Monday, March 25, 2013

Road Ecology Program Begins

"It's not the size of the road that matters, it's the quality of the stream."

The study of road ecology is an important new topic in the field of conservation science. There is increasing recognition by federal, state, and municipal transportation entities, as well as by conservation biologists and concerned citizens, that the impact of roads and the resulting animal mortality has serious negative consequences on wildlife populations. Certain species are most vulnerable and have suffered severe population decline related to the problem of "roadkill." The Florida  Panther was nearly extirpated due to road mortality, and passage tunnels designed very specifically for Florida Panthers have had great success. Locally, amphibians and reptiles, particularly turtles, suffer high road mortality due to the proximity of roads to wetlands, to the fact that the animals often travel at night, and to the fact that those on the move are very often pregnant or ready to mate, and their destruction decimates local populations.
Many roads and culverts create impossible passage for wildlife, and allowing safe animal passage is the goal of Critical Linkages, a new program of the Nature Conservancy and UMass Amherst. Numerous efforts are occurring locally to improve wildlife corridors, including the "Fish Friendly Passage" program spearheaded by the Connecticut DEEP, aimed at replacing fish and other animal unfriendly culverts with bridges or culverts that encourage wildlife passage. Aton Forest is initiating a road ecology program, starting with a talk by Professor Tom Tyning, author of the "Stokes Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles," and the showing of the documentary "Division Street" on Earth Day, April 22 at the Norfolk Library. The second part of the program will be a presentation by Conservation Biologist Scott Jackson of UMass for the Norfolk Wetland Commission and town Road Crew. Check back to the web site for details about future programs in road ecology.