Natural Resources Section

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The Natural Resources Section conducts NEPA investigations, consultation, analysis, and documentation to provide environmental clearance documents for all NMDOT construction and maintenance projects statewide. 

A photo of cones at the side of the road with small animals wanting to cross the road

A Section staff member designated for each NMDOT District assesses each projects environmental impact and works with engineers and other staff to determine the level of effort and develop project timelines.  Natural Resources Section staff conduct a wide range of desktop and field assessments to evaluate project impacts on wetlands and waterways and federal and state-listed species and their habitat and conduct consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New Mexico Environment Department, and the United States Fish & Wildlife Service. The Section also assesses land ownership and management, noise and visual resources, socioeconomics and environmental justice, and public involvement.  In response to New Mexico Senate Bill 228, the Section has dedicated staff to develop a statewide Wildlife Corridor Action Plan and integrate wildlife crossings into construction and maintenance projects.  During emergencies such as wildfire and flood events, Section staff coordinates with federal, state, and local agencies to expedite response times. 

agency coordination image

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) & Highway Projects

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 facilitates and documents the decision-making process for federally funded Highway and Bridge Projects.  The Natural Resources section ensures that highway and bridge projects that are under design and development comply with environmental laws and regulations including the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and other federal, state, and local regulations.  Environmental impacts and compliance with various rules and regulations are documented.  We serve as the interface between NMDOT Project Development Engineers and various regulatory agencies such as the US Army Corps of Engineers, New Mexico Environment Department, State Historic Preservation Office, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and others.  Public input is solicited for some highway and bridge projects that would have a significant impact on the traveling public.  The environmental impacts, and public input on these projects are commonly documented with Categorical Exclusions (CEs) and Environmental Assessments (EAs) in accordance with NEPA.

Wildlife Corridors & Connectivity

Highways, railroads, and other linear structures are known to fragment wildlife habitat, potentially affecting resource availability, species distribution, and genetic diversity. Combined with direct mortality from vehicle collisions, roadways can have a negative impact on wildlife at the population-level. Additionally, collisions with large animals, such as deer and elk, pose a danger to driver safety. Since 2004, New Mexico has implemented a number of wildlife mitigation projects aimed at increasing safety to the traveling public and reducing the impact our highways have on wildlife populations by facilitating safe wildlife passage across the roadway. These efforts typically involve the use of fencing to keep animals off the road and direct them to bridges or culverts large enough for their use. With the passage of the Wildlife Corridors Act in 2019, NMDOT is now working with NMDGF to create a priority project list of collision hotspots and important wildlife corridors to further escalate our efforts in increasing motorist safety and reconnect fragmented wildlife habitat.

footprint image
footprint image

Wildlife Corridors & Connectivity

Highways, railroads, and other linear structures are known to fragment wildlife habitat, potentially affecting resource availability, species distribution, and genetic diversity. Combined with direct mortality from vehicle collisions, roadways can have a negative impact on wildlife at the population-level. Additionally, collisions with large animals, such as deer and elk, pose a danger to driver safety. Since 2004, New Mexico has implemented a number of wildlife mitigation projects aimed at increasing safety to the traveling public and reducing the impact our highways have on wildlife populations by facilitating safe wildlife passage across the roadway. These efforts typically involve the use of fencing to keep animals off the road and direct them to bridges or culverts large enough for their use. With the passage of the Wildlife Corridors Act in 2019, NMDOT is now working with NMDGF to create a priority project list of collision hotspots and important wildlife corridors to further escalate our efforts in increasing motorist safety and reconnect fragmented wildlife habitat.

Wetland Banking and Service Areas map

Wetland Mitigation Banking

If a highway or bridge construction project impacts a significant amount of wetlands, wetland mitigation is necessary.  Baseline studies, mitigation design, and consultation with the Army Corps of Engineers, the New Mexico Environment Department and possibly the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service  will take place. Wetlands are restored, created or enhanced by excavation, plantings, fencing, and natural channel design modifications.  Wetland mitigation areas require follow-up monitoring a minimum of 3 to 5 years post construction.

The NMDOT, in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is currently in the process of developing a “wetland mitigation banking” program, known as Advanced Permittee-Responsible Mitigation (APRM). This allows the NMDOT to restore, create, and enhance wetlands in advance of known construction impacts, which prevents project delays while also improving larger wetlands that provide greater ecological services and habitat.

Special Projects & Educational Materials

Threatened and Endangered Species

U.S. federal law protects critically rare animal and plant species and their habitats. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C 1531) provides for the protection of species that are at risk of extinction throughout all, or a significant portion of their range, and for the protection of ecosystems on which they depend. All listing decisions are based solely on the best scientific and commercial data available, and consideration of economic impacts during listing process is prohibited by the Act. The US Fish and Wildlife Service coordinates the Endangered Species Act but other federal and tribal agencies have additional sensitive species requiring protection.

New Mexico has a wide range of threatened and endangered species, from endemic fish, snake and amphibian species in the Gila, to the Rio Grande silvery minnow, to plant species such as the Mesa Verde cactus and the Pecos sunflower.  The NMDOT consults with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and coordinates with other government agencies and the public to ensure that construction and maintenance impacts on T&E species do not have an adverse effect, or that the adverse effect is mitigated through other conservation actions that will benefit the species.

Bats and Bridges

There are approximately 29 known bat species that call New Mexico home. Of these, 28 are known to use, or have potential to use, bridges or culverts. This use may be limited to short-term activities such as transitional roosting but could also include critical life phases such as breeding, hibernation, or fulltime residency. Bats provide invaluable ecosystem services such as insect suppression, pollination, and seed dispersal, as well as cultural importance. However, anthropogenic impacts have caused bat population declines across the globe. Often, when bridges are replaced or repaired, previously existing roosting habitat for bats (such as exposed joints or crevices) may be lost.

bat bridges and bat in boxes image

To mitigate impacts to bridge bat roosting habitat, NMDOT has begun installing artificial structures (bat boxes) at bridges with known bat colonies.  These structures are installed to facilitate bat use equal to, or greater than, that of the previous structure. These efforts ensure that road and bridge projects minimize impacts to bat populations so that they may continue to provide their essential services to New Mexico.

Special Projects and Educational Materials

Point of Contact:

Trent Botkin, Natural Resources Section Supervisor
P.O. Box 1149
1120 Cerrillos Rd, Rm 206
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1149
Phone: 505-470-4195
Email: Trent.Botkin@state.nm.us