Welcome to some of the Newest Information from one of the Oldest Firms in the industry – Welcome to the Experience EcoBlu Blog!
“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” – Warren Buffett
Before you start that fisheries enhancement project, wetland restoration, or erosion control effort, you need to ask the right questions. Trout Headwaters’ free consumer report “Buyer Beware: A Warning to Consumers about the Restoration Industry” will give you the Top 10 Questions to ask any aquatic resource consultant or ecological restoration contractor.
In the report, first released in 2012, we also identify the five most common and persistent problems in the aquatic resource consulting industry:
- Lack of industry standards or professional certification for practitioners
- Assessments that are no more than opinion disguised as science
- No consideration for multiple project alternatives or cost-effectiveness of alternatives
- Use of “cookbook” design strategies without consideration of site specific conditions, ecological functions, or owner goals
- Poor understanding around project liability issues
- High degree of uncertainty about how to measure or predict project success/failure
Many issues can be solved by insisting upon repeatable, scientifically-valid processes and data. One simple rule – never hire a company that shows up on a project, looks at the site, kicks the dirt, and starts offering solutions. Make sure the company intends to perform a thorough assessment before providing “answers,” or quoting a price. Ask what the assessment report will include. Assessment parameters will vary of course, depending upon the type of resource (stream, lake, wetland), but a scientific, repeatable assessment is simply mandatory. You will of course, want to inquire about the company’s experience and about other projects they’ve successfully completed. Your first project should not be your contractors first project…. >for More request a copy of “Buyer Beware”
See examples of beautiful, cost-effective and successful stream, habitat and wetland restoration projects done across the U.S. by one of the oldest and most experienced firms in the field. Download a Free Copy of RecentWork from Trout Headwaters, Inc
This graphic timeline traces the origins of wetland permitting and wetland mitigation in the United States, beginning with the 1890s River and Harbors Act and concluding with the 2008 Mitigation Rule.
Recognizing the importance of wetland protection, in 1988 the H.W. Bush Administration endorsed the goal of “no net loss” for U.S. wetlands. Specifically, it directed that the filling of wetlands should be avoided, or minimized when it cannot be avoided. It further directed that where impacts are permitted, compensatory mitigation must be undertaken; that is, specific types of wetlands must be restored, created, enhanced, and preserved, to replace the permitted loss of the type of wetland, in area and function, such as water quality improvement within the watershed.
Unfortunately, despite all that has been learned under the Clean Water Act about the true costs of our nation’s ongoing wetland losses, some in the environmental restoration industry are currently insisting on reinvigorating a tried and failed idea. Some are suggesting we simply roll back the clock and forget everything we’ve learned about the success of high quality advance mitigation for unavoidable impacts – and the epic failures of permittee-responsible mitigation (PRM). >See Example via Tracking by Industry Watchdog – National Environmental Banking Association
In 2001 a widely-publicized report was issued assessing our national commitment to the goal of “no net loss” for wetlands. Among its findings, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report revealed that compensatory mitigation efforts (largely permittee-responsible mitigation projects) were failing due to technical, programmatic, and other reasons. Dozens of recommendations aimed at redressing the failures were outlined by the report. Ultimately those recommendations drove and guided the creation and subsequent implementation of the 2008 Mitigation Rule.
The idea that we should move backwards either by diminishing environmental performance standards for mitigation projects, or by reverting to the use of permittee-responsible mitigation given its long-proven failures, is to simply insist that we’ve learned nothing from history. This is why Trout Headwaters believes strongly that such restoration industry ‘amnesia’ or other misguided efforts to roll-back mitigation standards will only result in greater damage and impact to the very clean water on which all development, industry, agriculture and wildlife depend.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has an online map tool that can overlay environmental justice layers. This new environmental justice (EJ) mapping and screening tool is called EJSCREEN and it uses publicly-available national data to combine environmental and demographic information into custom maps and reports.
EJSCREEN users can choose a specific geographic area and then choose overlays from a menu of demographic and environmental information for that area.
