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Planning Trails with Wildlife in Mind

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The Wildlife and Trail Planning Checklist is a sequence of wildlife-related questions and possible steps to consider in planning a trail.



Planning Trails with Wildlife in Mind: A Handbook for Trail Planners


The checklist focuses specifically on wildlife issues of trail planning and is designed to mirror comprehensive planning processes. This should make it easier to integrate the information into the ways trails are already being planned. If you are beginning to plan a trail and want to find appropriate ways of including wildlife issues, the checklist will raise important questions through each step of the planning process.


Trail Planning Checklist arrow Getting the Whole Picture arrow Considering alternatives arrow Building & Managing Trails



Step B. Considering alternatives

1. Preparing and evaluating alternatives - 2. Designing the trail


photo of lake

1. Preparing and evaluating alternatives


Create distinctive alternative plans..

  • With this handbook’s rules of thumb as a guide, develop alternative plans that maximize the opportunities and minimize the constraints for wildlife.
  • Especially look for opportunities to coordinate the restoration of degraded habitats.
  • Get professional help preparing and evaluating alternatives, if possible.
  • Where an existing trail is to be improved, alternatives might include different management strategies.

Consider alternatives for trailheads and other support facilities.

  • Sites for trailheads and parking areas are sometime overlooked in evaluating wildlife impacts of trails. They need careful design and review.

Evaluate the alternatives.

  • Conduct an internal evaluation of the alternatives using the goals set earlier.

Ask others to help evaluate the alternatives.

  • Conduct an external evaluation of the alternatives
  • Consult with wildlife biologists or other agency personnel, public, environmental groups, landowners, land managers, and others, as appropriate.
  • Summarize the pros and cons of each alternative.

Select a preferred plan.

  • Review the comments made during the evaluation process and select one of the alternatives or create a hybrid plan incorporating the best qualities of two or more plans.

photo of river


2. Designing the trail


Refine the selected plan.

  • Develop site designs, budgets, and timetables.

Develop management strategies.

  • Consider how the trail will be managed, maintained, and monitored.

Develop an environmental education/ interpretation plan.

  • The plan should explain how to communicate to trail users the specific wildlife issues of this trail.

Develop a volunteer plan.

  • Outline support tasks for involving volunteers in monitoring or managing wildlife.

Conduct a final review of the plan and its components.

  • Review the final plan with a wildlife biologist and other specialists.
  • Make certain all the parts went together in ways that support wildlife.


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