Environmental Review Toolkit
Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

Michigan: Protected Areas Program

Protected Areas Program site

Protected Areas Program site
Source: MDOT

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) initiated the Protective Areas (PA) Program to improve environmental stewardship within the State. The program builds off of State and Federal law to enhance habitat and assist in Threatened/Endangered (T/E) species recovery, while meeting the transportation needs of the State.

MDOT initiated the PA Program 25 years ago in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Michigan Natural Features Inventory. The objectives of the PA Program are: to identify and delineate the location of T/E species; to protect T/E species and their habitats within MDOT right-of-way (ROW); and to communicate species and habitat protection measures throughout MDOT.

The PA Program uses manuals called “Redbooks” to organize and communicate the species location, species and community information, and management recommendations to all MDOT staff. A protective ranking index was used to filter the 498 known sites containing listed species within MDOT ROW. This index evaluated 18 factors, including: imperilment rank, sensitivity to management practices, site vulnerability, and landscape context. The highest ranked 100 sites were then selected and added into the existing PA Program, for a total of 125 sites statewide. These sites are concentrated in Michigan's high quality communities such as coastlines, wetlands, prairies, and oak savannahs. Together these sites encompass hundreds of miles along Michigan's highway system and serve to protect thousands of acres.

The Redbooks contain site maps, species and community information, and management recommendations for each site. MDOT staff use the Redbooks during the project planning, design, construction, and ongoing maintenance operations. Redbooks contain the following information for each site:

Sample Redbook page

Sample Redbook page
Source: MDOT

  • Location of threatened and endangered species; adjacent highway; Township, Range and Section; Region offices; and Transportation Service Center offices
  • Site map, name, aerial and topographic maps delineating species and habitat
  • Species/community abstracts discussing habitat, biology, ecology, and survey time/methodology
  • Species photographs, preferred habitat, and State and Federal listing status
  • Habitat management, ecological site objectives, and vulnerabilities/threat management
  • Seasonal and project restrictions, maintenance operation plans, and invasive species control

MDOT conducts regular performance measurements to assure the accuracy of the Redbooks. PA Program sites are field surveyed every five years by MDOT staff specialists to monitor the status of the species and their habitat. This allows them to determine how the species are responding to habitat management plans, evaluate potential threats to the site, and adapt the management strategy as needed to assure success of the site. This information is submitted annually to the MDNRE for compliance with MDOT's Endangered Species Permit.

MDOT's implementation of the PA Program has led to increased coordination with State and Federal regulatory agencies to ensure that management strategies are consistent with species recovery goals. The program has also led to a decrease in the number of species takes within MDOT ROW based on better communication and planning during all project phases. Lastly, the program creates a link between proposed projects and their adjacent PA Program sites, which leads to improved funding opportunities, species protection, and habitat management during construction.

For more information, contact David W. Schuen, Endangered Species Specialist, MDOT, Environmental Section, Ecological Services, Compliance and Mitigation Unit at Schuend@michigan.gov or Donald Cameron, Planning and Program Development Manager, U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Michigan Division at Donald.Cameron@dot.gov.


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