Human and wildlife travel are beginning to coexist in safer and healthier ways as wildlife crossings become a standard best practice for highway departments.
Wildlife crossings can be as simple as a small culvert under the roadway designed for reptiles and amphibians, or structures can be as complicated as a bridge crossing over an interstate designed for large animals like deer and elk.
Regardless of the type of crossing, the intent is to make the roadways safer by diverting wildlife away from motorist throughways while also reducing habitat fragmentation and increasing landscape connectivity.Find out how states are beginning to work together with wildlife and drivers in Roads and Bridges.
Lyle Denniston details the 8-1 ruling in Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States: “At considerable potential cost to the federal government, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that land swapped with, or transferred to private owners under an 1875 law became their property in full again once a railroad that ran across the property has been abandoned. The decision turned mainly upon an argument that the government had made to the Court seventy-two years ago and won — an argument that now was turned against it.” The 1942 case that enabled this week’s ruling was Great Northern Railway Co. v. United States.
According to Denniston, it’s still unclear just how much land the ruling will impact: “It is unclear just how many acres (primarily in western states) will be covered by the new ruling, although the Justice Department had told the Court that the case involved the legality of ‘thousands of miles of former rights-of-way’ that the public now uses as recreational trails or park lands.”
In a separate article, Jess Bavin addresses the impact of the ruling on efforts around the country to convert former rail rights-of-way into public trails. Bavin quotes Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the lone dissenting member of the court, who makes the point of how expensive a decision this might represent: “The Court undermines the legality of thousands of former rights of way that the public now enjoys as means of transportation and recreation…And lawsuits challenging the conversion of former rails to recreational trails alone may well cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Animals bridges, which may also be known as ecoducts or wildlife crossings, are structures that allow animals to safely cross human-made barriers like highways. A wildlife crossing is the broadest term and can include: underpass tunnels, viaducts, overpasses and bridges, amphibian tunnels, fish ladders, culvets and green roofs. [Source]
Wildlife crossings are a practice in habitat conservation, allowing connections or reconnections between habitats and combating habitat fragmentation. They also assist in avoiding collisions between vehicles and animals, which in addition to killing or injuring wildlife may cause injury to humans and property damage. It has been reported that vehicle-animals collisions costs the United States a staggering $8 Billion a year.
The first wildlife crossings were constructed in France during the 1950s. European countries including the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and France have been using various crossing structures to reduce the conflict between wildlife and roads for several decades and use a variety of overpasses and underpasses to protect and reestablish wildlife such as: amphibians, badgers, ungulates, invertebrates, and other small mammals. [Source: Wikipedia]
The Humane Society of the United States reports that the more than 600 tunnels installed under major and minor roads in the Netherlands have helped to substantially increase population levels of the endangered European Badger. The longest “ecoduct” viaduct, near Crailo in the Netherlands, runs 800 meters and spans a highway, railway and golf course. [Source: Wikipedia]
Wildlife crossings are becoming increasingly common in Canada and the United States. Recognizable wildlife crossings are found in Banff National Park in Alberta, where vegetated overpasses provide safe passage over the Trans-Canada Highway for bears, moose, deer, wolves, elk, and many other species. The 24 wildlife crossings in Banff were constructed as part of a road improvement project in 1978. In the United States, thousands of wildlife crossings have been built in the past 30 years, including culverts, bridges, and overpasses. These have been used to protect Mountain Goats in Montana, Spotted Salamanders in Massachusetts, Bighorn Sheep in Colorado, Desert Tortoises in California, and endangered Florida Panthers in Florida. [Source: Wikipedia]
Below you will find a small gallery of animal bridges around the world. A few remain unidentified, if you recognize the location, please let us know in the comments below!
1. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
2. The Netherlands
3. B38 – Birkenau, Germany
4. Scotch Plains, New Jersey, USA
5. E314 in Belgium
6. Highway A50 in The Netherlands
7. Flathead Indian Reservation, Montana, USA
8. The Borkeld, The Netherlands
9. Interstate 78, Wachtung Reservation, New Jersey, USA
10. Near Keechelus Lake, Washington, USA (rendering, target 2014)
12. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
BY DUG BEGLEY
Published: 12 April 2012 05:33 PM
An extension of Metrolink service to Perris is delayed as the battle over an environmental report goes to trial
A dispute by a Riverside environmental group and transportation planners appears headed for the courtroom, potentially delaying a long-sought extension of Metrolink service to Perris.
