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Note: This information was archived in April 2009. For the current information, see http://environment.fhwa.dot.gov/integ/related.asp.
A final linkage would be to link the potential mitigation strategies developed during planning with the mitigation plans developed during NEPA (see Exhibit L).
Where mitigation is required, state DOTs and resource agencies have been exploring ways they may bring the unique skills of each to bear to increase the viability of at-risk communities and ecosystems, by identifying mitigation needs and opportunities across many projects and much broader areas in planning.
Natural resource impacts and opportunities are examined in the planning stage, across multiple projects in a region or state, and integrating land use, transportation, and natural resource restoration/ conservation planning directs priority investments. Decisions and analysis can occur during planning that can greatly facilitate federal Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act compliance, among other natural resource laws and regulations.
This linkage will provide:
A recent cooperative effort among federal resources agencies and the FHWA resulted in a watershed approach to mitigation called Eco-Logical. Eco-Logical encourages flexibility in regulatory processes. It lays out the conceptual groundwork for integrating plans across agency boundaries and endorses ecosystem-based planning and mitigation. An Eco-Logical approach relies on agencies to work together with the public to integrate their respective plans in determining environmental priority areas and targeting where mitigation investments may be able to produce the greatest good for multiple species and resources. This often involves looking at species and community goals across eco-regions, based on habitats.
Essential to the Eco-Logical approach is the development of close collaborative partnerships among diverse groups help to identify where interests and concerns overlap, and thus help to form the basis for an integrated planning process. The benefits of these partnerships can be both immediate and long-range-term. Any agency-not just an action agency-should be able to initiate or be willing to participate in this effort. This step may be considered in tandem with data acquisition.
Data for implementing Eco-Logical is drawn from multiple agency sources representing transportation, community, and environmental resources information. To the greatest extent possible, this information should be gathered in GIS data layer formats. Community and transportation data needed are the same as the information used to implement the long-range planning process. All available and acceptable GIS level natural resource data should be used to help implement an Eco-Logical based process. Generally available and excellent sources for resource data are:
During the planning process, existing resource information as well as recovery or management plans should be used to help screen all planning scenarios and project concepts by overlaying resource information with community and transportation plans and proposals. This overlaying provides partners with an understanding of the locations and potential impacts of proposed infrastructure actions. With this understanding, they can more accurately identify the areas most in need of protection, and better predict and assess cumulative resource impacts. This can also streamline infrastructure development by identifying ecologically significant areas, potentially impacted resources, regions to avoid, and mitigation opportunities before new projects are initiated.
This process will help ensure that the final plan and the individual project concepts incorporate environmental goals to the greatest extent possible. In the end, however, it may not be possible to avoid all environmental impacts associated with the final approved plan.