Transportation Planning- Integrating Conservation
Home Policies, Regulations, and Guidelines Resources Environmental Stewardship Excellence Award Contacts
The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recognizes the critical role of transportation in the economic and ecological well-being of human communities. Transportation projects influence the character of a region by the number of people and amount of goods and services it transports. Transportation designs also influence plant, fish, and wildlife habitat and the ecological health of the United States. The Service encourages the design of transportation projects that provide the greatest value to the greatest number of people while avoiding or minimizing impacts to wildlife habitat and to the disruption of the ecological processes that naturally sustain these areas.

In collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Service develops policy and guidance products to help facilitate the agency's role in transportation planning. The Service's Ecological Services Program does this in a variety of ways. By gaining a better understanding of local transportation needs, the Service provides technical information that enables the FHWA, State Departments of Transportation, and local transportation planning organizations to develop alternatives with minimal environmental impacts.  Through a streamlined environmental review process, Service participation in transportation planning includes:
  • Involvement in statewide/metropolitan planning processes or Statewide Transportation Plans (STIPs);
  • Sharing of data and other information relevant to the integration of conservation and transportation planning;
  • Identifying and promoting innovative practices that protect threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, valuable habitat and natural areas such as refuges and parks;
  • Identifying and promoting innovative practices that streamline the environmental review process; and
  • Promoting partnerships with other Federal, State, and local governments and non-governmental organizations to address the efforts above.

More than 40 million visitors come to Fish and Wildlife Service managed refuges, wetlands, hatcheries, and administrative areas every year. Visitors access these Service managed facilities using a wide range of transporation systems. While most people arrive using ground transportation in the form of private vehicles, many people also travel by bus, watercraft, bicycle, foot, and horseback. Some refuges in Alaska also permit access by float plane.

Over 62 percent of visitors to Service lands drive the auto tour routes and travel the refuge trails. With more than 4,900 miles of roads and over 2,500 miles of land and water trails, Service refuges, waterfowl production areas, and hatcheries provide a wide range of places for the public to learn about wildlife, fisheries, and habitat management. Many of the Service's refuges, wetlands, and hatcheries are associated with National Scenic Byways and National Trails.

The Service and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are working together to improve public access to refuges and waterfowl production areas. The improvements being made to roads, parking lots, and trails are providing better access to wildlife-oriented recreational opportunities. For additional information on the management and improvement of public use roads within the National Wildlife Refuge System, please visit the following site:

Photo of a parking lot at Tualatin refuge   Photo of a Refuge bus

As the principal federal partner responsible for administering the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Service partners with FHWA and State DOTs to protect and pursue the recovery of threatened and endangered species, and to conserve candidate species so that listing under the ESA is not necessary. Under Section 7 of the ESA, the Service works with FHWA to use their existing authorities to conserve threatened and endangered species and ensure that their actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or destroy or adversely modify their critical habitat. To assist in this partnership, the Service is in the process of developing a web-based Information, Planning, and Conservation (IPaC) decision support system that can be used to screen out projects that will not affect listed resources, and provide information on potential natural resources, including listed species and critical habitat, which may be affected by specific proposed activities.
View additional information on IPaC.

Last updated: October 18, 2013
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Home Page | Department of the Interior  |  | About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  | Accessibility  | Privacy  | Notices  | Disclaimer  | FOIA | DOI Inspector General