In a statement, the Riverside County Transportation Commission said Thursday that negotiations between the agency and Friends of Riverside Hills over the environmental report for the Perris Valley Line had ceased. The project would extend Metrolink service from downtown Riverside to Perris via a 24-mile section of track owned by the transportation commission.
Friends of Riverside Hills filed a lawsuit in August challenging the environmental report for the rail project, saying officials did not adequately detail the noise and pollution impacts of excavating dirt around the tracks and other aspects of construction.
Richard Block, a Riverside Hills member, said concerns ranging from the tons of dirt that will be hauled away from the project to the squealing of train wheels are unresolved.
â€œThe evidence presented in the environmental process clearly shows the project will have negative impacts,â€ Block said. â€œAnd they are either incompetent to them or ignoring them.â€
He also said officials are grossly overestimating the lineâ€™s ridership, noting that the 4,300 daily riders estimated in the report would exceed the ridership of existing Metrolink service in Riverside County. Ridership along the entire 91 Line from Riverside to Union Station in Los Angeles was 5,161 in June, according to Metrolink.
Officials stand by the environmental assessment and claim the mitigations they have detailed are satisfactory, said John Standiford, the commissionâ€™s deputy executive director.
Block and Standiford both said they could not detail specifics of the negotiations. But in a news release, transportation officials confirmed the dispute was destined for trial, delaying construction.
â€œThe Perris Valley Line Metrolink extension will provide an environmentally friendly commute option by utilizing an existing rail track that has been in the area for more than a century, thus avoiding significant environmental impacts,â€ Supervisor John Benoit said, in the news release.
Officials have said the cars the project will take off I-215 cause far more pollution than the rail line extension.
Litigation would further delay the project which was initially supposed to start construction in late spring, based on estimates last year. Now the work will wait until the lawsuit is resolved. Standiford said officials would hope a court decision could come by late fall. Officials would have to wait on other approvals and award a contract for the construction, probably in early 2013.
Based on estimates, service on the line would start about 18 months after construction begins. Transportation officials say the project would create more than 4,000 jobs.
The sixth extinction
Somewhere on Earth, every 20 minutes, one animal species dies out. At this rate, we will lose 50% of all species by the end of the century. Time is running out to turn the tide.
There is a holocaust happening. Right now. And it’s not confined to one nation or even one region. It is a global crisis.
Species are going extinct en masse.
Every 20 minutes we lose an animal species. If this rate continues, by century’s end, 50% of all living species will be gone. It is a phenomenon known as the sixth extinction. The fifth extinction took place 65 million years ago when a meteor smashed into the Earth, killing off the dinosaurs and many other species and opening the door for the rise of mammals. Currently, the sixth extinction is on track to dwarf the fifth.
The causes of this mass die-off are many: overpopulation, loss of habitat, global warming, species exploitation (the black market for rare animal parts is the third-largest illegal trade in the world, outranked only by weapons and drugs). The list goes on, but it all points to us.
Over the last 15 years, in the course of producing television documentaries and writing about wildlife, I have traveled the globe, and I have witnessed the grim carnage firsthand. I’ve observed the same story playing out in different locales.
In South Africa, off the coast of Cape Horn, lives one of the most feared predators of all — the great white shark. Yet this awesome creature is powerless before the mindless killing spree that is decimating its species at the jaw-dropping rate of 100 million sharks a year. Many are captured so that their dorsal fins can be chopped off (for shark fin soup). Then, still alive, they are dropped back into the sea, where they die a slow and painful death.
Further east, in Indonesia, I witnessed the mass destruction of rain forests to make way for palm oil plantations. Indonesia is now the world’s leading producer of palm oil — a product used in many packaged foods and cosmetic goods — and the victims are the Sumatran elephant and orangutan. These beautiful creatures are on the brink of extinction as their habitats go up in smoke, further warming our planet in the process.
Landscape Architects Compete to Create Highway Overpasses for Wildlife That Allow for Safer, Free Roaming Across Habitats.
