US Department of Transportation

FHWA PlanWorks: Better Planning, Better Projects

IEFStep 8 : Implement Agreements, Adaptive Management and Deliver Projects

Integrated Ecological Framework Step

Purpose & Outcome


Implement the previous agreements, update the REF, and design transportation projects in accordance with ecological objectives and goals identified in previous steps (i.e., keeping planning decisions linked to project decisions), appropriate programmatic agreements, performance measures and ecological metrics. This will help ensure continuity from the early planning processes into transportation project implementation.

  • Use of regional ecological goals and objectives in project planning and decision-making.
  • Use of REF maps to guide project avoidance and mitigation decisions.
  • Incorporation of performance standards and programmatic agreements as appropriate into permitting and consultation documents.
  • Integration of programmatic cumulative effects analysis into project NEPA, 404 and 7 analysis.
  • Incorporating tools and approaches into a monitoring and adaptive management strategy to ensure positive project outcomes.
  • Accurate recordkeeping and tracking of all commitments by transportation agency in project delivery.
  • Updating information from construction and operation into REF.
  • Measuring performance success in project delivery.


  1. Design/implement methods to complete transportation project(s) consistent with REF, conservation/restoration strategy, and agreements.
  2. Identify how advance mitigation/conservation will be funded, if this has not been done already.
  3. As needed, develop additional project-specific, outcome-based performance standards related to impact avoidance and minimization.
  4. Design transportation projects and integrate performance measures to minimize impacts to resources.
  5. Use adaptive management to ensure compliance with requirements and intent of performance measures.
    • Develop and track ecoregional biodiversity, indicators of viability and integrity.
    • Develop and track conservation status, protected and managed area status, and management effectiveness.
    • Identify remedial actions and needed plan adjustments.
    • Adjust the planning process and management processes and/or management of individual conservation areas.
    • Incorporate outputs into future cumulative effects analyses for the region.

Technical Questions

  • What tools are available that could help document goals and priorities identified in the REF that need to be considered in project delivery?
  • What tools/methods can be used to track how projects contributed to and/or improved the REF priorities and goals?


None identified

Case Study Examples

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Tools & Methods

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

  • Description: CoastRanger MS has been designed to explain the consequences that different management approaches have on coastal processes, natural environments and flood and coastal erosion risk. The software highlights the range of interests that need to be balanced on the coast and demonstrates the difficult decisions that have to be made in some areas.

  • Description: A series of assessment methods and guidance for monitoring ecological conditions and risks


  • Description: Identifies perennial and ephemeral streams in Oregon. Uses field indicators that identify evidence of flow.


  • Description: To supplement the rapid bioassessment protocols (Plafkin et al. 1989; rev. Barbour et al. 1999) by illustrating how Region 10 States have adapted the RBPs for the northwestern U.S.; to define the minimum components necessary to conduct stream bioassessment; and to encourage consistency of sampling methods to facilitate data sharing. Ordinal scale, nominal scale, and quantitative output.

  • Description: Fairfax County developed a Stream Protection Strategy as part of on-going progress towards a watershed management program. The Strategy includes methods that build upon and incorporate extant bioassessment programs and will allow the Stormwater Management Branch to better anticipate, prevent, prioritize, and correct adverse impacts to the County's stream resources. The Strategy incorporates biological sampling (e.g. benthic macroinvertebrates and fish) and rapid physical habitat and geomorphology assessments. Descriptive, ordinal scale, nominal scale, and quantitative output.


  • Description: To establish a standardized general protocol "that can be used when conducting any stream habitat survey, evaluation, monitoring program, appraisal, or special project.when precise, defensible methods are needed to substantiate management objectives, priorities, or effectiveness [of management treatments]" (Simonson et al. 1994). Descriptive, ordinal scale, nominal scale, and quantitative output.


  • Description: To aid managers in discerning the relationships between wildlife populations (for elk and mule deer) and habitat sustainability. The model produces a range of population values with related management implications (e.g., grazing, burning) that can be used in the planning process. Developed to resolve fence and forage conflicts on private and public lands. Quantitative output.

