Modify as Needed
5.3 If an objective or performance measure is not being met, then it is important to reconsider. The Decision Guide can be re-entered at any point to help plan more effective mitigation measures based on the new information obtained from the evaluation and adaptation process. This ability to go back in time on the decision guide and work through it makes this site a more iterative process rather than a single direction set of guiding steps.
An effectively written monitoring plan will incorporate a process to periodically notify stakeholders of the success of mitigation measures in meeting objectives. One function of the liaison recommended in Step 3.3 is to notify stakeholders of successes and failures, and to recommend restorative actions. Some objectives may require the entire suite of stakeholders to reconvene to consider the range of corrective actions.
An ongoing adaptive management type situation with wildlife crossing structures is taking place along Arizona DOT’s SR260 improvement and realignment project across the Tonto National Forest. Arizona Game and Fish Department researchers, supported by Arizona DOT, Federal Highways, and the USDA Forest Service monitor the effectiveness of wildlife crossing structures as soon as they are installed. They found a high incidence of elk being repelled by a crossing with a high-walled bridge underpass, and much higher use of a more open underpass with natural earthen sloped sides within a half mile (0.8 km). Both crossings led to the same wet meadow. Based on this information, they were able to recommend design changes to structures yet to be built on the project, likely resulting in a better design that enhanced the new structure’s intended effectiveness. You can read more about the SR 260 project here.
There will be situations where wildlife crossing structures are found not to work as planned. Re-evaluating the situation and bringing the stakeholders together to decide how to correct the situation is advised. In California’s Caltrans District 8, a set of wildlife crossings for bobcat and coyote was found not to be functioning as intended. During the next road upgrade, Caltrans removed the two low-functioning culverts and replaced them with bridges for wildlife passage. The second monitoring project will be in place in 2007 and one of the original researchers on the initial project will be conducting the second effectiveness study on the two new bridges.
Conclusion: Planning environmentally sensitive highways is not for the timid. It will require an enormous amount of creativity, dedication and skill from a number of disciplines and agencies, especially if adaptive management principles are used. This Decision Guide can provide a framework for choosing the appropriate mitigation measures, but your team will make it happen. Good luck!