Landscape architect Robert Rock takes pride in talking to his clients to understand just how they’ll be using the green spaces he designs. In his most recent assignment, however, he hit a roadblock.
“You can’t ask elk what they’d like for dinner,” Mr. Rock said ruefully.
The Olin StudioA design from the Olin Studio in Philadelphia would cost about $12 million and span a six-lane highway.
Nor can you ask them what would induce them to nibble that dinner while strolling across a lushly planted footbridge spanning a six-lane highway.
Getting elk to cross highways safelyâ€”and encouraging lynx, bear, deer and bighorn sheep to follow suitâ€”was the key challenge in an unusual global contest that concluded this month.
The ARC International Wildlife Crossing Infrastructure Design Competition asked engineers, ecologists and landscape architects to come up with an overpass bridge for pedestrians of the furry sort. The goal: to encourage wildlife to roam freely across their habitatâ€”even when that habitat is bisected by a highway.
The five finalists, unveiled last week in Denver, designed multimillion-dollar bridges that aimed to tempt animals across with tasty foliage, green valleys, gentle streams and curved walls to block out noise and vibrations from the traffic below.
Mr. Rock, who is with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates in New York, came up with a very wide bridge planted with strips of differing vegetation giving each species its own lane to cross in: pine-tree forest for wildlife that like privacy, such as deer; a section of meadow for animals that prefer more wide-open views.
For his part, David Rubin, a partner at the Olin Studio in Philadelphia, even included a wildlife playground of sorts, made up of toppled tree trunks, to attract the American marten, a beady-eyed weasel with a penchant for scampering among dead wood.
Designing animal crossings is not a new art; in the last decade, they have become common across the U.S. But nearly all the existing crossings are underpassesâ€”tunnels and culverts built underneath roads and out of sight.
Florida, for instance, has built a network of concrete underpasses to ferry panthers safely across roadways. Glacier National Park in Montana boasts a tree-lined underpass for mountain goats. There are tortoise tunnels in California. And the town of Amherst, Mass., guides spotted salamanders, in their annual trek from burrows to breeding ground, through special culverts that protect them from getting squashed.
But though these projects have been successful, some animals, such as elk and deer, find underpasses dark and scary and won’t use them with any regularity, ecologists say.
Janel Rosenberg & AssociatesA bridge design extends to the forest on both sides of the highway
Meanwhile, car-critter collisions in the U.S. are on the rise, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Last year, 182 motorists were killed. The Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University puts the annual cost of such collisions at about $8 billion in medical and repair bills.
Seeking a solution, the institute invited designers from around the world to work up plans for a wildlife overpass bridgeâ€”common in Europe but rare in the U.S. Entrants were asked to design for a specific site, across Interstate 70 near Vail, Colo.
In truth, Colorado has no money to build a high-concept wildlife bridge. And the Vail location isn’t a priority for animal crossings, according to Russell George, executive director of the state Department of Transportation. Organizers picked the site, rather, for its thorny engineering challengesâ€”rough mountain terrain, heavy snow, six lanes of traffic plus bike lanes. Any design that would work there could be easily modified for other sites, they figured.
Organizers envision wildlife bridges built across prominent highways throughout the nation. Contest manager Rob Ament says the striking structures could become instant icons, symbols of the need for man to share the landscape with animals.
The trouble is, iconic bridges are pricey. One team that made it into the final round has estimated its span would cost $12 million. Another said it hoped to keep construction costs under $10 million. By contrast, a run-of-the-mill underpass might cost anywhere from $100,000 to a few million, depending on size and complexity.
The contest winner, who will earn a $40,000 prize, will be announced in January at a national meeting of transportation officials.
Trisha White, a director of the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, says those officials must do more than ooh and aah over the entries; she would like them to work on keeping highways out of habitat in the first place.
Wildlife bridges are fine where habitat is irreversibly fragmented, Ms. White says, but “the bigger issue is those future roads….Can we please make better decisions on where to put them?”
Write to Stephanie Simon at email@example.com
The Press Enterprise made a strong case for keeping the Riverside County Multi Species Habitat Conservation Plan in tact despite some cities reconsidering their agreement.