Two WTI Road Ecologists are authors of a newly published study that explored the use of mitigation credits for transportation projects. Rob Ament and Marcel Huijser, in collaboration with research partners at the engineering firm of WSP USA, led the research for “Valuing Wildlife Crossings and Enhancements for Mitigation Credits,” a project sponsored by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), part of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Mitigation crediting could provide a valuation approach for state DOTs interested in promoting the construction of wildlife crossings and other enhancements to mitigate transportation project impacts.
The report includes extensive information collected from a survey of more than 200 state DOTs and natural resource agencies on valuation methods and mitigation credits that have been used by state DOTs and their partners, as well as potential methods and approaches that could be developed in the future. The study also highlights four case studies of wildlife connectivity mitigation from California, Colorado, and Florida.
The report is available for download from the National Academies Press website. The American Association of Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) also highlighted the publication in its daily newsletter last week.
Fernanda Abra, a Brazilian Ph.D. student who has conducted wildlife research with a leading WTI road ecologist for nearly a decade, is one of only three scientists worldwide to be selected for the 2019 Future For Nature Award, announced on February 19.
A few months ago, eight young conservationists from around the world were nominated for the Future For Nature Award. The nominees came from Brazil, India, Nepal, The Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Rwanda, and the United Kingdom. Today, the three award winners were announced: Fernanda Abra (Brazil), Divya Karnad (India), and Olivier Nsengimana (Rwanda). Fernanda Abra has a long-term connection with Montana and is currently working in Missoula with one of her PhD advisors, Dr. Marcel Huijser.
The Future For Nature Foundation (FFN) is a Dutch organization that supports young, talented and ambitious conservationists, committed to protecting wild animals and wild plant species. FFN states that “The commitment of these individuals is what will make the difference for the future of nature. Through their leadership they inspire and mobilize communities, organizations, governments, investors and the public at large.”
Every year, three awards are available to young conservationists from all over the world. The Award offers the winners international recognition, financial support of 50,000 Euros to carry out their work, and the opportunity to work with an international network of conservationists.
Ms. Abra is a PhD student in the Applied Ecology program at “Luiz de Queiroz” College of Agriculture, University of São Paulo (ESALQ/USP). Her advisors are Dr. Kátia Ferraz (professor at ESALQ/USP, Department of Forest Science, LEMaC Wildlife Ecology, Management and Conservation Lab) and Dr. Marcel Huijser (research ecologist at the Western Transportation Institute, Montana State University).
“As a researcher, Fernanda has already made a positive impact on species conservation in Brazil. For her PhD she is generating knowledge on the number of road-killed mammals, understanding their spatial and temporal patterns, and developing tools to reduce the huge impact of roads and traffic on Brazil’s biodiversity. The combination of hard work and determination will result in reduced unnatural mortality of mammals and reduced habitat fragmentation caused by transportation infrastructure,” Said Dr. Katia Ferraz.
Interested in Road Ecology since 2009, Ms. Abra is now in the final stages of her PhD research. Her work focuses on animal-vehicle collisions along highways in São Paulo State and implications for biological conservation, human safety, and the economy. Dr. Marcel Huijser of the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University has worked with Ms. Abra for nearly nine years, overseeing her 2010 internship on the wildlife mitigation study along US Hwy 93 on the Flathead Indian Reservation, as well as advising on both her Masters research and her PhD in Brazil. Through her work with Dr. Huijser she has been fortunate to be able to study and apply some of the lessons learned from Montana’s investment in wildlife crossing structures along highways and animal detection systems in the region.
As Dr. Huijser explains:“Fernanda has long term vision, concrete goals, and the political savvy to get things done. When I first met her in 2010, she realized that local expertise in road ecology was needed to manage the environmental impacts associated with Brazil’s quickly expanding transportation network. And she made this happen by securing funding for me to teach two graduate level road ecology courses and for two national conferences on transportation ecology. Thanks to her vision, hundreds of Brazilian students, researchers, and policy makers have been introduced to road ecology concepts. As a result, an increasing number of wildlife mitigation measures are being effectively implemented on the ground in Brazil.”
In addition to her academic research and work as a consultant, Ms. Abra volunteers as a road ecologist for several conservation projects including the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative and the Anteaters and Highways Project. She is also responsible for the road-ecology data in the National Action Plans for threatened canids, felids and ungulates, including iconic species such as the maned wolf, hoary fox, jaguar, puma, and lowland tapir.
Dr. Patricia Medici, coordinator of Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative in Brazil, Chair of Tapir Specialist Group of IUCN and Winner of the FFN Award in 2008 has worked with Ms. Abra for several years. She explains that: “Fernanda plays a key role in the conservation of Brazilian mammal species because she knows how to measure the extent of the road-kill impact, the barrier effect of transportation infrastructure, and, most importantly, she knows how to mitigate the problems. I find it very interesting how Fernanda feels confident and comfortable both doing fieldwork under tough conditions along highways and participating in technical and political meetings with professionals and authorities from environmental and transportation agencies. She is extremely versatile and knows how to keep that link between the world out there and the meeting rooms.”
