Illinois Department of Transportation, Erica Borggren, Acting Secretary
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Wildlife and Transportation

Wildlife resources are of ecological, recreational and economic value. Illinois is home to a variety of species that contribute to functioning ecosystems throughout the State. Wildlife presence in Illinois includes approximately 59 species of mammals, 300 birds, 41 amphibians, and an estimated 60 species of reptiles. These resources also represent economic value through the recreational activities of hunting, fishing and birding. Wildlife habitat is found in the many varying land covers within the State. From rocky outcrops in the northwest to sandy areas along the Illinois River to the cypress swamps in Southern Illinois, habitat is abundant within the wetlands, rivers, forests and agricultural lands. Extensive wildlife migration corridors and avian flyways are present along the major rivers of the Illinois, Wabash, Mississippi and Ohio.  

The Department assesses potential impacts to wildlife and their habitats while planning and designing transportation facilities. To comply with the National Environmental Protection Act and other State and Federal environmental laws and regulations, special studies and assessments are conducted and coordination with State and Federal natural resource agencies is initiated. Project impacts to wildlife are identified and evaluated and consideration is given to implementing practical measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate any adverse impact to these valuable resources. To accommodate wildlife connectivity and to increase safety to the motoring public, IDOT includes wildlife crossing structures such as underpasses, culvert extension and fencing within project designs in environmentally sensitive locations that feature quality habitat. These measures not only reduce wildlife mortality and the number of vehicle-animal collisions but help to ensure that species populations remain viable. In addition, the Department considers affects on area sensitive migratory birds during project development and evaluates the potential for habitat fragmentation.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is one of many State and Local agencies, and environmental groups involved in the “Illinois Wildlife Action Plan”. This initiative was developed to address the particular needs of wildlife species in an effort to stabilize and reverse trends in declining populations. Long-range watershed-level planning is one important component that leads to successful recovery of species. A focus of these cooperative efforts is habitat management and protection with conservation efforts using limited dollars to target positive measurable improvements. The Action Plan includes a map, a detailed description of the 14 Natural Divisions of Illinois (based on geologic, soils, vegetation and climate), and an inventory of species of conservation concern. The Plan can be accessed at http://dnr.state.il.us/ORC/wildlifeResources/theplan/final/Illinois_final_report.pdf.  

Other sources of information about this topic include:

The 2006 publication “Eco-Logical: An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects” is a guide for making infrastructure more sensitive to wildlife and ecosystems through greater interagency cooperation. More information on the “Eco-Logical” approach can be found at http://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/ecological/ecological.pdf.

The North American Breeding Bird Survey” is a major landscape-level survey of the birds of North America. It is an on-going cooperative program sponsored jointly by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service. The main purpose of this roadside survey is to estimate population trends of the many species of birds that nest in North America and migrate across international boundaries. http://www.fws.gov/ and http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/

The Illinois Natural History Survey website http://www.inhs.illinois.edu/ contains extensive information regarding all aspects of vertebrate and invertebrate species in Illinois. The “Inventory of Resource Rich Areas”, a watershed based land cover survey that identifies areas within the State that contain high quality habitat such as large tracts of woodlands and nearly one-half of the remaining wetlands can be found at http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/cwe/rra/rra.

Information regarding wildlife –vehicle collisions can be found at http://www.deercrash.com/. This national study details the causes and impacts to wildlife-vehicle collisions. The site is a deer crash information clearinghouse that contains accident data and suggested countermeasures and strategies to reduce the number of deer-vehicle accidents.

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