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Public Roads - May/June 2005

May/June 2005
Issue No:
Vol. 68 No. 6
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Guest Editorial

The Rewards of Stewardship


Biologists in Arkansas recently rediscovered a creature that
many people thought had been extinct for nearly 60 years. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, a magnificent bird that inhabited the bottomland forests of the Southeast, was last seen in the mid-1940s. How is this possible? It was thanks largely to Federal, State, and private programs that conserved remnant stretches of bottomland forest in Arkansas and elsewhere. Having the foresight and conviction to conserve tracts large enough to support a small yet viable breeding population is what it took to enable the Ivory-billed Woodpecker to survive in North America.

The Nation's highway program has contributed to similar efforts that might someday be recognized as crucial to the survival of other imperiled species and their habitats. Species and habitat protection are no longer the purview of only State and Federal resource agencies and their private conservation partners. In 2001, Administrator Mary E. Peters of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) designated a combination of environmental stewardship and streamlining as one of the agency's three vital goals (along with improving safety and reducing congestion).

Although the environmental goals are tightly linked, stewardship is the core objective. Without it, many of the gains in streamlining might have been impossible. Environmental stewardship means that the transportation community actively seeks ways to protect and enhance the natural and human environment while meeting the highway mobility and safety needs of the Nation. By continuing to improve the reliability and quality of transportation decisions and actions that affect the environment, the transportation community can increase the efficiency of the environmental review process and reduce project delays. Although FHWA's commitment influences how environmental processes are carried out, State department of transportation (DOT) partners, as sponsors and stewards of the projects, are responsible for implementing efforts to protect and enhance ecosystems while providing transportation improvements for the American public.

Examples are plentiful, illustrating how State DOTs and their partners are protecting ecosystems and conserving habitats. As part of FHWA's national performance planning, the agency designated some of the country's best projects as Exemplary Ecosystem Initiatives. These initiatives are hallmark examples of stewardship that FHWA uses to promote the specific contributions of federally funded highway projects to ecosystem conservation.

See for more on these initiatives.

In this issue of PUBLIC ROADS, the article "Route 17—The Four Decade Project" highlights transportation designs that enable wildlife to cross roads and a unique plan that helped save acres of wetlands while widening a road. In another article, "Best of the Best," the National Partnership for Highway Quality, a collaboration of Federal and State highway officials and industry leaders, recognizes an environmental initiative among several other projects that earned high marks for highway quality. And in "Where the Wildlife Meets the Road," the author discusses the latest wildlife research and mitigation strategies that States adopted during the years following a 2001 international scan tour on habitat connectivity.

In addition to building roads, highway agencies across the Nation are helping preserve the environment while increasing mobility. Practicing good environmental stewardship makes it all possible.

Fred G. Bank

Team Leader, Water and Ecosystems

Federal Highway Administration