Barriers & Bridges forum shows leadership in wildlife movement solutions

Representatives from councils, Transport and Main Roads, Transurban, community groups, universities and more attended the sold-out Barriers & Bridges fauna movement solutions forum at Griffith University EcoCentre this month.

Jutta Godwin of Cubberla-Witton Catchments Network & Taringa Parade Bushcare on panel at Barriers & Bridges Forum.

The B4C event, sponsored by a Transurban Community Grant, featured the following presenters and panelists:

The audience included representatives from Brisbane City Council, Logan City Council, Gold Coast City Council, Moreton Bay Regional Council, Sunshine Coast Council, Transport & Main Roads and more.

Darryl Jones addressing Barriers & Bridges fauna movement solutions forum.
Prof Darryl Jones at Barriers & Bridges forum.

Professor Darryl Jones described the Barriers and Bridges forum as “extraordinary”.

“First, to sell out a sizeable venue on such a technical subject indicates very clearly that this is of considerable and growing interest to the community,” Darryl said.

“And the presence – and notable absence – of many local governments and state agencies was also indicative of the extent to which this is being followed very closely by the different levels of government.”

“From my international perspective, there is no doubt at all that Australia is punching well above its weight, and south east Queensland is the epicentre of this critically important field.”

“At a time of endless environmental catastrophes and a feeling of helplessness, these ideas are enormously important as evidence that we can make a difference.”

Road ecology is a very positive environmental movement at the moment, according to Darryl.

He calls the Logan Enhancement Project “the most ambitious project in Australia” and explains that the Compton Road solution is discussed internationally.

“There is such strong evidence for Compton Road and we’ve done everything under the sun down there. We can show them the numbers,” Darryl says.

He says it is important to know what is living in the forest and that why you build something is important. Sweden has done the most “big picture” thinking in this area Darryl explained and he provided a number of other international examples.

“It’s fixed in [to the plan] when you build a road in Europe. It’s in the same category as the land that has to be cleared, all of that is included in the plan from the beginning.”

There are six major fauna bridges in Australia and we’re about to get our seventh in Perth. Two are in the Bulimba Creek Catchment.

“Queensland leads Australia with this stuff, we got in early,” Darryl said.

France sets a great example with 280 wildlife bridges.

Darryl Jones says there is a “Compton Road Effect” – with it increasing expectations for solutions.

He said the key to getting these solutions in place is “persistent, prepared and well informed community groups.”

Rich Pidgeon spoke about various solutions with a focus on the Logan Enhancement Project. Rich is Director of Environment and Planning at Aurecon. He’s been working as an Environment & Planning Technical Advisor on the Logan Enhancement Project since the development of its concept design and continued to advise on the project through its delivery.

With Rich’s experience on numerous projects throughout Queensland with environmental legislation, approvals and compliance, project business case development, environmental impact studies and project management he brought excellent insights to the discussion.

Rich Pidgeon at Barriers & Bridges fauna movement solutions forum.
Rich Pidgeon talking at Barriers & Bridges forum

Rich talked about culverts under roads, rope ladders over roads, glider poles and land bridge and the environmental reference group which guided it. He spoke about looking at various opportunities for fauna movement and planning for the future.

“Illaweena Street is not a huge crossing but it’s done with the future in mind. If it gets developed there is a bridge over both lanes.”

Rich explained that while it was better to include fauna movement solutions in the design at the beginning of a project, there were still options for retrofitted permeability.

He showed how Transurban had set a high benchmark including the ongoing maintenance in the Logan Motorway Enhancement project.

Guests were also shown a brilliant example of what a council can do for wildlife thanks to Bernadette May, Senior Environmental Planner in Green Infrastructure Networks at Moreton Bay Regional Council.

Bernadette May of Green Infrastructure Networks at Moreton Bay Regional Council at Barriers & Bridges fauna movement solutions forum.
Pictured middle – Bernadette May – Senior Environmental Planner, Green Infrastructure Networks at Moreton Bay Regional Council. With Steve Collum (left) and Jutta Godwin (right).

