Environmental Review Toolkit
Accelerating Project Delivery

Eco-Logical Webinar
Vermont's Staying Connected Initiative: A Partnership to Advance Landscape-Scale Conservation

Tuesday, May 21, 2015
2:00 PM - 3:00 P.M. Eastern

Presenter: Mike Ruth, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Office of Project Development and Environmental Review
Presenter: Jens Hilke, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department
Presenter: Gina Campoli, Vermont Agency of Transportation
Presenter: Paul Marangelo, The Nature Conservancy, Vermont Chapter
Presenter: James Brady, Vermont Agency of Transportation

PDF Version [15.4 MB]


Table of Contents

Vermont's Staying Connected Initiative: A Partnership to Advance Landscape-Scale Conservation

The Staying Connected Initiative - An International Collaboration to Conserve, Restore, and Enhance Landscape Connectivity Across Vermont and the Northern Appalachian-Acadian Region

VTrans and Staying Connected

Identifying the Most Important Transportation Structures for Maintaining/Restoring Wildlife Connectivity

Project Review Considerations - Vermont Agency of Transportation


Vermont's Staying Connected Initiative: A Partnership to Advance Landscape-Scale Conservation

Slide 1: Vermont's Staying Connected Initiative: A Partnership to Advance Landscape-Scale Conservation

Presenters

  • Mike Ruth, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Project Development and Environmental Review
  • Jens Hilke, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department
  • Gina Campoli, Vermont Agency of Transportation
  • Paul Marangelo, The Nature Conservancy, Vermont Chapter
  • James Brady, Vermont Agency of Transportation

May 21, 2015

(Learn more about Eco-Logical at the FHWA website)

Images: Logos of Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration
Image: Collage of colored photographs of a bridge, a deer, a fish, and a curved rural road from the cover of the Eco-Logical: An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects report

Slide 2: Steps to Ensure Optimal Webinar Connection

This webinar broadcasts audio over the phone line and through the web room, which can strain some internet connections. To prevent audio skipping or webinar delay we recommend participants:

  • Close all background programs
  • Use a wired internet connection, if possible
  • Do not us a Virtual Private Network (VPN), if possible
  • Mute their webroom audio (toggle is located at the top of webroom screen) and use phone audio only

Slide 3: What is Eco-Logical?

  • An ecosystem methodology for planning and developing infrastructure projects
  • Developed by eight Federal agency partners and four State DOTs
  • Collaboration between transportation, resource, and regulatory agencies to integrate their plans and identify environmental priorities across an ecosystem
  • For more information, visit the Eco-Logical Website

Images: Logos for the Bureau of Land Management, EPA, U.S. DOT, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USDA, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Slide 4: What is Staying Connected?

  • The Staying Connected Initiative is a visionary partnership working to restore and enhance landscape connections for the benefit of people and wildlife across the Northern Appalachian/Acadian region of the eastern U.S. and Canada.

Slide 5: How Staying Connected fits into Eco-Logical

Eco-Logical Step 1:
Build and strengthen collaborative partnerships
Staying Connected has two dozen public and private partners, with many others supporting the work.
Eco-Logical Step 4:
Assess effects on conservation objectives
Staying Connected focuses on:
  • Conservation science
  • Land use planning
  • Key road sections
  • Land protection

Slide 6: How Staying Connected fits into Eco-Logical

Eco-Logical Step 5:
Establish and prioritize ecological actions
Staying Connected provides communities with tools and resources to determine what conservation actions are most important.

Slide 7: Staying Connected's matches Eco-Logical's purpose

Encourages Federal, State, Tribal and local partners involved in infrastructure planning, design, review and construction to make infrastructure more sensitive to wildlife and their ecosystems:

  • Integrates plans across agency and political boundaries
  • Promotes open public and stakeholder involvement
  • Provides time and cost savings and better environmental outcomes

Slide 8: Making Eco-Logical Work for Your Agency

  • The Integrated Eco-Logical framework is intended to be flexible - FHWA supports agencies working on integrated, advanced, landscape-scale planning, under any name.
  • Staying Connected is a prime example of working with partners to set joint environmental priorities, completing Eco-Logical in a way that makes sense for the region.

Slide 9: Vermont's Staying Connected Initiative: A Partnership to Advance Landscape-Scale Conservation

Presenters

May 21, 2015

(Learn more about Eco-Logical at the FHWA website)

Images: Logos of Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration
Image: Collage of colored photographs of a bridge, a deer, a fish, and a curved rural road from the cover of the Eco-Logical: An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects report


The Staying Connected Initiative - An International Collaboration to Conserve, Restore, and Enhance Landscape Connectivity Across Vermont and the Northern Appalachian-Acadian Region

The slides in this presentation contain the Staying Connected: Northern Appalachians logo.

