As the worldwide demand for energy continues to grow, vast amounts of energy infrastructure are required to support the expanding energy production industry. This infrastructure, taking the form of high-voltage transmission lines, pipelines, and wind farm installations, threatens the movement patterns and native habitat of many terrestrial and avian wildlife species. By utilizing the concepts of Public/Private Partnerships (P3s) and Social Capital, this study aims to address the energy infrastructure-induced habitat degradation and movement impacts experienced by wildlife within Kansas, Oklahoma, and Northern Texas.
Building upon the research, management strategies, and stakeholder structure of existing conservation-based public/private partnerships, this study asks two main questions:
how can wildlife habitat within existing and proposed energy corridors and installations be better conserved to prevent wildlife habitat degradation and barrier effects?
how can public/private partnerships utilize stakeholders to form design guidelines and policies for the conservation of habitat within existing and proposed energy corridors and installations?
A review of literature on successful conservation-based public/private partnerships suggested that, while the concept of social capital has been successfully applied in P3s concerned with wildlife habitat preservation, there has not been a direct application of social capital or public/private partnerships to energy infrastructure and installation design and management. Case studies conducted on three conservation-based P3s, the Sage Grouse Initiative, the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative, and the Wyoming Migration Initiative, revealed that many of the same conservation planning policies and stakeholder composition strategies used in wildlife habitat conservation P3s could be easily adapted to existing and proposed energy infrastructure and installations.
Case study analysis of precedential P3s aimed at identifying stakeholder composition, structure, and innovative or successful use of conservation strategies led to the formation of a series of design guidelines and policies for existing and proposed energy infrastructure corridors and installations. In addition, conservation planning and management guidelines focused on education and training for design professionals, energy infrastructure maintenance personnel, and practicing ecologists, biologists, and conservationists were developed.
To test the effectiveness and applicability of the newly developed design guidelines and policies, two test sites were chosen that clearly exhibited signs of wildlife habitat degradation and barrier effects on wildlife movement resulting from the presence of energy infrastructure or installations. These two sites, located in Northeastern Texas and Western Kansas, served as
testbeds for projective site designs, where design guidelines and policies for existing energy infrastructure corridors and installations were applied at two different site scales, and with two different types of energy infrastructure present (below-grade pipeline and wind turbine arrays, respectively).
The results of these projective site designs indicated that the design guidelines and policies developed during the course of this study were successful in creating additional wildlife habitat for two target avian species, the Lesser Prairie Chicken and Northern Bobwhite. Umbrella species, specifically Mule Deer, were able to indirectly benefit from habitat creation as well. Additionally, it was determined that the design guidelines and policies developed within this report were infinitely scalable, allowing many of the same guidelines and policies to be adapted to industries as large as worldwide transportation, or as small as the horizontal directional drilling utilities installation industry. It is suggested that additional future research be conducted toward developing design guidelines and policies specific to the extreme Eastern and Western portions of the United States, as many of the guidelines and policies within this report are best suited for the Midwestern grasslands of the U.S.