“Roads and traffic create habitat gaps and movement hazards which restrict wildlife movement and increase wildlife mortality,” Bernadette says.

Forums such as the Barriers & Bridges are important opportunities for our community to come together and share experiences and ideas to improve safety for wildlife navigating fragmented habitats.

Since 2012, Moreton Bay Regional Council (MBRC) has been constructing wildlife movement infrastructure including fauna rope bridges and dedicated fauna underpasses where wildlife movement corridors and roads intersect.

“Consideration for wildlife movement infrastructure is included into the design and construction of all MBRC road projects,” Bernadette says.

MBRC has also developed a suite of standard engineering drawings for fauna movement infrastructure. These drawings are an Australian first for wildlife movement infrastructure and are available on the Moreton Bay Regional Council’s website here.

“The availability of standard drawings for fauna movement infrastructure will no doubt help to mainstream consideration for this important road infrastructure into transport projects,” Bernadette says.

Both Bernadette and Darryl discussed “verges”. Darryl said there was a lot more that Australia could do in terms of verges and that they have not been given serious consideration in Australian in terms of wildlife movement. Bernadette said that Moreton Bay Regional Council understands their importance and that a heavily vegetated verge appears to encourage road users to drive more slowly.

Dr David Sharpe at Barriers & Bridges fauna movement solutions forum.
Dr David Sharpe, Senior Ecologist, SMEC.

The important relationship between verges and firebreaks was also highlighted during the discussion.

Dr David Sharpe, Senior Ecologist from SMEC gave a presentation on gliders. David stressed the importance of understanding the animal you are designing a crossing for.

Gliding distance for squirrel gliders, he explained, follows the data below and gliders need to stay above 4.5m to avoid truck collisions.

squirrel glider glide distance.
Table created using data from Dr David Sharpe’s presentation.
An audience member asking a question of Steve Collom (Habi-Tec).

Forum panelist Steve Collum of Habi-Tec says he was inspired by the forum.

“I was encouraged by the feeling that this collaboration of experts will make long lasting strides in making this much needed infrastructure common place,” Steve said.

“I believe the key to moving forward is changing the perception and minds of the authorities behind road construction and the general public that fauna bridges and under passes should be considered as necessary as any other part of road design and construction and not an addition to.”

Steve and his team showcased a variety of Habi-Tec products at the forum.

Habi-Tec display table.
Habi-Tec items at Barriers & Bridges forum.

There was discussion about the role of bushcare sites. Jutta Godwin of Cubberla-Witton Catchments Network and Taringa Parade Bushcare Group spoke about efforts to avoid habitat fragmentation and the need for links to be created. Jutta pointed out that a creekline is not enough on its own to be a sufficient corridor.

Useful tools such as the Biocollect Roadkill app were also discussed at the forum, with more people signing up to become users.

Steve Collom (Habi-Tec), Dylan Wells (Powerlink) & Stefan Hattingh (B4C).
L-R: Steve Collom (Habi-Tec), Dylan Hall (Powerlink) & Stefan Hattingh (B4C) at Barriers & Bridges forum, discussing how Powerlink works with community for fauna movement & habitat.

B4C President and Barriers & Bridges MC, Mik Petter says fauna movement solutions are increasingly becoming a mainstream practice across a range of jurisdictions and governments.

“We need to make sure that our built infrastructure is permeable to our fauna,” Mik said.

“The workshop highlighted the importance of locating such infrastructure in targeted locations guiding by analysis of fauna blackspots.”

“Local governments are showing strong initiatives in the field. Ongoing monitoring is important in ensuring designs are working as effectively as possible and to help with continuing the development of better solutions.”

“Collaboration between planners, designers, researchers and community stakeholders is key to successful projects.”

B4C Catchment Manager Wayne Cameron says the forum was “a real break-through.”

“We must make the most of the ideas, innovations and constructive discussions that took place,” Wayne said.

There is high demand for another forum of this kind. B4C is in discussions about holding another one in 2020.

Chatting at the display area at Barriers & Bridges Forum.

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