Slide 10: The Staying Connected Initiative - An International Collaboration to Conserve, Restore and Enhance Landscape Connectivity Across Vermont and the Northern Appalachian-Acadian Region

Jens Hilke
VT Fish & Wildlife Department

Image: Photograph of a calm rural river with snow on its banks
Image: Photograph of a bear drinking water from a pond
Image: Photograph of a scenic autumn vista
Image: VT FIsh & Wildlife Department logo

Slide 11: SCI Mission

“The mission of the Staying Connected Initiative (SCI) is to conserve, restore, and sustain critical landscape connections across the Northern Appalachian-Acadian region for the benefit of nature and people. Sustaining these linkages will help safeguard native wildlife and plants from the impacts of habitat fragmentation and climate change, and support human activities and values that are tied to the forested landscape. We work across borders and at multiple scales to address these challenges.”

Image: Aerial photograph of a wide expanse of Vermont's Green Mountains used as the slide's background

Slide 12: Priority Linkages in the Northern Appalachians

Image: Map of the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada with areas color-coded to highlight the ten Northern Appalachians' Priority Linkages areas.

Slide 13: A Big Network of Partners - at Multiple Scales

Eco-Regional Steering Committee Members

  • Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
  • Maine Audobon
  • Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Nature Conservancy Canada (QB, NB, NS)
  • New Hampshire Fish and Game Department
  • New York Department of Environmental Conservation
  • New York Department of Transportation
  • North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative
  • Nova Scotia Department of the Environment
  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC) (NY, VT, NH, ME, MA)
  • Trust for Public Land (TPL)
  • Tug Hill Commission
  • Two Countries, One Forest
  • Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans)
  • Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Wildlife Conservation Society - Adirondack Program
  • Wildlife Conservation Society - Canada

Example: Greens to Adirondacks Linkage-Specific Affiliates

  • Brandon Planning Commission
  • The Conservation Fund
  • Friends of Hawk Hill
  • Hubbardton Battlefield Association
  • Middletown Springs Conservation Commission
  • The Nature Conservancy (VT)
  • New York Department of Environmental Conservation
  • New York Department of Transportation
  • Poultney Conservation Commission
  • Rutland Regional Planning Commission
  • Vermont Agency of Transportation
  • Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department
  • Vermont Land Trust (VLT)
  • Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC)
  • Wildlife Conservation Society - Adirondack Program

Example: Vermont State-Specific Partners

  • The Conservation Fund
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Northeast Wilderness Trust (NEWT)
  • The Nature Conservancy (VT)
  • Trust for Public Land
  • Vermont Agency of Transportation
  • Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department
  • Vermont Natural Resources Council
  • Vermont Land Trust

Slide 14: Multi-pronged approach

  • Conservation Science
  • Key Road Sections
  • Land Use Planning
  • Land Protection
  • Outreach & Education
  • VLT, TNC, TPL, Conservation Fund, NEWT, FWD Land Protection
  • VNRC assistance to Regional Planning Commissions & Towns
  • FWD tec. assistance to all municipalities & RPCs
  • VTRANS, TNC, FWD photo-monitoring bridges and culverts

Image: Color-coded county map of Vermont that has arrows pointing from the above list elements to areas on the map

Slide 15: Conservation Science & Planning

  • Linkage-specific GIS modeling
  • Wildlife tracking
  • Game cameras
  • Citizen science
  • Sharing results
  • Measures framework & baseline

Image: Color-coded map highlighting the Corridor Designer Bear
Image: Photograph of a mountain lion walking on a snow-covered field
Image: Photograph of approximately one dozen VTrans personnel gathered in a forest clearing, clothed for hiking and sporting backpacks

Slide 16: Linkage areas in VT

Basis for all SCI work

  • Different data available in each linkage
  • Different models in each linkage
  • Different landscape context
  • Least cost path
  • Cost-weighted distance analysis

Image: County map of Vermont with linkage areas shaded blue

Slide 17: Conservation science

Worcesters to Kingdom Modeling

Image: Vermont cost-surface map, developed in 2010
Image: Cost-surface map used for separate runs from anchor to anchor

Slide 18: Conservation science

Aggregated Network Developed

Image: Map of aggregated network developed

Slide 19: Conservation science

Structural Pathways

Image: Map of structural pathways

Slide 20: Making Roads More Wildlife-Friendly

  • Identification of priority road segments
  • Wildlife tracking & camera monitoring
  • Data sharing
  • VT Transportation and Connectivity Guidance Document
  • Trainings for DOTS
  • Northeast Transportation and Wildlife Conferences

