The National Academies

ACRP 11-02/Task 21 [Final]

Innovative Airport Responses to Threatened/Endangered Species
[ ACRP 11-02 (Quick Response for Special Needs) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $74,859
Research Agency: Environmental Science Associates
Principal Investigator: Julie Sullivan
Effective Date: 4/22/2013
Completion Date: 6/30/2014
Comments: Research complete. Results published in ACRP Report 122.


Airports often occupy large tracts of land with varying degrees of development. Some parcels may be intensely developed with structures and pavement (e.g., the terminal area); others may have limited development (e.g., safety areas adjacent to runways and taxiways); and others may remain relatively undisturbed (e.g., buffer areas or parcels reserved for future development necessary to meet a region’s long-range aviation activity needs).

Airport land that is less developed may also be attractive habitat for many species of plants and animals, resulting in potential safety issues from bird and other animal interference with aircraft operations on the ground or in flight. While there are many measures to discourage common wildlife species at airports, the management of threatened and endangered (T&E) species is more challenging. When T&E species are identified on airport land, airport operators must work with environmental regulatory agencies to balance the need to protect these species with the needs for both maintaining the day-to-day safety of airport operations and meeting a region’s long-range aviation needs.

Many airport operators are unfamiliar with the issues brought about by the presence of T&E species at or near their airport, and regulators charged with protecting these species may not have a thorough understanding of the issues for maintaining a safe and efficient airport that meets the current and future needs of the community. In addition, various agencies may have differing missions, resulting in potentially conflicting goals. The results of these conflicting missions have led to significant airport costs, reduced operational efficiency, potential compromises in safety, or limited development options.

Yet there are examples of sound practice for airports in addressing T&E species issues and of establishing a good working relationship with regulatory agencies. Research is needed to identify best practices for airports to address T&E species, including practical mitigation measures and coordination with key stakeholders.


The objective of this research is to develop a primer to help airports address federal and state threatened and endangered species issues on or near their airport. The primer will include:

  • An introduction to the Federal Endangered Species Act (including a reference to the current list);
  • A discussion of airport activities and plans that could potentially create a Federal Endangered Species Act issue;
  • A description of the roles and responsibilities of the airport sponsor and regulatory agencies;
  • A description of typical process challenges and how to anticipate and overcome them, including how to address species concerns both before and after it has been listed as threatened or endangered;
  • Guidelines for developing and maintaining stakeholder relationships;
  • Steps for preparing a plan for both pre- and post-listing situations;
  • Tools and innovative approaches (e.g., candidate conservation agreements, safe harbor agreements, habitat conservation plans, impact mitigation, conservation programs, conservation easements, LEED credits, mitigation banking, partnerships with nonprofit agencies, volunteer programs, pools of experts, stakeholders and friends groups);
  • Case study examples representing diverse and innovative approaches to addressing T&E issues;
  • References to resources to address other critical species issues; and
  • A glossary of relevant terms.


Research is complete.  The results are published as ACRP Report 122.

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