The Vermont Agency of Transportation and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department have been collaborating on and conducting Highways & Habitats trainings since 2002. These trainings take transportation professionals into the field to explore infrastructure’s effects on habitat and what can be done to maintain connectivity and reconnect fragmented habitats. In addition to delving into the fundamental concepts of transportation ecology, the trainings utilize the expertise of the always-diverse assembly of transportation practitioners that make up the class. Since its inception Highways & Habitats has been taken by over 200 VTrans and VF&WD staff. The training has been so popular that VTrans leadership asked for a H&H online primer to engage as many transportation staff as possible. The training now consists of H&H Tier 1 (online) and H&H Tier 2 (in person classroom/field).
Highways & Habitats has sparked and fostered a culture within VTrans that understands the relationship between transportation and wildlife between infrastructure and habitat. As a result of these trainings, the question from project managers is no longer, “Why should we include wildlife accommodations on this project?” but rather “Why is it important on this project?,” because a baseline understand of habitat connectivity is baked into the VTrans culture. In 2022, Vermont’s Highways & Habitats training received a FHWA Environmental Excellence Award.
This presentation will give an overview of Highways & Habitats; look at the training’s history and how it has evolved in the last 20 years; and share some of the outcomes that have resulted and lessons learned.