Securing permeable roadways for wide-ranging wildlife in the Black River Valley
Gustave Goodwin - 2012
Organization: Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy
Location: New York Black River Valley
The Adirondack-Tug Hill linkage project was launched in 2009, following initial planning and
mapping work by a group of interested individuals (representing State agencies, local NGOs,
local governments, and private landowners) to identify where to focus connectivity work in the
Black River Valley and what that work should entail.
In 2010, The Nature Conservancy and others completed a mapping and spatial-connectivity
analysis project2 that identified priority locations for connectivity within the 650,000-acre Black
River Valley. This work examined the Black River Valley for existing arrangements of habitats
(linkages) that support movement of focal species as predicted by a series of spatial connectivity
models. The models factored in land cover, barriers (like roads), and the habitat and life history
requirements of each focal species: moose, bear, lynx, marten, river otter, and cougar. Focal
species were selected from among wide-ranging species that currently move, or historically
moved, between the Adirondacks and Tug Hill because conditions that favor their long-term
population viability are likely to be favorable for many other species present in the region. The
models identified two separate linkages in the Black River Valley (Figure 1) that may meet the
needs for a majority of the focal species.
The mapping project also informed the development of a strategic plan for securing connectivity
in the Black River Valley. Project partners elected to focus on the southern linkage (totaling
163,000 acres) as it is primarily forested. The high amount of natural cover in this linkage (89%)
allows a conservation strategy based upon maintaining existing habitat patches, rather than costly
habitat restoration, and minimizing barrier effects between patches.2 Implementation efforts—
lead by The Tug Hill Commission, Tug Hill Tomorrow, Wildlife Conservation Society, and The
Nature Conservancy—have focused on land protection, informing local land use planning to
steer new development away from important wildlife movement areas, and reducing the impacts
of roads as barriers to animal movement. The work described in the remainder of this paper
focuses on barrier mitigation work.
This initial work helped catalyze Staying Connected: a regional initiative to secure connectivity
across the Northern Appalachians that has raised $1.2 million in funds for connectivity projects
in the Black River Valley and other priority linkages.
Advancing Barrier Mitigation in the Linkage
Roadways and related infrastructure are a significant barrier for wildlife movement and a source
of mortality for many species. Addressing these barrier effects requires incorporating the needs
of wildlife into the design of new roads and mitigating the effects of the existing road network.
The extent of the roads in the Black River Valley and the scarcity of resources that can be
allocated to barrier mitigation projects require a strategy guided by the best available science. To
advance the barrier mitigation strategy, The Nature Conservancy implemented a field study of
select roadways to develop data, tools, and strategies that can be used to mitigate the negative
impacts of barriers, particularly roads, on habitat connectivity in the Black River Valley.
Document Type: pre-mitigation protocols
pre-mitigation monitoring guidelines
justification to mitigate
Infrastructure Asset: existing roadway
Fauna: large mammals