Read more and make your own map at: https://www.epa.gov/ejscreen
“There is an opportunity to broaden our view of stakeholder ecosystems so we are not always ranting in an echo chamber.” So says Will Sarni, an internationally recognized thought leader on water strategy and innovation.
Sarni contends the suggestions below will make clean water advocates more effective.
- Establish ecosystems of stakeholders across industry sectors dedicated to solving specific private and public sector issues.
- Further expand the role of water funds to include actions beyond conservation.
- Proactively include industry in watershed level public policy programs.
- Engage the information, communication and technology (ICT) sector.
These “cross-industry and cross-stakeholder initiatives “ according to Sarni will ultimately help us reach sustainability goals.
Read more at: https://www.greenbiz.com/article/advocating-expanded-approach-collective-action-water
Just beneath the surface of the river restoration industry is an undercurrent of controversy strong enough to create two distinctly-opposed camps. Dubbed the “Rosgen Wars ” during the mid-1990s, this 20-year battle of ideas was named for its protagonist, Colorado hydrologist Dave Rosgen, and pits Rosgen and his legion of followers against some of the most highly-respected scientific minds in the field.
A 2013 book by Indiana University geologist and author Rebecca Lave dissects the controversy and what it means for the political economy of scientific fields. In “Fields and Streams: Stream Restoration, Neoliberalism and the Future of Environmental Science,” Lave asks several key questions that apply to the privatization and commercialization of knowledge, most importantly, “What (and who) confers authority within scientific fields?”
In the mid-1990’s Rosgen developed his formula-based Natural Channel Design (NCD) for stream and river restoration, and created a series of short-courses to teach the method to mostly young and mid-level stream restoration practitioners. Ranged against Rosgen and NCD are what Lave calls “the guardians of scientific legitimacy:” top level academic and agency scientists who denounce Rosgen.
Lave describes a 2003 meeting of 35 of “the most respected academics, agency staff, and consultants in stream restoration in the U.S.” Rosgen was included in the meeting. “Despite the fact that he has little formal training in restoration science, Rosgen is the primary educator of restoration practitioners in the U.S. and training in his approach is [often] considered preferable to a PhD,” writes Lave.
In fact, Rosgen’s NCD approach has been adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as dozens of state resource agencies, and it is NCD, not a university-produced, approved scientific approach, that is often required by regulatory agencies issuing stream permits. The main criticisms of NCD short-course training are that the courses and method are inadequate preparation for anyone to practice the complex science of stream restoration. In addition, when applied by inexperienced practitioners, the method may be applied inappropriately when a stream doesn’t “fit” into the NCD formula.
Matt Kondolf, a professor of geomorphology at University of California – Berkeley, one of the critics, arrived late to that 2003 meeting, and “proceeded to let loose a shotgun blast of critique that sounded very loud in such a small room,” writes Lave. “It was, to put it mildly, uncomfortable.” In the decade since the meeting, despite criticism from top researchers, Rosgen hasn’t lost his swagger.
How is it that, despite the vocal opposition of experts “bearing academic sanctification in the form of prestigious degrees, job and publications,” arguing against the NCD approach in print, at conferences, and in short courses, NCD’s popularity has remained virtually unaffected? Lave quoted one federal agency scientist as saying, “What I don’t understand is without any…real training or background or anything else, how does he get written into the regulations?”
In “Fields and Streams” Lave reveals that Rosgen’s NCD approach filled a niche at a time when there was rising interest in river restoration due to push-back against a utilitarian focus on waterways. In the absence of a comprehensive design manual, certification program, or university course of study, Rosgen stepped in with NCD short courses that provided a unified, subjective structure for the stream restoration field, a common language with which to simplify and communicate complex ideas, and provided apparently credible educational credentials to create the perception of competence.
With a high demand for stream restoration professionals, agencies and others soon looked to Rosgen trainees as the standard. Then agencies and consulting firms began to require Rosgen training. Effective opposition proved too difficult for a disjointed, geographically scattered scientific community to make a cohesive argument against Rosgen with only the occasional paper or commentary here or there. But as failed projects begin to emerge, the opposition is beginning to gel. Another of the guardians, Martin Doyle, a professor of River Science and Policy at Duke University, was quoted in Fields and Streams as saying, “It seems like there’s a life cycle: love Rosgen, get over-enamored with him, start to see some failures and shortcomings of the approach, and then start to do other things.”
