ADOT, Game and Fish host major conference on transportation and the environment

by Arizona Game & Fish Department

Experts discuss ways to incorporate wildlife and ecological considerations into transportation planning

The Arizona Department of Transportation and the Arizona Game and Fish Department recently hosted the prestigious International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (ICOET) which highlighted research and achievements that focus on the relationship between transportation planning and the environment.

The conference was held June 23-27 in Scottsdale. Nearly 400 experts in transportation and ecology from more than 40 states, tribal organizations and other countries attended.

ADOT and Game and Fish had the opportunity to showcase joint efforts that consider the environment during the planning and building stages of transportation infrastructure. One such effort was the construction of wildlife crossing bridges and culverts as part of improvements along US 93 near the Nevada state line to reduce the number of collisions between vehicles and desert bighorn sheep. The crossing structures not only help make the highway safer for motorists, but also help overcome the "barrier effect" of the highway by facilitating needed movement in habitat for the area's bighorn sheep herd, which is one of the nation's largest.

The conference included numerous presentations and panel discussions by experts and practitioners who presented research, case studies and ideas to find solutions to merge transportation planning and environmental concerns, making this conference unique within the transportation industry.

There were also field trips to view other innovative efforts, such as wildlife crossing underpasses and the electronic elk crosswalk along State Route 260, context-sensitive highway improvements in Sedona, and sustainability and preservation efforts for transportation solutions at Grand Canyon National Park.

Arizona's wide range of ecology made it an ideal state to host the ICOET conference. State transportation planners must work with biologists and other partners to take into account diverse wildlife populations and varied topography in the low and high desert plateaus as well as rocky and tree-covered mountain terrain when planning Arizona's highway system.

Formed in 2001, ICOET is regarded as the primary forum for introducing research innovations and concepts that form many standards of practice in the field. The conference is held every two years.

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