  • Description: IFIM is a tool to assess in-stream flow problems, ranging from simple diversions to complex storage and release schemes. It provides resources managers with a decision support system for determining the benefits or consequences of different water management alternatives. Descriptive, ordinal scale, nominal scale, and quantitative output.


  • Description: PII is a protocol allows the user to evaluate potential development sites using checklists and rank them against a reference site. Objectives are to: (1) assist developers in deciding whether to proceed with development; (2) provide a procedure to determine pre-construction study needs to verify use of potential sites by wildlife; and (3) provide recommendations for monitoring potential sites postconstruction to identify, quantify, or verify actual impacts (or lack thereof).


  • Description: To assess status and trends in water quality nationwide and to develop an understanding of the major factors influencing observed conditions and trends. Descriptive and quantitative output.

  • Description: Platts et al. (1983) presents standard techniques for measuring aquatic, riparian, and biotic attributes and stresses the precision and accuracy of each measurement. In this way, the authors aim to provide the field practitioner with tools and information to build on and evaluate for assessing particular aquatic habitat and biological features. Platts et al. (1987) expands upon Platts et al. (1983) with a "comprehensive set of the latest methods for ... use in managing, evaluating, and monitoring riparian conditions...." Descriptive, ordinal scale, nominal scale, and quantitative output.


  • Description: Developed to monitor habitat conditions for Oregon streams


  • Description: Identify and describe naturally occurring, ecologically distinct, spatial units in river. Uses include inventory, research (sampling designs based on stratification of river valley segment types), and basis for resource management. Descriptive output.

  • Description: To support assessment of water quality and development of biological criteria for Minnesota streams. These procedures are also applicable for USEPA Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) stations and sites suspected of being impacted by a source of pollution. Descriptive and ordinal scale output.


  • Description: The original 1992 version of MnRAM was developed to provide a practical assessment tool that would help local authorities make sound wetland management decisions as they assumed responsibility for regulating wetland impacts. The current version represents a more refined procedure that provides numeric, rather than the original descriptive, ratings. It may be applied to existing wetlands or potential restoration sites. Descriptive and ordinal scale output.

  • 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: To provide a technique that (1) assesses 4 major functions and 7 values of vernal pool wetlands, (2) is standardized and rapid (in the sense that the procedure can be completed in one day or less), (3) is well-documented with scientific literature, mainly from Oregon, and (4) can be used to prioritize vernal pool complexes and compare them before and after restoration or impact. Ordinal scale output.


  • Description: To provide a simple, rapid reconnaissance-level assessment of stream quality conditions on a watershed scale. Descriptive and ordinal scale output.

  • Description: Restore integrates models of watershed function and economic characterizations of restoration options with stakeholder-determined constraints and priorities to provide a tool for stakeholders to identify feasible restoration strategies and evaluate the ecological and economic effectiveness of these strategies at addressing watershed-level function. The approach involves integrating 1) models of hydrology, water quality, biodiversity, and habitat quality at the watershed scale, 2) socioeconomic analyses of stakeholder constraints on feasible restoration options and 3) economic analysis of restoration options to develop a GIS-based decision tool for generating and evaluating restoration strategies consistent with stakeholder goals.

  • Description: Development of a multivariate model of reference stream conditions for the Virginia Coastal Zone using biological, ecological, and geomorphological variables.

  • Description: Provides techniques from numerous published sources for collecting a minimum set of high quality data necessary to quantify the physical character of streams for monitoring, impact assessment, inventory, response to management actions, etc. Descriptive and quantitative output.


  • Description: The Unified Stream Assessment is a rapid technique to locate and evaluate problems and restoration opportunities within an urban stream corridor in Maryland.

  • Description: Contains the field operations and bioassessment methods for evaluating the health and biological integrity of wadeable freshwater streams throughout the US. These methods can be used to determine stream condition assessment and/or to monitor the effects of impacts on aquatic 155 organisms, particularly benthic acroinvertebrates. Descriptive, ordinal scale, nominal scale, and quantitative output.

  • Description: To identify and classify subwatersheds that are vulnerable to changes in land use based on estimates of current and future impervious cover; and to identify subwatersheds that warrant restoration actions. Descriptive output.