natural resources

Natural Resources

ESE performs environmental assessments required to be conducted and documented in accordance with the federal standards of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Documentation [40 CFR Chapter V (Part 1500-1518)]. Environmental Assessments, Environmental Impact Statements, and Qualitative Risk Assessments have been conducted by ESE for transportation rights-of way, pipeline corridors, power transmission easements, waterways, and other "sensitive" environments.
ESE's team includes biologists and ecologists who specialize in wetlands determination, mitigation and delineation. Our Range Land Ecologists assist with threatened and endangered species studies which are often required before development of sensitive properties. Together, these scientists perform the following services:

Wetlands Determination

1. Evaluate available maps of the property to initially determine if wetlands may be present
2. Inspect the site to verify whether regulated wetlands are present
3. Establish their general extent and location

Vegetation – Plant life growing in water, soil or on a substrate due to water content.

There are Four Indicators for Wetlands (Plants)

1. Obligated Wetland Plants - Always Occur
2. Facultative Plants – Usually Occur (67-99%)
3. Facultative Plants - Wetlands and Non-Wetlands – (34-66%)
4. Upland Plants

Wetland Hydrology

Permanent or periodic inundation or soil saturation for a significant period (1+ weeks) during growing season

Identification and Delineation of Wetlands

Definition: A more detailed process that specifically defines the legal boundary of jurisdictional wetlands on a property. This boundary separates the regulated wetland from the upland areas on site. It is critical to identify the exact wetland boundary and acreage for permitting of impacts to wetlands or other regulated waters. It is often prudent to have a wetland delineation carried out to provide documentation that you have avoided impacts to wetlands.

Know Information: Get all information possible
1. Locate area of interest using US survey & topographic map and delineate the area.
2. Review wetlands inventory
3. Review soil conservation survey maps
4. Review aerial photos
5. Review available site-specific information
On-Site Procedures: Routine, Intermediate and Comprehensive
Routine: Less than five acres or with large homogenous vegetation
Intermediate: Greater than five acres or highly diverse vegetation
Comprehensive: Detailed documentation of vegetation, soils and hydrology

Wetlands Delineation

Vegetation, soils, and/or hydrology have been altered by recent human activities or natural events
Characterizing plant communities in the area (identifying plant communities, examining the soils to confirm soil and evidence of wetland hydrology).
Delineating boundary of soils, and then verifying presence of vegetation and looking for signs
Present technical guidelines for identifying wetlands and distinguishing them from aquatic habitats and other non-wetlands

Wetlands Mitigation

Definition:Area that has been restored, established, enhanced, or preserved for the purpose of providing compensation for unavoidable impacts to resources.

Four Components:
Bank Site: Physical acreage restored, established, enhanced or preserved
Bank Instrument: Bank owners and regulators establish liability, performance standard, management and monitoring requirements
IRT: Regulatory approval; bank oversight
Service Area: permitted impact can be compensated for a given bank.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 404 Permitting

Regulated the discharge of dredge, excavated or fill material in wetlands, streams, rivers and other US waters.
ο Water Resources (Dams and Levees)
ο Development (Highways and Airports)

Threatened and Endangered Species Studies

Fish and Wildlife Services – Must be a biologist that determines this study
Phase I: Determination of potential occurrence of threatened/endangers species (existing habitat, previous)
Phase II: Conduct tract-specific field surveys to determine the actual utilization of existing habitat by species concern
Phase III: Assist the landowner/developer in the development of management plans for species of concern occurring on a particular tract of land

Environmental Impact Statements

An environmental impact statement (EIS), under United States environmental law, is a document required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for certain actions "significantly affecting the quality of the human environment".[1] An EIS is a tool for decision making. It describes the positive and negative environmental effects of a proposed action, and it usually also lists one or more alternative actions that may be chosen instead of the action described in the EIS.

NEPA Environmental Assessments

NEPA process is designed to involve the public and gather the best available information in a single place so that decision makers can be fully informed when they make their choices.

The process has the following steps:
Proposal: The needs and objectives of a project have been decided, but the project has not been financed
Categorical Exclusion (CATEX): The government may exempt an agency from the process. The agency can then proceed with the project and skip the remaining steps
Environmental Assessment (EA): The proposal is analyzed in addition to the local environment with the aim to reduce the negative impacts of the development of the area.
Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI): Occurs when no significant impacts are identified in an EA. A FONSI typically allows the lead agency to proceed without having to complete an EIS.
Scoping: The first meetings are held to discuss existing laws, the available information, and the research needed. The tasks are divided up and a lead group is selected. Decision makers and all those involved with the project can attend the meetings.
Notice: The public is notified that the agency is preparing an EIS. The agency announces its project proposal with a notice in the Federal Register.
Draft EIS (DEIS): Based on both agency expertise and issues raised by the public the agency prepares a Draft EIS with a full description of the affected environment, a reasonable range of alternatives, and an analysis of the impacts of each alternative.
Comment: Affective individuals then have the opportunity to provide feedback through written and public hearing statements.
Comprehensive: Detailed documentation of vegetation, soils and hydrology
Re-evaluation:Prepared following an approved FEIS or ROD when unforeseen changes to the proposed action or its impacts occurs, or when a substantial period of time has passed between approval of an action and the planned start of said action. Based on the significance of the changes, three outcomes may result from a re-evaluation report:
1. The action may proceed with no substantive changes to the FEIS
2. Significant impacts are expected with the change that can be adequately addressed in a Supplemental EIS (SEIS), or
3. The circumstances force a complete change in the nature and scope of the proposed action, thereby voiding the pre-existing FEIS (and ROD, if applicable), requiring the lead agency to restart the NEPA process and prepare a new EIS to encompass the changes.
Supplemental EIS (SEIS): Typically prepared after either a Final EIS or Record of Decision (ROD) has been issued and new environmental impacts that were not considered in the original EIS are discovered, requiring the lead agency to re-evaluate its initial decision and consider new alternatives to avoid or mitigate the new impacts. Supplemental EISs are also prepared when the size and scope of a federal action changes, when a significant period of time has lapsed since the FEIS was completed to account for changes in the surrounding environment during that time, or when all of the proposed alternatives in an EIS are deemed to have unacceptable environmental impacts and new alternatives are proposed.
Record of Decision (ROD): Once all the prospects are resolved the agency issues a Record of Decision which is its final action prior to implementation. If members of the public are still dissatisfied with the outcome, they may sue the agency in Federal Court.

Categorized Exclusion

Categorical exclusions are a category of actions, which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment.