Environmental Review Toolkit
Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

Oklahoma: American Burying Beetle Conservation and Transportation Improvement Streamlining Initiative

Map of ABB Range in Oklahoma broken out by counties with ABB: current, historic, potential, unconfirmed recent,  and county.
ABB Range in Oklahoma

The purpose of the American Burying Beetle Conservation and Transportation Improvement Streamlining Initiative is to evaluate the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) activities likely to affect the endangered American burying beetle (ABB) over a 5-year period and to develop a landscape conservation approach to avoid, minimize, and offset those impacts. The ODOT, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have been in consultation since 2004 to improve conservation of the ABB in Oklahoma. The beetle's range includes 34 Oklahoma counties, spanning the eastern third of the state. As a result, nearly 85 transportation construction projects each year have the potential to negatively affect this species.

Adverse impacts to the ABB generally result from ground disturbance associated with transportation actions. Construction activities related to roadway projects frequently disturb soils and have the potential to harm individuals. Direct adverse impacts to these beetles during their inactive and active periods may occur as a result of impacts from clearing vegetation, heavy equipment operation, fuel and chemical contamination of the soil, rough terrain grading, soil excavation and filling, and re-vegetation and reseeding of disturbed areas. The 5-year agreement includes approximately 443 estimated state and local government road projects, ranging from bridge replacements to construction of a four-lane interstate on new alignment.

Past consultations for the ABB on individual projects were costly, time-consuming, and resulted in few conservation results for the species. This new programmatic initiative aims to provide proactive conservation for the ABB that would allow ODOT and FHWA to comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In order to accomplish this goal, ODOT, FHWA, and the USFWS have partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a non-governmental organization, to develop an initiative that would satisfy FHWA's ESA Section 7 Consultation for the ABB as well as provide for the conservation of the species within Oklahoma. The key to this initiative is TNC's American Burying Beetle Conservation Fund. The ODOT contributes monies to the Fund, which is held by TNC and used by the USFWS to enhance the conservation of the ABB in advance of potential impacts to the species from transportation projects.

Prior to this programmatic agreement, ODOT conducted project-specific ABB surveys and used the results to perform trap-and-relocate and baiting-away procedures. During 2007, 76 ABB surveys were conducted on 46 transportation projects at a cost of $175,000. Eight of the 46 projects had at least one transect with a positive result. Additionally, 10 projects had ABB trap and relocation conducted at a cost of $46,000. Only two of the 10 projects captured one beetle each. As a result, $221,000 was spent with little to no direct ABB conservation achievement.

With the new ABB Conservation and Transportation Improvement Streamlining Initiative, ODOT places funds that would have been spent on surveys and trap and relocations for individual projects directly into the ABB Conservation Fund. Money in the Conservation Fund provides for ABB research, land acquisition, conservation easements, and other conservation measure determined by the USFWS as appropriate mitigation for future transportation projects. The result is more meaningful ABB conservation than what would have been provided by continuing individual project-specific procedures on transportation projects within the range of the ABB.

Through the implementation of advanced conservation measures to protect and enhance ABB populations, ODOT is providing enhanced mitigation of environmental impacts from transportation projects to the ABB. In addition to enhancing ABB conservation efforts, this initiative streamlines the approval and construction of individual projects.

For more information, contact Julianne Hoagland at jhoagland@odot.org.

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