H-GAC’s work on the regional Eco-Logical project stems from a national effort by the Federal Highway Authority (FHWA) to develop a framework for making transportation infrastructure planning more sensitive towards preserving wildlife and protecting ecosystems. FHWA’s goal was to infuse the “ecological approach” into the project planning process and to thereby protect multi-resource ecosystems on a broader scale, reduce habitat fragmentation, and encourage inter-agency cooperation in the management of natural resources.
H-GAC’s first Eco-Logical tool was completed in 2010, in response to an FHWA-sponsored pilot project. This tool was modeled as a regional decision support system (RDSS) that rated ecological sites by their functional value and ranked them by a relative priority for conservation. The intent was to construct a tool that could be used to compare proposed transportation projects based on their potential to impact valuable ecosystem resources.
An update to the Eco-Logical tool was planned as it became clear that the ecotype basemap had become fragmented and markedly out of date due to a rapid and sustained urban growth. H-GAC took the opportunity to also upgrade the application with a more advanced data model. The new tool features a modernized interface and a significantly expanded toolset that makes it a valuable source of information for planning, research, and educational purposes.