Conservation and Land Use Planning

Rapidly changing regulations create new challenges for clients across all industries and mandate experienced, competent consultation to prevent unnecessary delays or expenditures. ESI’s expert team of nationally recognized technical professionals offer specialized knowledge of both protected species and the regulatory processes governing them, ensuring projects stay on track and creating win-win scenarios for natural resources and project stakeholders. From restoration to mitigation to planning, ESI remains at the forefront of the regulatory arena providing clients a trusted and reliable partner for follow-through on projects through completion.

ESI incorporates a two-fold approach to aquatic restoration: reestablishing stream and wetland natural functions and aesthetics and balancing restoration efforts with client needs. The team provides assistance throughout the restoration process from design and planning to post-activity monitoring and mitigation planning for projects impacting wetlands and other aquatic resources.

To efficiently meet client needs, ESI streamlines the otherwise complex process of designing, applying for, and implementing conservation and mitigation planning ranging from backyard habitats to programmatic multi-state permitting for Endangered Species Act (ESA) compliance.

ESA compliance is often feasible through enrollment in voluntary conservation agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Voluntary conservation programs include candidate conservation agreements (CCA), candidate conservation agreements with assurances (CCAA), safe harbor agreements (SHA), and habitat conservation plans (HCP). Engaging in agreements and plans secures exceptional benefits such as a permit to impact species under current or in consideration for future ESA protection, allowing applicants to use lands for their intended purpose and concurrently comply with environmental regulations. Benefits include opportunities for financial assistance, cost-sharing, access to agency resources, resource guidelines and recommendations, and assurance of long-term management activities.

ESI’s advantage embodies a unique assemblage of professionals, bringing expertise to all levels of the HCP process including plan development, technical assistance, impact analyses, document preparation, agency coordination, financial planning, and permit application, complemented by support for plan implementation, monitoring, and compliance.

Restoring coastal and tidal hydrological and biological functions represents a complex process requiring integration of multiple disciplines. ESI provides a one-stop shop for successfully meeting restoration goals. Environmental engineers tailor designs to address project-specific needs such as repairing shorelines, establishing natural tidal flows, rehydrating wetlands and marshlands, promoting habitat and species conservation, re-establishing healthy soil and water chemistry, and reversing coastline loss. In tandem with engineers, ESI biologists assess on-site conditions, survey wildlife, and sample habitat, following up with project monitoring and ensuring ecological integrity is successfully re-established.

Resource quantification and compensation estimates are often determined through habitat equivalency analysis (HEA) or resource equivalency analyses (REA) to assess potential project impacts and subsequent mitigation requirements. ESI’s quantitative ecologists use equivalency modeling to estimate impacts or benefits for projects ranging from residential development assessments to long-term programmatic plans including wind, solar, and forestry efforts. Recognizing all projects are not created equal, ESI also guides clients through the decision-making process of whether advanced modeling tools are appropriate for the project at hand or if a simpler approach is pertinent. ESI’s focus on customized service combined with a long track record of innovative problem solving, affords clients an opportunity to explore and consider all available possibilities and arrive at viable alternatives.

Forest planning and management encompasses various components such as minimizing construction impacts, establishing wildlife habitat, or developing marketable forest resources, among others and covers scales ranging from large public forests to an individual landowner with a few trees.  Considering all inherent variables, ESI tailors project-specific plans for timber harvest, ecological restoration, recreation, increasing biodiversity, invasive species control, maintaining productivity and seral-stage development. ESI understands most forest owners focus on achieving multiple goals and communicates implications for potential overlap or required trade-offs. Landowners are introduced to available state and federal programs designed to protect and certify forest lands, providing tax benefits and/or opening the door to landowner grants and cooperative agency agreements. Energy and development clients rely on ESI to address construction impacts on forested lands, often fragmentation with potential for obstructing wildlife movement, reducing resource availability, or promoting invasive species establishment. ESI’s credentials include skillful forest planning and management ‒ key to avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating negative effects of forest fragmentation.

Erosion control, invasive species infestation management, and establishing and maintaining pollinator gardens, prairies, and forests fall under the integrated vegetation management umbrella. Management plans consider project-specific needs while concurrently accommodating regulatory compliance. ESI’s turnkey management services begin with strategy and planning and follow activities through to long-term monitoring and management.