FHWA lauds Caltrans for wildlife habitat protection

The California Departments of Transportation (Caltrans) and Fish and Game (DFG) have been awarded a prestigious honor by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for their work to protect wildlife and habitat in California. The environmental project was recognized for connecting formerly isolated wildlife habitats. Additionally, Caltrans was also recognized for combining multiple counties’ mitigation for seasonal pools into a single site.

“Caltrans values the unique species and habitats found in California’s diverse ecosystem,” said Acting Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty in a written statement. “We are honored to be recognized for our ongoing efforts to preserve these rich, natural resources for future generations.”

DFG Director Chuck Bonham added in the statement:.“The California Essential Habitat Connectivity Project: A Strategy for Conserving a Connected California was an enormous task that is now being used to benefit wildlife throughout the state.”

The FHWA Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative Awards honor projects that are unique in geographic scope, use cutting edge science or technology, have high environmental standards, achieve high quality results, or are recognized as noteworthy by environmental interests. In 2011, the FHWA recognized just 12 projects.

FHWA recognized the efforts of Caltrans and DFG for the Essential Habitat Connectivity Project, which identifies ways to lessen the effects of transportation infrastructure projects on wildlife connectivity. The project identifies and maps corridors between large intact habitat areas, which may inform decisions related to the location of construction for highways, railways, or solar energy projects. An analysis of this geographic scope, methodology and level of partnership is the first of its kind in California.

The Essential Habitat Connectivity Project was completed in 2010, with funding provided by the FHWA. Links to view the maps and download the geographic information system (GIS data) and report may be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/habcon/connectivity/.

The second award honoring Caltrans’ efforts was for the Madera Pools Restoration and Mitigation Site Project, which combines individual mitigation projects for vernal pools across Madera, Kings and Fresno counties, into a single 198-acre site and makes it more valuable as quality habitat.

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