Habitat & Conservation  |  10/15/2021

Habitat How-To: Rights-of-Way - Habitat in the Margins


Creating corridors and connecting habitat for upland wildlife

Mike Retterer, National Rights-Of-Way and Energy CoordinatorPhoto by Jason Bleich

Many of us are still driving to work, errands, school or recreation across a patchwork of cover types dotted across highly varied landscapes. 

One constant in our travels is the corridors we use and cross during those daily-routines and sometimes-adventures. In addition to their purpose of providing travel routes between destinations, these corridors can also provide important travel lanes to wildlife between larger blocks of habitat, and can potentially offer large-scale habitat acres of wildlife and environmental benefits.

Collectively these linear strips of potential habitat that crisscross the United States are known as rights-of-way.

Rights-of-way are the strips or patches of contiguous land used in utility distribution, energy production and transportation. Think power poles, pipelines and roads. Collectively, rights-of-way include 2.75 million miles of transportation, 12 million acres of transmission corridors and facilities, and more than 500,000 acres of solar opportunities.

A few of these rights-of-way are being managed specifically for wildlife and other environmental benefits. Some are providing marginal habitat benefits, but most are not providing quality habitat or environmental benefits.

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever work with state departments of transportation, electric / gas transmission companies and solar companies to improve the quality of habitat in these rights-of-way. Our team is designing seed mixes, providing recommendations for vegetation establishment and management, monitoring and assessing existing habitat value, evaluating internal policies and procedures for habitat delivery, and training contractors and staff on habitat development.

As a result, we are seeing a growing number of rights-of-way with more diversity and increased use of deep-rooted perennials which provide a myriad of conservation benefits including: water quality (improved infiltration of storm water, additional nutrient uptake); soil protection; carbon capture; and of course, improved wildlife habitat for pheasants and pollinators.

Next time you are traveling across the landscape, pay attention to the rights-of-way you are traveling on and through. Consider their current and potential value as habitat, and how important they are to wildlife moving between other blocks of habitat. Then think about how to make a difference on those acres … and act.  

For more information of Pheasants Forever’s sustainable habitat program, check out Episode 128: Creating Habitat in the Margins on Pheasants Forever’s On The Wing Podcast.

Purchase with a Purpose: All proceeds from our seed program support PF’s mission of putting more habitat on the ground, youth in our fields and birds in the air. Thank you for being a valued cooperator and supporting our conservation mission. Visit pfhabitatstore.com.

This story originally appeared in the 2021 Fall Issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a Pheasants Forever member today!