Image: Photograph of VTrans staff installing a wildlife monitoring camera into a tree
Image: Photograph of a mountain lion crossing a stream below a bridge

Slide 21: Land Protection

  • 80+ permanent protection projects completed - > 300,000 acres
  • Model easement provisions
  • Connectivity in criteria for federal cost-share programs (VT)

Image: Photograph of a blue river, glistening in the sunlight, during the early stages of autumn

Slide 22: Land Use Planning

Technical assistance to:

  • 41 communities
  • Seven regional planning commissions (RPCs)

Outcomes:

  • 13 town plans (5 in works)
  • Six zoning and subdivision codes
  • One regional plan (3 in works)
  • Two new Conservation Commissions
  • One new Conservation Fund

Image: Photograph of six people reviewing a land use plan
Image: Photograph of the town of Worcester, Vermont in early autumn, with forest-covered Green Mountains in the background

Slide 23: Local Engagement - Northern Green Mountains

Cold Hollow to Canada (CHC)

Image: Screenshot of the Cold Hollow to Canada website's homepage
Image: Photograph of 12 people on a hike in the Northern Green Mountains
Image: Screenshot of a Staying Connected in the Northern Connector brochure, Vermont edition

Slide 24: A Public-Private Partnership

  • Benefits to State Agencies
    • Expands capacity of technical assistance & land protection
    • Expands spectrum of activity (through multi-pronged approach)
    • Provides eco-regional context
    • Encourages local empowerment

Slide 25: Website

www.stayingconnectedinitiative.org

Image: Screenshot of the Staying Connected Initiative website homepage


VTrans and Staying Connected

The slides in this presentation contain the Staying Connected: Northern Appalachians logo and the Vtrans: Working to Get You There logo.

Slide 26: VTrans and Staying Connected

Gina Campoli, Environmental Policy Manager

Image: Photograph of a highway winding through the lush green Green Mountains

Slide 27: VTrans and Staying Connected

  • VTrans Strategic Mission: Provide for the safe and efficient movement of people and goods
  • Vision: A safe, reliable and multimodal transportation system that promotes Vermont's quality of life and economic wellbeing
  • Strategic Goals and Agency-wide Objectives: Goal #2:
    Preserve, maintain and operate the transportation system in a cost effective and environmentally responsible manner

Slide 28: VTrans and Staying Connected

Image: Photograph of an older fish passage culvert in Buels Gore, Vermont
Image: Photograph of a new fish passage culvert in Buels Gore, Vermont

Slide 29: VTrans and Staying Connected

Image: Black and white photograph from a camera mounted on a tree that shows a deer emerging from an I-89 wildlife crossing culvert

Slide 30: VTrans and Staying Connected

Staying Connected Network of Connected Lands

Image: Map of Staying Connected Network of Connected Lands in Vermont

Slide 31: VTrans and Staying Connected

Image: Photograph of the VTrans Aquatic Organism Passage (AOP) team gathered under a bridge
Image: Photograph of 10 people viewing construction of a culvert
Image: Photograph of seven people working with a river fluidity model

Slide 32: VTrans and Staying Connected

Image: Map of the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada with areas color-coded to highlight the ten Northern Appalachians' Priority Linkages areas.


Identifying the Most Important Transportation Structures for Maintaining/Restoring Wildlife Connectivity

Slide 33: Identifying the Most Important Transportation Structures for Maintaining/Restoring Wildlife Connectivity

Paul Marangelo, Vermont Chapter

Image: Photograph of a fish passage culvert
Image: Photograph of a mountain lion using a wildlife crossing from the Staying Connected camera study
Image: The Vermont Fish & Wildlife logo
Image: The VTrans: Working to Get You There logo
Image: The Nature Conservancy: Protecting nature. Preserving life. logo

Slide 34: Vermont is the “Crossroads”

Image: Photograph of a bear cub clinging to a tree trunk
Image: Photograph of a bobcat in the wild
Image: Map of Vermont showing wildlife movements across the State

Slide 35: Conservation Science

Structural Connectivity

  • GIS modeling
  • Interpreting results (identifying spatial priorities)

Priorities derived from modeling exercises are hypothetical

Image: Map of spatial priorities derived from modeling exercises
Image: Close-up map of spatial priorities derived from modeling exercises

Slide 36: Linkage areas in VT

  • Derived from different models in each linkage
  • Habitat blocks and links between habitat blocks
    • Cross major road corridors

Image: County map of Vermont with linkage areas shaded blue

Slide 37: Linking large forest blocks

Image: Map of priority forest block linkages across Vermont and New York

Slide 38: Where to restore/enhance road permeability?

