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Valuing Wildlife Crossings Features for Mitigation

Wednesday, August 26
10:00–10:45 AM PT
 | 1:00–1:45 PM ET

About the Session

The negative ecological effects of roads have been well documented, including greater habitat fragmentation that in turn increases genetic isolation and the risk of localized extinction. Transportation planners have implemented a number of mitigation strategies to lessen the negative ecological effects of roads on wildlife. These have included animal detection systems and wildlife warning signs, measures to reduce traffic volumes and/or speeds, and use of wildlife crossing structures typically coupled with wildlife fencing. The latter have been particularly effective to road construction and improvement projects because they increase wildlife permeability and reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions without affecting traffic flows. However, transportation planners have not explored whether such mitigation strategies for wildlife may provide compensatory mitigation for federal authorization to dredge and fill waters of the United States.In 2006, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), District Five began a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study to evaluate improvements to State Road (SR) 40 from the end of the existing 4 lanes near Silver Springs in Marion County to US 17 in Volusia County. SR 40 is a major east-west arterial roadway providing regional connectivity to existing development and serving as an emergency evacuation route between Interstate 75 in Marion County and Interstate 95 in Volusia County. It also bisects large tracts of undeveloped natural habitats associated with the Ocala National Forest, Silver Springs State Forest, Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, and Heart Island Conservation Area, among others. Numerous roadway typical cross sections and alignment alternatives were development to avoid and minimize impacts to habitats within these conservation lands. FDOT also proposed more than two dozen wildlife crossing structures with wildlife fencing and associated features to improve wildlife permeability and reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions in the post-construction condition on SR 40.FDOT completed the PD&E Study in 2014 and shortly thereafter designed the easternmost segment of SR 40 from SR 11 to Cone Road. This project incorporated three pairs of wildlife shelves at existing waterways and a new, dedicated 8-foot by 19-foot concrete box culvert for wildlife situated between existing conservation easements. They utilized the state’s Uniform Mitigation Assessment Methodology (UMAM) to evaluate the functional value of wildlife crossing structures, relying on landscape and location support criteria and assessment area to determine the potential functional values. Ultimately, UMAM reduced the net functional loss on this SR 40 project and the amount of compensatory mitigation needed for a dredge and fill permit. We believe this will incentivize future wildlife crossing projects and has potential to reduce net functional losses for other design segments along the SR 40 corridor.


  • Florida 
  • Ecological Restoration 
  • Endangered Species 
  • Role of Government in Environmental Improvement 
  • Infrastructure Uprgrades & the Environment 
  • NEPA 
  • Planning and Permitting 
  • Transportation 

About the Speaker

 Ben Shepherd Photo

Ben Shepherd
Senior Ecologist
Inwood Consulting Engineers, Inc.

Ben Shepherd, PWS, is a Senior Ecologist at Inwood Consulting Engineers, Inc. in Oviedo, Florida. He is responsible for a variety of ecological services, including wetland delineations, listed species surveys, wildlife crossing design and mitigation planning, environmental permitting, and NEPA documentation. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation Biology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Master of Science degrees in Interdisciplinary Ecology and Environmental Engineering Sciences from the University of Florida.

Jason Houck Photo

Jason Houck
Senior Scientist

Jason Houck, PWS, GISP, is an Associate Principal and the Ecological Services Manager at Inwood Consulting Engineers, Inc. He has served as a senior environmental scientist and GIS analyst on numerous transportation, Project Development and Environment (PD&E), and watershed projects throughout the states of Florida and Tennessee since 2001 when he first earned his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Tennessee. He also received his master’s at the University of Tennessee in 2003. Mr. Houck’s expertise includes landscape ecology and roadway corridor analyses as they pertain to wildlife movement and corridor permeability. Recent work includes the development of wildlife crossing and habitat connectivity plans for several major FDOT projects that were presented at the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation in 2019. In addition to his recent wildlife crossing work, Mr. Houck is an adjunct professor of environmental science at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and tries his best to go kayak fishing in the Mosquito Lagoon in his free time. 

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