Barr’s Michigan team has been assisting clients with ecological assessments and environmental permitting for decades. With the summer field season in progress, our environmental professionals are busy conducting vegetation and wildlife surveys. Senior environmental scientist John Vigna from our Grand Rapids office shares some insight into the process.
Q: When clients ask for your help with a vegetation or wildlife survey, what are their common concerns or needs?
A: We perform vegetation and wildlife assessments for clients across a variety of industries and for a variety of purposes. For example, mine expansion projects may require some level of overall vegetation assessment and a threatened and endangered (T&E) evaluation during the permitting phase. County road or trail projects that use federal funding are required to perform an environmental review, which includes federal and state (T&E) species habitat assessments. We work with large energy companies to complete invasive plant species or T&E species reviews to fulfill federal licensing or permitting requirements. During water resource permitting in Michigan, if the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy identifies an impact to a known rare species on or near a particular project site, clients will often bring us in to evaluate the presence of that species and its potential habitat. We’ve also conducted mussel surveys during dredging projects and marina construction permitting.
Q: What tends to surprise people about the survey process?
A: Although some project plans may have to be altered or totally shuttered due to T&E species being identified on a property, a large number of projects may be able to obtain an endangered species permit to authorize the taking of a particular species in order to develop a site. Best management practices to avoid and minimize impacts and relocation of the species along with some level of follow-up monitoring are typically required.
Q: What is the most exciting plant or wildlife discovery you have made?
A: When walking a site with our botanist, Bill Brodovich, I identified the uncommon blue-flowered form of the normally brick-colored scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis). It is a common (though attractive) weed of farm fields.
Q. What is one thing that clients should know about these kinds of projects?
A: When tree removals occur on a project site, Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat habitat evaluations may be required, and tree removal is prohibited during certain times of the year.
About the author
John Vigna has 27 years of experience in the fields of environmental compliance and natural resource management, and permitting. His work involves a wide variety of natural resource permitting projects, habitat evaluations, wetland delineations, wetland mitigation monitoring, and Phase I environmental site assessments.