Identifying critical road segments:

  • GIS connectivity modeling (multiple scales)
  • Connecting forest blocks
  • Local habitat characteristics along road corridors that bisect forest blocks

Assessing functional connectivity:

  • Focus on best available habitat along road segments
  • Game Camera research
  • Winter tracking (along roads and in adjacent habitat)

Image: Aerial photograph of Hawk Hill, Vermont
Image: Map of critical road segments to connect forest blocks

Slide 39: Site Study Design to Assess Functional Connectivity

  • 2 Cameras @ culvert openings
  • 2 Cameras 50 feet away from the road
  • 2 Cameras 1600 feet away from road
  • 3200 ft. Tracking transect perpendicular to road
  • 1600 ft. Tracking transect along road

Image: Satellite photograph of camera study area

Slide 40: Game Cameras at structures

  • Characterize wildlife use of transportation structures in key road segments.
  • What structural characteristics makes wildlife use more likely? (dry surfaces, low ratio bankful width to structure width, openess ratio, species specific preferences, etc.)

Image: Photograph of a VTrans staff member installing a wildlife camera under a bridge in the snow
Image: Photograph of a staff member installing a wildlife camera under a low bridge

Slide 41: Results So far:

  • Between May and December 2014: 197 camera days of data collection at each of 11 sites (2,167 camera days total).
  • 10 of 11 structures used at least once by wildlife.
  • 41 passage events of focal species (bear, bobcat, coyote, fisher, mink, otter, fox, skunk, weasel, deer)

Image: Night-vision photograph from the camera study of a fox emerging from a wildlife crossing culvert
Image: Photograph from the camera study of a bobcat entering a wildlife crossing culvert

Slide 42: Anticipated outcomes:

  • Most important locations on major roads for wildlife-friendly transportation structures.
  • Recommendations on characteristics to incorporate into structure design.
  • Wildlife use of structures vs. over-road crossing vs. adjacent habitat use.

Image: Night-vision photograph from the camera study of a mountain lion entering a wildlife crossing culvert
Image: Photograph from the camera study of a fisher exiting a wildlife crossing culvert

Slide 43: Ongoing projects:

  • 124 cameras/3 distinct projects
    • US 2/I-89 (VTRANS/VTF&W)
    • VTRANS/UVM Transportation Research Institute/VTF&W/TNC
    • TNC/VTRANS/VTF&W/National Wildlife Federation

Approximately 26 sites total across Vermont

Image: Map of Vermont showing the locations of cameras used in the study


Project Review Considerations - Vermont Agency of Transportation

Most of the slides in this presentation contain the Staying Connected: Northern Appalachians logo.

Slide 44: Project Review Considerations - Vermont Agency of Transportation

James Brady, Environmental Specialist

Image: Photograph of of a newly constructed bridge and wildlife crossing underneath
Image: Photograph of a man standing under a stream culvert
Image: The VTrans: Working to Get You There logo

Slide 45: From Structural to Functional: VTrans and SCI

  • The Staying Connected Initiative has helped institutionalize the relationship between VTrans, VT F&W, and other SCI partners
  • Wildlife connectivity has become integrated into VTrans transportation project reviews
  • Models and studies have helped VTrans Environmental staff pin-point important areas for wildlife connectivity
  • VTrans now has a vehicle to share wildlife connectivity project experiences with neighboring states, provinces and NGOs

Image: Photograph from the camera study of a bear crossing a stream in the woods
Image: Black and white night photograph from the camera study of a mountain lion emerging from a wildlife crossing culvert
Image: The VTrans: Working to Get You There logo

Slide 46: From Structural to Functional: VTrans and SCI

Image: Map of the highway project location across the towns of Bolton, Waterbury, and Duxbury, Vermont

Slide 47: From Structural to Functional: VTrans and SCI

Image: Map shading 72,000 acres of land above the highway, and 55,000 acres of land below the highway

Slide 48: From Structural to Functional: VTrans and SCI

Image: Aerial photograph of the highway, river, and land of the project area with red lines overlaid detailing the highway and linkage area.
Image: Photograph of the highway and median

Slide 49: From Structural to Functional: VTrans and SCI

Image: Photograph of rocks under a bridge
Image: Photograph of water under three bridges

Slide 50: Q&A/Discussion

Image: Photograph of a mountain lion in the snow
Image: Photograph of a child looking through binoculars with a bird on his head
Image: Photograph of a green field and rolling hills, with mountains in the distance used as the slide's background

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