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Wildlife Protection

Keeping It Simple: Easy Ways to Help Wildlife Along Roads

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On Track with "Turtle Tracks"

photo of a seated man holding a spotted turtle

When new tracks are restored next year on the Greenbush Line Commuter Railroad in Hingham, Cohasset, and Scituate, Massachusetts, the area's spotted turtles will be able to move from one wetland habitat to another through specially-designed crossings under the railroad tracks. The original rail line was abandoned in the 1960s, enabling turtles to freely cross over the former rail bed. Reconstructing the tracks threatened to block any movements between critical habitats. The new, easy-to-install crossing structures will be made out of three extended and stabilized, side-by-side railroad ties, between which the ballast will have been removed to a depth of 9 inches (the base of the ties). Adjacent 5/8"-mesh barrier fencing will funnel turtles to the structures, and concrete guide walls will keep the ballast from overflowing onto the turtles' path. To make sure the turtle crossings would work, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority launched a demonstration project in 2003. Through remote cameras and radio telemetry, biologists documented spotted turtles crossed the right of way through the prototypes at the same rate and frequency as they had before the project began. As many as 17 other wildlife species--for example, mink, snapping turtles, American toads, and mallard ducks--also used the prototypes. The result? Some 39 wildlife-crossing structures based on the tested prototypes have been proposed for key locations along the 17-mile Greenbush Line.

Lars H Carlson, (617) 994-4354 or

Picture of various animals

Doing the right thing - simply

"Keeping it simple" is more than a concept. It's a commitment.

It means using simple solutions when simple solutions will work.

It involves going beyond "compliance" to identify easy ways of helping wildlife and fish.

It means doing the right thing just because it's the right thing to do and because one has an opportunity to do it.

"We can build bat roosts in pre-fab bridge concrete or extend the right-of-way fence to create elkproof fencing," says April Marchese, Director of FHWA's Office of Natural and Human Environment. "Simple measures like these link habitats, reduce roadkill, and save taxpayer dollars."

This website highlights more than 100 simple, successful projects from all 50 states and beyond. Each is "easy." Most are low- or no-cost. All benefit wildlife, fish, or their habitats.

Many projects were completed only once - to protect specific species in specific environmental conditions. Others have been repeated numerous times and have become "routine."

Some projects are undertaken regularly because research has proven them effective. Others are new innovations, "best practices," or state-of-the-art strategies.

Some projects - for example, modifying mowing cycles and installing oversized culverts in streams - are common to a large number of states. Others represent a simple solution to a site-specific environmental challenge.

We invite you to explore them all. We encourage you to find out for yourselves, through this website, how transportation professionals are working with others to do the right thing for wildlife and--wherever possible--to do it "simply."

Updated: 12/12/2012
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