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Environmental Studies Protect Turtles along Iowa Highway 100

Why did the turtle cross the road?

Linn County, Iowa

Turtles are hard wired to nest and lay their eggs at the same sites where they were born… even when a road gets in their way or their habitat disappears. When Iowa Highway 100 was slated for expansion, Stantec identified two state threatened species (ornate box turtle and Blanding’s turtle) that could be affected by proposed roadwork.

The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) conducts environmental impact studies on any project that might affect wildlife or habitat. Iowa Highway 100 project corridor studies were first conducted in the 1970s and again in 2002 when the project was revived. With construction scheduled for 2014, the DOT asked Stantec to conduct a new study in 2012.

The first objective was to find out if the threatened turtles were still present in the area. Our biologists completed trapping and telemetry studies that confirmed their presence and tracked movement patterns, activity ranges, and hibernation sites. The turtles had already lost habitat due to urban development—only three wetlands remained and one would be impacted by the roadwork.

Stantec biologists worked with DOT staff to develop two solutions to protect turtles that were approved by DOT. The first involved building a new overwintering pond. In spring 2013, 200 turtles, including six Blanding’s turtles, were moved from the old pond to the new. The second solution is a wildlife underpass and temporary barrier fencing directing the turtles to the underpass that will be installed in winter 2013. Permanent barrier fencing will be installed at the time of road construction the following year. 

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