FFN winners are truly inspiring young individuals, who are bringing creative and innovative solutions to pressing environmental problems. Ms. Abra’s win shines a light on the global impact of roads on wildlife and the leadership role that both Montana and Brazil are taking to mitigate these impacts for the benefit of people and wildlife.
In response to winning the award, Ms. Abra said: “I feel so fortunate to work with incredible species such as tapirs, giant anteaters, maned wolf, jaguar, and other Brazilian canids and felids, and to be advised and supported by respected researchers and conservationists! I´m honored to receive the Future For Nature Award – this will help upscale my efforts to work with stakeholders, implement on-the-ground projects, and help protect Brazil’s amazing biodiversity.”
When the Citizen Times in North Carolina wants to know about wildlife crossings, its reporters call on WTI Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser. Columnist Bill McGoun interviewed Marcel about the installation costs of wildlife crossings and fencing for an opinion piece last week, entitled “In rural WNC, human must progress in harmony with wildlife.” As part of an ongoing series in the Times about wildlife corridors, Marcel’s expertise has already been included in three articles since the start of 2019! Read about the previous articles on the WTI News page.
The Asheville(NC) Citizen Times interviewed WTI Research Scientist Marcel Huijser for the feature article “Bridges for Bears: Do Wildlife Corridors Work?” Marcel discusses wildlife crossing structure success stories in Banff National Park and on U.S. 93 in Montana. Read the full interview or learn more about the WTI Road Ecology program on our website. The Citizen Times also interviewed Marcel on the costs and benefits of wildlife crossing structures for a follow up article called “Bringing Back Historic Wildlife Migration Corridors to the Mountains.”
In September, the Infra Eco Network Europe (IENE) held its International Conference in the Netherlands, focusing on the theme of “Crossing borders for a greener and sustainable transport infrastructure.” WTI’s Road Ecology staff members were front and center throughout the 5-day event, presenting their research and experience on wildlife crossings, habitat connectivity, and related topics to more than 300 attendees from around the world.
Tony Clevenger had the distinction of presenting a keynote address on his 17 years of research in Banff National Park, which IENE described as “one of the best testing sites of innovative highway mitigation in the world.” He also gave a presentation on emerging wildlife mitigation and policy in Latin America. Rob Ament led a workshop and gave a presentation on the impact of international transportation policy on the development of wildlife friendly roads, and gave a “lightening talk” on the potential for using plastic bridges for wildlife crossings. Perhaps the busiest staff member at the conference, Marcel Huijser served on the planning committee for this international event, facilitated a workshop on wildlife mitigation performance, presented on wildlife crossing structures and fencing on US 93, led a lightening talk on the reliability of species identification data, and presented a poster on the impact of short and narrow roads on wildlife vehicle collisions.
Last week, the Jackson Hole News and Guide published a feature article on the Teton County (Wyoming) Wildlife Crossings Master Plan developed by WTI. The draft Plan, which was recently presented to County Commissioners, identified priority sites for wildlife mitigation and recommended site-specific solutions. As part of the plan, twelve sites were proposed for wildlife crossing structures to increase both roadway safety and habitat connectivity. Principal Investigator Marcel Huijser was interviewed for the article, which is available on the Jackson Hole News website.
Last week, Marcel Huijser opened the 2018 Australasian Network for Ecology and Transportation (ANET) Conference, in Melbourne, Australia with a keynote address entitled “Road Ecology – Are We Taking the Right Turns?” The Conference, co-hosted by the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand in Victoria, explored the theme “Connecting nature, connecting people.” Marcel also participated in a panel discussion of how technology and innovation influence transportation ecology research and practice, as well as field trips to view local road ecology projects. A profile of his work on animal detection systems, habitat connectivity, and of his role as a visiting professor in Brazil was featured on the conference website.
WTI Research Scientist Marcel Huijser was on the road in February, speaking at two major regional wildlife events in Colorado and California. On February 8, he was invited to give the keynote address (“Road Ecology, are we taking the right turns?”) at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Colorado Chapter of the Wildlife Society. On February 21, he spoke at the “Bridges and Biology” workshop hosted by the California Department of Transportation, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). At this event, Marcel led a workshop session called “National and International Perspectives,” which focused on wildlife usage of crossing structures, including how to increase their effectiveness.
To learn more about Marcel’s research, visit the Road Ecology webpage.
WTI Research Scientist Tony Clevenger was interviewed by the Rocky Mountain Outlook last week about a new wildlife overpass near Canmore, Alberta and Banff National Park. In “Plans for new TCH overpass in the works,” Clevenger discusses the role of wildlife overpasses in reconnecting grizzly bear populations, which is critical for the long-term viability of the species. The article also highlights Clevenger’s work with colleague Adam Ford to study the wildlife crossing structures in Banff for 17 years, research which revealed grizzly bear travel patterns and the types of crossing structures which are most effective. The full article is available on the Rocky Mountain Outlook website.