Engineers, with public and governmental support, are positioned to lead the charge. Engineers bear responsibility to offer solutions when designing new roadways, bridges, and structures that allow for the safe passage of animals in their natural environments. In a time of increasingly divided politics, wildlife crossings have been identified as a non-partisan, mutually beneficial initiative to improve conservation and safety. With the help of interviews from Brian Boszor of the Indiana Depart - ment of Natural Resources, Katy Duffield, children’s author of Cross - ings, as well Clark Dietz’s staff of Professional Engineers, we explored how to make wildlife crossings and conservation approachable in the context of engineering design. What is Road Ecology? Kevin Hetrick—Clark Dietz: How exactly does infrastructure affect nature? Brian Boszor—Central Region Environmental Biologist, Indiana Department of Natural Resources: Road, bridge, trail, and utility line construction have been shown to impact fish, wildlife, and botanical resources in seven major ways: mortality from construction activi- ties, mortality from maintenance activities or collision with vehicles, modification of animal behavior, alteration and fragmentation of the physical environment, alteration of the chemical environment, spread of invasive plant species, and increased human use and disturbance of natural areas. The evidence from well-designed studies suggests that well-connected habitat corridors are valuable conservation areas for fish, wildlife, and botanical resources. KH: What should the public understand about the importance of wild- life passage in their communities? BB: Most municipalities in Indiana have at least one major waterway that bisects their town or city. Wildlife species use waterways in much the same way that humans use a roadway. The number of different wildlife species that can pass through an urban area is directly related to the number of passable bridge or culvert structures. Wildlife passage is critical to maintaining healthy wildlife populations, which benefits people that hunt and fish as well as those who just enjoy seeing or knowing that wildlife is present around them. KH: Clark Dietz submits permit applications for review by the De- partment of Natural Resources on behalf of municipalities that include wildlife crossing designs. What key features are you looking for when providing solutions for safe wildlife passage? BB: The key features of a crossing detail that should be considered for any wildlife crossing are the inclusion of a flat level pathway across a 2:1 spill slope, the ability to back fill the area with smaller substrate that is passable to a wider variety of wildlife species, the placement of the pathway above the ordinary high-water mark, and the ability to tie the pathway into existing elevations upstream and downstream of the bridge or culvert. KH: How can the DNR and engineers continue to prioritize wildlife conservation as it relates to infrastructure?
Photo: Clark Dietz, Inc.
BB: With four Environmental Biologists recommending roughly seven to 10 wildlife crossings per month, we can potentially help improve roughly 100 bridges and culverts per year for wildlife passage. Many engineering firms here in Indiana, including Clark Dietz, are coming up with great solutions to improve wildlife passage as a part of their bridge and culvert designs in coordination with the Division of Fish and Wildlife Environmental Unit. KH: Why is now the right time to push for adoption of wildlife conser - vation solutions? BB: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill has outlined roughly 9 new and expanded Federal and State funding mechanisms for the analysis, design, and implementation of wildlife crossings related to infrastruc- ture projects. There has literally never been a better time to work on improving the permeability of our linear infrastructure for fish and wildlife passage as well as human safety. Educations Is Paramount to Future Success Kevin Hetrick—Clark Dietz: You wrote Crossings, a children’s book that describes different types of wildlife crossings that exist globally. What do you want children and families to learn about wildlife crossings? Katy Duffield— Author of Crossings : First, and foremost: Animals are important. I firmly believe that everything in nature is interconnected—
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