Environmental Review Toolkit
Accelerating Project Delivery

Eco-Logical Webinar
Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) and Wildlife Data

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Presenter: Rob Ament, Western Transportation Institute
Presenter: Carlee Brown, Western Governors' Association (WGA)
Presenter: Renee Callahan, Center for Large Landscape Conservation
Presenter: Holly Michael, Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA)
Presenter: Gregg Servheen, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

PDF Version [6 MB]


Table of Contents

Eco-Logical Introduction

Development of Sustainable Strategies Supporting Transportation Planning and Conservation Priorities Across the West

CHAT and Eco-Logical


Eco-Logical Introduction

Slide 1: Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) and Wildlife Data

November 12, 2015

Presenters:

  • Rob Ament, Western Transportation Institute
  • Carlee Brown, Western Governors' Association
  • Renee Callahan, Center for Large Landscape Conservation
  • Holly Michael, Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
  • Gregg Servheen, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Image: Logo of 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: Eco-Logical On Call Technical Assistance Tool

The Eco-Logical On-Call Technical Assistance Tool is available for agencies to:

  • Request responsive, individualized guidance on Implementing Eco-Logical
  • Submit ideas for webinars or other Eco-Logical Activities

Image: Top banner from the “Request Technical Assisstance” page of the Implementing Eco-Logical website

Slide 4: Colorado DOT Case Study

FHWA has developed a Case Study on how Colorado DOT implemented Steps 7-9 of the nine-step Integrated Eco-Logical Framework:
https://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/ecological/ImplementingEcoLogicalApproach/Case_Study_CDOT.asp

Image: Map of the I-70 Corridor in Colorado, between Denver and Glenwood Springs, with the Twin Tunnels Project Area highlighted

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Development of Sustainable Strategies Supporting Transportation Planning and Conservation Priorities Across the West

Slide 5: Development of Sustainable Strategies Supporting Transportation Planning and Conservation Priorities Across the West

A project of the Western Governors' Association with support from the Federal Highway Administration

Slide 6: Participants

Report prepared by:

  • Western Governors' Association
  • Center For Large Landscape Conservation
  • Western Transportation Institute - Montana State University

For the:

  • Federal Highway Administration

With Contributions from 16 State Transportation and Wildlife Agencies:

  • Alaska , Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming

And the

  • Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Image: Photo of a project field trip - wildlife overpass, Flathead Reservation, US 93, Montana

Slide 7: Purpose

  • Identify ways digital wildlife data support transportation
  • Identify strategies that build a collaborative approach
  • Enable more efficient, economic and sustainable transportation outcomes

Image: Photo of a wildlife crossing on US Hwy 6, Colorado

Slide 8: Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool

Online at wafwachat.org

Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool

Image: Screenshot from CHAT showing a map of the states of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, colored in shades of blue to denote the six levels of Crucial Habitat Rank
Image: Screenshot from CHAT showing a map of Alaska, colored in shades of blue to denote the six levels of Crucial Habitat Rank

Slide 9: Policy Directive

“The Governors encourage widespread use of CHATS by industry, the public, and state and federal agencies. Planners at all levels in the public and private sectors can use state CHATS as a “first look” to help identify where states' wildlife assets are located.”
-WGA Policy Resolution, State Wildlife Science, Data and Analysis

Image: The Western Governors' Association logo
Image: Photo from the WGA's 2013 Winter Meeting shows Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper introducing WGA's CHAT to the public. Also pictured is Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel.

Slide 10: Key Points

  • Collaborative: A cross-boundary tool, guided by the work of the Western Governors' Wildlife Council representing 16 states.
  • Useful: Pre-planning tool for energy, transportation, and land use planning.
  • Non-Regulatory: The WG CHAT simply gives a 30,000-foot “first look” at wildlife habitat.

Image: Photo of a wide green valley as seen from the top of a rocky hill. A row of rocky hills are in the distance beyond the valley.

Slide 11: State Data Funneled into CHAT

Note: HabiMap™ Arizona and the Western Governors' CHAT do not show tribal lands in Arizona.

