Technical Report


An Ecological Approach to Integrating Conservation and Highway Planning Volume 2 Public Deposited

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  • This report is intended to help transportation and environmental professionals apply ecological principles early in the planning and programming process of highway capacity improvements to inform later environmental reviews and permitting. Ecological principles consider cumulative landscape, water resources, and habitat impacts of planned infrastructure actions, as well as the localized impacts. The report introduces the Integrated Ecological Framework (Framework or IEF), a nine-step process for use in early stages of highway planning when there are greater opportunities for avoiding or minimizing potential environmental impacts and for planning future mitigation strategies. Success requires some level of agreement among stakeholders about prioritization of resources for preservation or restoration. This implies long range environmental planning as a companion to long range transportation planning so that there is a basis and methodology for prioritization. This report provides a structured collaborative way to approach these issues. It does not address environmental mitigation and permitting actions required by current law or regulation. The report provides technical background on cumulative effects assessment, ecological accounting strategies, ecosystems services, and partnership strategies, along with a summary of the available ecological tools that are most applicable to this type of work. The appendices document three pilot projects that tested the approach during the research. The Framework details steps to enhance ecological considerations and efficiency in the early stages of planning highway capacity projects. Transportation professionals must routinely interact with numerous agencies in the course of planning highway expansions. These materials are intended to help each stakeholder better understand the missions and responsibilities of the other stakeholders and provide a structured and repeatable framework for interaction, thus allowing for agreement on ecological priorities. Use of the Framework can streamline the delivery of highway projects and improve water resources and habitats. The research from SHRP 2’s Capacity Project C06 produced two volumes of reports and a companion guide. Volume 1 (forthcoming) covers institutional issues and provides examples of techniques such as banking and programmatic agreements that can be used in the highway planning process. The guide (forthcoming) provides step-by-step information to help practitioners use the Framework. Essential content from the C06 project is available on the Transportation for Communities: Advancing Projects through Partnerships website (
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  • Transposition Research Board of the National Academies
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  • This work was sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration in cooperation with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. It was conducted in the second Strategic Highway Research Program, which is administered by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies. The project was managed by Steve Andrle, Deputy Director for SHRP 2. The research reported on herein was performed by the Institute for Natural Resources, the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, NatureServe, Parametrix, the Virginia Division of Natural Heritage, and CH2M HILL. Gail L. Achterman of the Institute for Natural Resources was the principal investigator. The authors acknowledge the contributions to this research from Lisa Gaines, Sally Duncan, and Jimmy Kagan of the Institute for Natural Resources; John Paskus of the Michigan Natural Features Inventory; Patrick Crist, Shara Howie, and Ian Varley of NatureServe; Kevin Halsey and Paul Manson of Parametrix; Jason Bulluck of the Virginia Division of Natural Heritage; and Marcy Schwartz of CH2M HILL.



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