Safe Passages for Wildlife (and People)

Fairhill bridge / Paul Drummond
Fairhill bridge / Paul Drummond

The 5,500-acre Fairhill Natural Resource Management Area in Maryland, part of the old Foxcatcher Farm and the original estate of the Dupont family, is a source of fascination for landscape architect Paul Drummond, ASLA, Design Collective, in part because of its network of pathways that enable wildlife to travel. In a session at the ASLA 2016 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, he, along with Thomas Woltz, FASLA, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, and Robert Rock, ASLA, Living Habitats, explored ways to improve connectivity for wildlife (and humans).

At Fairhill, wildlife and humans alike have been funneled into only a few pathways that cut through 16 miles of fence, which neighbors have called “La Fence,” given the French heritage of the Dupont family. Bridges that cross rural roads and culverts that run underneath them are now the only way through the resource area. On either side of these passages, Drummond set up cameras to record the movement of wildlife and humans. His in-depth research found that “these crossing are vital” for wildlife connectivity, with deer and foxes using them regularly.

Fairhill culvert / Paul Drummond
Fairhill culvert / Paul Drummond
Fox crossing / Paul Drummond
Fox crossing / Paul Drummond

He is concerned about the future of the crossings, too, given some are up to 60 years old. A bridge hit by one too many trucks was removed. “We need to quantify the benefits so the state preserves these.”

Woltz argued that a good crossing is “multi-user.” He relayed his work at the 3,000-acre Orongo farm on the east coast of New Zealand. Over the past 13 years, his firm has created a protected wildlife corridor along the coastline. The original temperate rainforest found there was restored, with 600,000 trees planted. “Thousands of birds migrating now stop there.” And the forest now provides habitat for the ancient Tuatara reptile, which has been re-introduced. The landscape is now “a wildlife bridge of a damaged ecology; it enables animals to safely move over something dangerous,” which for them is the remaining sheep farm landscape.

ASLA 2010 Professional Analyis and Planning Honor Award. Orongo Station Conservation Master Plan / Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects
ASLA 2010 Professional Analyis and Planning Honor Award. Orongo Station Conservation Master Plan / Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects

Memorial Park in Houston is another of his firm’s projects that will increase connectivity for both wildlife and humans. A vast land bridge, a “diverse ecological corridor,” will provide a bridge over a “lethal highway” that bisects the massive park, and is “like the game Frogger to cross.” For Woltz, the new image of the earth coming up over the highway is an important one: “it’s the park triumphant.”

Memorial Park / Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects
Memorial Park / Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects

And, lastly, Robert Rock, ASLA — who won ARC’s design competition for wildlife crossings with Hypar-Nature, a design he created when we worked for Michael Van Valkenburg Associates (MMVA)– explained how animal and vehicle collisions are a $8 billion-a-year problem.

Hypar-Nature / Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
Hypar-Nature / Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

“We need to change the paradigm, and policy and advocacy are a big part of making the shift.” Explore ARC’s excellent set of resources to find out how to do more.

One thought on “Safe Passages for Wildlife (and People)

  1. nrobbyn 10/23/2016 / 11:51 am

    I notice that more and more highways (major arteries), both in Canada and the U.S.A. have concrete fences several feet high all along the median between the sets of lanes going in opposite directions. I am wondering if these were planned with wildlife in mind – perhaps to discourage them from crossing the highway…?

    On the other hand, they may present a very deadly barrier to wildlife attempting to cross. I wonder if there are studies on this.

    I notice these concrete walls more and more on bridges now – cutting off our view as we drive by!

    Thanks,

    Nancy

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