, protects drinking water supplies, provides recreation opportunities, and leads to improved public health. Current patterns of growth—namely, low-density development that subdivides formerly large swaths of forest and grasslands—threatens the vital ecosystem, social, and economic benefits that open space provides. In response to the negative impacts caused by fragmentation and parcelization, the Forest Service created its Open Space Conservation Strategy to encourage cross-boundary partnerships to strategically conserve open space across the landscape.
What is Open Space?
The Forest Service defines open space as land that is valued for natural processes and wildlife, agricultural and forest production, aesthetic beauty, active and passive recreation, and other public benefits. Such lands include working and natural forests, rangelands and grasslands, farms, ranches, parks, stream and river corridors, and other natural lands within rural, suburban, and urban areas. Open space may be protected or unprotected, public or private.
The Open Space Conservation Strategy identifies actions to protect the most ecologically and socially important lands and to reduce potential negative impacts and risks of development. Four priority actions guide the strategy:
Open Space Conservation Strategy Supports Eco-Logical Principles
The Eco-Logical framework encourages agencies to work together and with the public to implement an ecosystem approach to infrastructure projects. The Forest Service's Open Space Conservation Strategy embodies several key aspects of the integrated planning framework outlined in Eco-Logical.
Assess Effects and Prioritize Opportunities:
Many of the strategies outlined in the Open Space Conservation Strategy were implemented in the Bozeman Pass Land Conservation Project. Bozeman Pass is located in one of the most important wildlife movement connectivity sites in the Greater Yellowstone region and provides numerous recreation opportunities. The land, which is bisected by Interstate 90, was vulnerable to development and land conversion. To protect this ecologically important area and minimize threats caused by development, the Forest Service's Gallatin National Forest worked in partnership with the Montana Department of Transportation, conservation partners, counties, communities, and cooperating landowners to acquire and protect over 2,000 acres of land in the Bozeman Pass area. By working together, public agencies and private citizens were able to conserve a critical area of undeveloped land, ensuring that it will continue to provide environmental and social benefits in perpetuity.
The Forest Service is currently conducting a webinar series titled Planning for Growth and Open Space Conservation. Each session of the ten-part series features expert speakers discussing specific opportunities and strategies to conserve open space. Upcoming topics in the series include:
To access past recordings and register for upcoming webinars visit the Forest Service's website at http://www.fs.fed.us/openspace/webinars.html.
For more information on the Forest Service's Open Space Conservation Strategy please contact:
Bozeman Pass—View from Interstate 90 (Source: Forest Service)
National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Program
NPS works to preserve natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of current and future generations. The health and integrity of a park's natural resources are affected by factors from within and outside park boundaries. Understanding the dynamic nature of park ecosystems and the impacts of diverse activities are essential for the effective management of park resources. NPS created the Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Program to provide park managers with scientific data that enables them to make better-informed decisions and to work more effectively with other agencies for the benefit of park resources.
The primary goal of the I&M Program is to integrate natural resource inventory and monitoring information into NPS planning, management, and decisionmaking. To achieve this, the I&M Program provides guidance, funding, and technical assistance to parks to complete a set of 12 basic natural resource inventories to assess and document the current condition of natural resources in the parks. These inventories provide baseline data for establishing long-term ecological monitoring, known as “Vital Signs Monitoring.” The results of the inventories and long-term monitoring provide park staff with critical data to assess the overall health of park resources and identify situations that require intervention.
Data Management and Information Sharing
Information management is an important element of the I&M Program. NPS has developed several important systems to manage and share the data being captured by the I&M Program. These data management applications ensure that the information produced by the program is easily accessible in multiple formats to a range of end users, including partner organizations and the public. Two key efforts of the I&M's information-sharing efforts are NPScape and Integrated Resource Management Applications (IRMA).
Park units with significant natural resources are organized into 32 ecoregional networks that share funding and staff to conduct long-term monitoring of park ecosystems. (Source: NPS)
Integrated Resource Management Applications (IRMA)
As well as sharing information within the agency, NPS I&M shares data and other products with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Geological Survey; contributes landscape-scale data and expertise to the Department of the Interior Landscape Conservation Cooperatives; and communicates the results of original research through scientific presentations and publications.
NPS I&M Program Supports Eco-Logical Principles
The Eco-Logical approach encourages agencies to integrate environmental solutions and goals into planning, and does so by applying a geographic framework defined primarily by ecological boundaries. NPS's I&M Program enables the direct application of this ecosystem approach.
The I&M Program collects data regarding ecological conditions in and around parks. Information about changes and trends in landscape-scale indicators in and around parks helps park managers anticipate, plan for, and manage associated effects to park resources. Monitoring changes in natural resource data over the long term enables decision-makers to assess the efficacy of management and restoration efforts, and amend approaches as needed.
Data produced by the NPS I&M Program have improved the implementation of NPS mission and goals in parks and regions throughout the Nation. One example is the pilot test of the Texas tortoise monitoring project at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park in Texas. Monitoring the Texas tortoise, currently on both the State and federally threatened species list, has already yielded new understanding of this elusive tortoise. Through this project, NPS has documented the specific risks that nearby roads pose to the park's tortoises by recording migration paths and road-caused mortality. As a result, NPS designed and installed fencing to redirect tortoises along safer migration routes and refined the park's vegetation management plan.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area (NRA) is also using data from the I&M program to inform the development of its long-range transportation plans (LRTPs). The NRA is using the I&M data, along with data provided by other agencies and park-specific data, to develop “Park Transportation Investment Needs Analysis” (PaTINA), a new GIS-based application that will support LRTP development. This application will overlay natural and cultural resource information and environmental risks and hazards on the transportation network to identify areas of potential concern. At the moment, PaTINA is still under development; the mapping and data-merging are complete, and the development team is now beginning the analysis phase. This is the first example of such an approach for NPS, but pending the results of this pilot, the agency hopes to eventually expand this model to other park units nationwide. The development team has employed good data management practices so that the information within PaTINA can eventually be used on a regional or national level.
For more information on the NPS I&M Program please visit https://science.nature.nps.gov/im/networks.cfm, or contact:
Eco-Logical Program Update
Source: South Carolina DOT
FHWA continues to pursue activities to raise awareness and operationalize the Eco-Logical approach. This work focuses on creating practical tools and delivering training to support agencies that are implementing the Eco-Logical approach.
Integrated Eco-Logical Framework Implementation Plan
Eco-Logical Benefit Assessment Framework
Eco-Logical Training Strategy
FHWA also continues to conduct the Eco-Logical webinar series. Information on upcoming webinars is available at http://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/ecological/eco_webinar_series.asp.