Image: Screenshot from CHAT of a map of Arizona, colored in shades of blue to denote the six levels of Crucial Habitat Rank
Image: Screenshot from CHAT of a map of Alaska, colored in shades of blue to denote the six levels of Crucial Habitat Rank
Image: Screenshot from CHAT of a map of the states of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, colored in shades of blue to denote the six levels of Crucial Habitat Rank

Slide 12: What is Crucial Habitat?

State Data Inputs → Combine into map layers using common framework → Aggregated Crucial Habitat Layer
State Fish Distribution Aquatic Species of Concern Crucial Habitat
SOC Observations Terrestrial Species of Concern
SOC Habitat Models
WGA Large Intact Blocks Native and Unfragmented Habitat
WGA Corridors Layer
WGA ESoC
Big Game Habitat Models Species of Economic and Recreational Importance
Regional Habitat Models
National Fish Habitat Freshwater Integrity
Wetland Rest. database Wetlands
Connectivity Connectivity

Slide 13: Long Term Hosting

WAFWA Chat Coordinator: Holly Michael (holly.michael@wafwa.org)

Image: Logo of the Western Governors' Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool | Mapping Fish and Wildlife Across the West
Image: Logo of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool | Mapping Fish and Wildlife Across the West

Slide 14: Identifying Strategies

Four Major Components:

  • Determine the use of CHATs via a Questionnaire
  • Identify Best Management Practices and include case studies
  • Explore nexus with FHWA's Eco-Logical framework
  • Identify Opportunities to use digital wildlife data in transportation

Image: The CHAT Logo

Slide 15: Questionnaire - who completed

Targets

  • Part 1: Leadership: department heads, decision makers
  • Part 2: Practitioners: biologists, environmental specialists, planners, engineers

Responses

  • All 16 state DOTs responded in both parts
  • Part 1: 26 responses from states, FHWA and 5 federal land management agencies - USFWS, NPS, USFS, BIA, BLM
  • Part 2: 28 responses from states, FHWA, USFWS, USFS, NPS, BIA, and tribal agencies

Slide 16: Questionnaire Results (Part 1)

Use of regional and state CHATs - Leadership response summary

  • Many transportation offices unaware of, and unfamiliar with, CHATs
  • State CHATs tend to be used more, ranked more highly than the regional CHAT
  • Many potential uses and users of CHAT information were identified

Uses:

  • Planning
  • Scoping
  • Environmental studies
  • Site assessment

Users:

  • Environmental specialists
  • Biologists
  • Planners

Image: Screenshot from the Kansas state CHAT

Slide 17: Questionnaire Results (Part 2)

Use of regional and state CHATs - Biologists, planners, engineers, etc. response summary

  • States consider wildlife-vehicle collisions and game species more important than habitat quality and connectivity; feds responded conversely
  • Majority of federal respondents were not familiar with CHATs
  • 50%+ do not use regional CHAT - doesn't meet their specific needs
  • Ways to increase attention to wildlife: increase funding, early integration in planning

Image: Screenshot from the New Mexico state CHAT, displaying a map of New Mexico, colored in shades of blue to denote the six levels of Crucial Habitat Rank

Slide 18: Best Management Practices

  1. Incorporate wildlife information before budgets are set
  2. Set joint transportation and wildlife priorities
  3. Employ a transportation-wildlife liaison
  4. Expand the role of wildlife biologists
  5. Use CHATs in mitigation planning
  6. Invest in innovative technologies, research and monitoring
  7. Increase use and understanding of CHAT websites
  8. 8) Use FHWA's Eco-Logical approach to improve cooperation

Image: Photo of a dozen deer near a wildlife crossing entrance

Slide 19: Best Management Practices

Case Study 1: I-80 CSMPS Wildlife Crossing Working Group

I-80 CSMPS study area. Existing and proposed wildlife crossings in Nevada and Utah represented by red deer heads. Source: Nevada Department of Transportation

Image: Map of the Western United States, with the states of California, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming outlined

Slide 20: Best Management Practices

Case Study 2: Rogue Valley Council of Governments

Image: Map of the Rogue Valley Council of Governments jurisdiction near Medford, Oregon

