US Department of Transportation

FHWA PlanWorks: Better Planning, Better Projects

IEFStep 1 : Build and Strengthen Collaborative Partnerships and Vision

Integrated Ecological Framework Step

Purpose & Outcome


Build a team and vision for conservation planning in the state or region and set up the team to integrate conservation and transportation planning. The team will:

  • Build an understanding of what each agency can do to create incentives for more and better conservation.
  • Develop a mutual understanding of the key interests of each party that must be met to make the effort worthwhile.
  • Identify opportunities and criteria for using programmatic, landscape-level consultation and watershed-scale permitting approaches to better address transportation and conservation planning needs.
  • Build on conservation planning work already done.
  • Develop a shared vision of what may be accomplished through joint action.
  • A shared vision of what agencies may accomplish together in a specified planning region.
  • Partnerships with initial understandings regarding roles, responsibilities, processes, and timelines, formalized in a memorandum of understanding.
  • Identification of opportunities and criteria for using programmatic consultation approaches to better address transportation and conservation planning needs.


TIP: To access more information on sub-steps, please visit the complete Guide to the Integrated Ecological Framework.

  1. Identify a preliminary planning region(e.g. watersheds, eco-regions, and/or political boundaries). Drivers may be environmental factors such as water quality needs or 303(d) listings, species' needs, watershed restoration needs, or rare wetlands.
  2. Identify counterparts and build relationships among agencies, including local government and conservation NGOs (stakeholders).
  3. Convene a team of stakeholders, share aspirations, define and develop commonalities and a shared vision. Build an understanding of the benefits of a watershed/ecosystem/recovery planning approach and develop a shared vision of regional goals for transportation, restoration, recovery and conservation.
  4. Record ideas and vision. Develop memoranda of understanding on potential new processes for increasing conservation, efficiency, and predictability.
  5. Initially explore funding and long-term management options to support conservation and restoration actions and long-term management.

Technical Questions

  • What high-level planning process can be used to effectively capture transportation effects on species and ecological functions at the landscape scale?
  • What are the types of resources to include? Consider federal, state, local regulated and non-regulated resources (connectivity needs, migratory and declining species).
  • Considering ecological as well as political boundaries, what area should be used for evaluation of direct and cumulative impacts, restoration opportunities, and selection of mitigation sites (i.e., area evaluated for mitigation may be larger than area evaluated for direct impacts)?
  • What are the repetitive and relatively standardized project activities conducted by the DOT that could be addressed through programmatic approaches?


  • Wetland data from sources such as: the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI), National Hydrography Dataset (NHD), Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO) of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), local datasets, historic data sets for the mid-1970s, historic aerials and maps, reports on losses such as Status and Trends Report (Dahl 2000), and other local reports.
  • Initial high-level resources of concern.
  • Known long-term trends regarding resources in the planning region.
  • Overall priorities and concerns regarding resources in the planning region.
  • State Wildlife Action Plans and/or existing conservation/restoration plans on a landscape, ecoregion, or watershed basis.

Case Study Examples

Click on the arrows below for detailed information on each case

Tools & Methods

Click on the arrows below for detailed information on each tool or method.

  • Description: GARVEEs allow states to distribute the costs of expensive projects, even conservation projects, over many years


  • Description: The Conservation Fund's strategic conservation services use a green infrastructure planning approach-simultaneously focusing on the best lands to conserve and the best lands to accommodate development and human infrastructure-to help communities, state and federal agencies, and businesses balance environmental and economic goals through strategies that lead to smarter, sustainable land use; Green infrastructure plans: Development of comprehensive green infrastructure plans that identify community priorities and goals, inventory current community assets, map green space networks, develop strategies for implementation, and build capacity for communities to achieve their conservation visions; Decision support tool design and implementation: Integrate data, knowledge and analyses (e.g. ecosystem services, optimization, suitability analysis) to support land use decision making and prudent use of resources; Mitigation support: Identify and evaluate mitigation opportunities for agencies and business organizations from Habitat Conservation Plans, transportation improvement projects, military compatible- use buffer programs and pipeline/transmission/energy corridors.

  • Description: In metropolitan areas, urbanizing rural landscapes and most other development situations, the existence of multiple plans and many distinct government agencies and interest groups is normal, and should not be viewed as unusual or unexpected. The many plans that affect overlapping geographic areas are created by different stakeholders and are inconsistent in at least some respects, which is often seen as a problem. If we accept this situation as typical and expected, however, we can develop tools to treat these plans as an information system of plans (ISoP) and use them to advantage. The ability to access and compare multiple plans yields more information pertinent to making a decision than can be found in any one plan, which of necessity suppresses disagreement and multiple perspectives. The result is an ISoP that is a persistent, interactive and continually changing set of information that puts plans to work rather than on a shelf. Rather than pretending to create a new, consistent, overriding combination of these plans or "yet another plan" (YAP), the ISoP approach argues that planners should learn to work effectively with these many plans (Hopkins, 2001a, Hopkins, 2001b and Hopkins et al., 2005).

  • Description: Metroquest software allows a group to come to consensus on planning objectives (such as housing densities) and immediately see the future that can result for an entire metro region. MetroQuest offers customized mapping of client city-regions, as well as output tables demonstrating the performance in key indicator areas such as ecological footprints and commuting time, and the extent to which the region is meeting overall planning targets.

  • Description: The Miradi software tool helps conservation practitioners implement the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation. Miradi provides an easy-to-use, interview-style interface that walks a project team through each step of the process of designing, managing and monitoring their project according to the best practice standards established and tested by the world's major conservation organizations.

  • Description: NEPAssist is a GIS application that automates and web-enables the collection and coordination of information inherent in the environmental review process mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).