Sandra L. Jacobson and Patricia Cramer

    Sandra L. Jacobson and Patricia Cramer

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    Sandra Jacobson and Patricia CramerHow Highways Reduce Habitat Effectiveness in Western Forests and Sage-steppe Habitats: Challenges and Solutions

    Sandra L. Jacobson, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Bend, OR and Patricia Cramer, Utah State University, Logan, UT

    Land and wildlife managers can help reduce the impacts of road projects on wildlife habitat by engaging early and often in transportation planning. This talk touches on the long term, landscape scale impacts of highway projects on wildlife and habitat with lessons learned in forested and sagebrush/steppe habitats in OR, ID, AZ and UT. Highways are major linear features on the landscape that destroy wildlife habitat in large quantities, estimated nationally to affect acreage equivalent to the size of South Carolina. Highways directly reduce the amount of wildlife habitat on public lands through the pavement footprint, cut and fill slopes, and large safety clear zones. Highways indirectly reduce wildlife habitat by creating noisy environments that hinder the use 16 of otherwise suitable habitat adjacent to highways, by creating human access points, and by using vegetated medians which are mortality sinks. The barrier effect of highways substantially reduces effective use of suitable habitat far distant from the highway itself. Mortality, the most obvious effect of highways on wildlife, has been documented to limit populations or ranges of some species. We recommend effective mitigation solutions based on science and experience including wildlife crossing structures and fencing. As important as mitigation is the active engagement of resource agencies at key points in the transportation planning and highway project development phases, where minimization and avoidance of impacts are possible.

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