Slide 21: Best Management Practices

Key Next Steps

  1. Update data regularly
  2. Develop finer scale CHAT data
  3. Improve integration of CHAT websites and other wildlife data sources
  4. Expand CHAT outreach
  5. Align highway safety and wildlife priority areas

Image: Photo of a newly constructed bridge on US 93 in Montana, showing a wide wildlife crossing incorporated on its underside
Image: Photo of a construction crew under a newly constructed bridge on SR 260 in Tonto National Forest, Arizona

Slide 22: Opportunities

Matrix of Opportunities: Completed by all 16 State DOTs

Image: Reproduction of a CHAT Matrix of Opportunities form

Slide 23: Opportunities

Results: Regional CHAT

Greatest potential use:

  • Pre- and post-STIP planning activities

Least potential use:

  • Construction or operations

Image: Reproduction of the Regional CHAT Opportunities results matrix from forms submitted by 15 states

Slide 24: Opportunities

Results: State CHATs

Greatest potential use:

  • Pre- and post- STIP activities
  • Mitigation planning

Image: Reproduction of the State CHAT Opportunities results matrix from forms submitted by 15 states

Slide 25: Opportunities

Results: Other data sources

Greatest potential use:

  • Post-STIP activities
  • Mitigation planning

Image: Reproduction of the Other Digital Wildlife Data Opportunities results matrix from forms submitted by 15 states

Slide 26: Opportunities

  • Overcome institutional/cultural barriers within DOTs
  • Increase state DOT ownership of wildlife values
  • Increase communication/alignment between wildlife and transportation agencies
  • DOTs and DOWs should set joint priorities
  • Find better ways to fund wildlife mitigation

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CHAT and Eco-Logical

Slide 27: Eco-Logical

Image: Graphic showing the nine steps of the Eco-Logical Process: Step 1: Collaboration; Step 2: Eco Status; Step 3: Develop REF; Step 4: Assess REF; Step 5: Prioritize; Step 6: Crediting; Step 7: Agreements; Step 8: Implement; and Step 9: Update REF

Slide 28: Eco-Logical

4 Potential opportunities to use CHATs within the Eco-Logical framework:

  • Step 1. Build and strengthen collaborative partnerships
  • Step 2. Characterize resource status and integrate natural environment plans
  • Step 3. Create a Regional Ecosystem Framework (REF)
    (overlay of geospatially-mapped transportation plans with conservation priorities, land use, and other data)
  • Step 4. Assess effects on conservation objectives
  • Step 5. Establish and prioritize actions
  • Step 6. Develop a crediting system
  • Step 7. Develop programmatic consultation, a biological opinion or a permit
  • Step 8. Implement agreements, adaptive management and delivery projects
  • Step 9. Update the REF and plan

Image: Reproduction of the cover of Eco-Logical: An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects

Slide 29: Eco-Logical

Top Opportunities to Strengthen CHAT ← → Eco-Logical Nexus:

  • Case Studies
  • Webinars
  • Peer learning exchanges
  • Conferences and meetings
  • Annual reports and other documentation

Image: Screenshot of the header banner of the “Eco-Logical at Meetings and Conferences” page from the Eco-Logical website
Image: Screenshot of the header banner of the “Library” page from the Eco-Logical website
Image: Screenshot of the header banner of the “Webinar Series” page from the Eco-Logical website

Slide 30: Project Summary

Future Steps:

  • Increase CHAT outreach
  • Explore CHAT data refinements
  • Expand use of CHATs
  • Assess if CHATs need modification
  • Investigate DOT responses to opportunities matrix
  • Strengthen the CHAT ← → Eco-Logical nexus
  • Overcome DOT cultural barriers to consider wildlife
  • Increase funding for CHATs and wildlife mitigation

Image: Photo of a large bear entering a wildlife crossing under a bridge

Slide 31: Next Steps for Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) and CHAT

Image: Map of the United States with the WAFWA states colored blue and California colored orange

Slide 32: Acknowledgements

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming
  • Center For Large Landscape Conservation
  • Federal Highway Administration
  • Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
  • Western Governors' Association
  • Western Transportation Institute - Montana State University

Image: Photo of a large elk that has just crossed a two-lane highway (there is no wildlife crossing in sight)

Slide 33: Contact Information

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