Forest Service promotes wildlife overpass

Despite a national effort (see pp. 29-30) to encourage it, and requirements in the 2012 Planning Rule to provide wildlife habitat connectivity, the Forest Service doesn’t seem to like to assert itself much in cross-boundary planning for such connectivity.  Here is a big exception, which should be an example of what can be done – and what should be done where the Forest Service is responsible for improving conditions for at-risk species.

By revamping the highway with wildlife’s needs in mind, officials were able to broker an easement with the U.S. Forest Service to add the additional lanes.

“It’s a win-win. We could improve transportation. We did lose some national forest,” said Garvey-Darda referring to construction of additional highway lanes. “But we can connect the North Cascades and the South Cascades.”

More importantly, I was told that the forest plan provided the basis for the Forest Service position in the negotiations that the North Cascades and South Cascades should be connected.  I can’t find language in the current plan that would clearly address this, but I know the plan revision process was moving towards useful language for connectivity.  Other revised plans are including language that at least provides some intent to participate in highway planning.  This is from the recently revised Kootenai National Forest Plan:

FW-DC-WL-17. Forest management contributes to wildlife movement within and between national
forest parcels. Movement between those parcels separated by other ownerships is facilitated by
management of the NFS portions of linkage areas identified through interagency coordination.
Federal ownership is consolidated at these approach areas to highway and road crossings to facilitate wildlife movement.

This would at least tell a Forest it needs to be a player and give them some leverage.  However, for at-risk species its role is to be a leader, and with nothing more than a desired condition and without identifying any linkage areas in the plan this would not meet any substantive requirements of ESA or NFMA (recovery or viability).  (Similar language in the uniform plan amendment for lynx does apply to mapped linkage areas.)


2 thoughts on “Forest Service promotes wildlife overpass”

    An initiative by USDI is focused on protecting corridors and winter range in western states, where these threats have been identified:

    “A common risk and threat identified in every state submission was wildlife/vehicle collisions. In every state, highways (and some states railroads) create a barrier to big game migration, and therefore impede genetic exchange among populations and access to better winter range in times of harsh weather or create direct mortality. Beyond highways, other threats/risks to corridors and winter range that multiple states identified include:
    Invasion of noxious weeds (5 states);
    Exurban and suburban development (5 states);
    Fencing creating a barrier to movement (4 states);
    Recreation timing during sensitive times (4 states); and
    Habitat destruction caused by feral (“wild”) horses (3 states).”

    USDI requested information from the 11 wester states. In Montana, the Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks identified several areas that likely implicate national forest lands. I’m looking forward to seeing this integrated with forest planning. (And they might accidentally help grizzly bears.)


    Regarding “exurban and suburban development,” “Environmentalists asked Los Angeles County officials on Tuesday to stop or modify a proposed housing development that will be located between two national forests, which they said acts as a wildlife corridor for mountain lions.”

    The project documents say the Forest Service was invited to participate, but they are not mentioned in this article and this development is not mentioned on their websites. Hopefully they are doing their job of representing the interest of the wildlife using national forests. Especially where the local government policy is:

    “Policy CO-3.3.3: Identify and protect one or more designated wildlife corridors linking
    the Los Padres and Angeles National Forests through the Santa Clarita Valley (the
    San Gabriel-Castaic connection).”
    “Policy CO-3.4.1: Coordinate with the United States Forest Service on discretionary
    development projects that may have impacts on the National Forest.”
    “Policy C/NR 3.5: Ensure compatibility of development in the National Forests in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service Land and Resource Management Plan.” (Maybe there are also some fire issues with expanding the WUI?)


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