Crews of the Maryland State Highway Administration’s (SHA) contractors, along with specially trained dogs and many volunteers, have found approximately 900 Eastern box turtles and relocated them out of the right-of-way of the new Intercounty Connector. SHA officials announced the turtle rescue results at an Earth Day announcement last week.
“Participating in the Eastern Box Turtle Initiative is an excellent way to teach children the importance of our environment and to educate them on the complexities and challenges of balancing the need for urban growth with the responsibility of caring for the environment,” Washington Christian Academy Vice President David Hawes said.
Local fourth- and fifth-graders had a chance to talk to environmental professionals fresh from a turtle search, handle live turtles and learn about the species’ life cycle and habitat. Demonstrations on how trained turtle-tracking dogs find turtles, how a protective “turtle fence” is built and conversations with experts on career opportunities in the environmental sciences rounded out the experience.
The Eastern Box Turtle Initiative, part of the ICC project’s extensive $370 million environmental program, began prior to construction in fall 2007. SHA organized the first relocation of box turtles away from construction of the ICC. At that time, researchers equipped the turtles with harmless transponders, allowing data to be collected and the turtles’ behavior analyzed.
“The turtle initiative is a creative project that reconciles the possible threat to a species in the construction process by providing human intervention to avoid and diminish the impact,” ICC Director Melinda Peters. “It is about going the extra mile, above and beyond expectations. It is a core value of SHA.”
SHA’s ICC Environmental Manager Robert Shreeve presented the summary of findings, which included details on the locations and quantities of turtles found and lessons learned for future successful efforts. Details of the report may be found on the ICC Project website at (www.iccproject.com). The first 7-mile segment of the 18.8-mile ICC is scheduled to be complete in early 2011, while the segments east of Georgia Avenue are slated to open in late 2011 or 2012.