Although stream restoration in the U.S. costs more than $1 billion annually, stream and river restoration and ecosystem services have traditionally been undervalued because most people in the U.S. are still able to open a tap and have all the clean water they want. However, the stakes are high enough to make sure money allocated to stream restoration is well-spent, as expensive project failures tend to dampen enthusiasm for future projects.
While Lave’s interest lies in the broader questions of how scientific knowledge is derived, disseminated, and accepted, at risk in the Rosgen Wars may be the legitimacy of an entire field of practice, and continued enthusiasm for restoring the freshwater resources we all share.
America’s WETLAND Foundation AWF believes the dramatic loss of coastal land coupled with a lack of public funding requires an “all hands on deck” approach where private sector investment will play a pivotal role. AWF Managing Director Val Marmillion is convinced that “Coastal land loss isn’t waiting for adequate funding for projects.”
That’s why the Baton Rouge, LA based (AWF) just announced that it plans to create a wetlands restoration registry that will catalog projects that have been paid for through private sector funding by either private non-profit organizations or private industry. The projects will be cataloged by both acreage and cost.
Yvon Chouinard, the founder of the Patagonia Company, is seriously concerned about global warming. In a recent essay, he says after fishing all over the world for more than 70 years, he has never seen a more dire threat to cold water fish than global warming.
He believes waters across the world are heating up and says “Global climate change is happening, and whether you believe it’s human-caused or a natural occurrence makes a big difference.”
He implores his readers to help take care of their local stream, to go fishing, and take a kid with them.
Read more at: https://www.patagonia.com/blog/2017/09/in-hot-water/
Lake Erie’s western basin had another substantial algae bloom this summer. It’s no surprise then that a recently-released report concluded that Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario are all falling short at reducing phosphorous levels entering the lake.
The two states and the Canadian province have an agreement to reduce phosphorus discharges by 40 percent between 2015 and 2025 but Gail Hesse, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes water program, contends the states and the province have failed to offer feasible solutions to decrease phosphorus levels, or the size of the annual algal blooms.
Hesse added that Ohio, Michigan and Ontario’s “draft plans released to date include many useful initiatives, but all fall far short of providing any assurance that the proposed actions add up to meeting the 40 percent reduction target.” She added, ”The plans read like a grocery list without a recipe”.
The “Rescuing Lake Erie” report issued by the Alliance for the Great Lakes however makes multiple recommendations to achieve significant phosphorus reduction in western Lake Erie.
Actor Harrison Ford was recently honored for his lifelong global conservation work during a fundraising event in Washington, D.C. Ford was presented the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal at the gala benefiting the Smithsonian National Zoo also located in Washington.
During an interview with the Washington Post before the ceremony, Ford said growing up, he wanted to be a forest ranger but that his acting career got in the way.
Taking a more serious tone, Ford said “I’m scared to death about the denial of science”. He added, “Science is real. Science is the most real thing in our world, other than nature. I’m hoping we’ll all get back to a place where we can really understand that science is tested knowledge.”
Trout Headwaters (THI) remains committed to the conservation and protection of our increasingly precious natural resources, to the protection of our planet’s biodiversity, and to mitigating for the effects of climate change.
Doing well by doing good has long been a credo for Trout Headwaters, Inc. Nowhere is this more true than in our approach to the environment. More than 500 revegetation, riparian restoration, habitat and wetland projects have allowed THI to capture many times the carbon it has emitted by its operations.
THI has a decades-long record of attention to environmental impacts, as well as a consuming passion for the details of its operations and processes. THI buildings are powered by all-renewable energy. Our work includes comprehensive and routine audits of methods, materials, and operations. We have aggressively pursue tools, technology and training to promote a culture of environmental stewardship.
At a time when there is so much controversy around environmental regulation, Trout Headwaters proudly continues to exceed environmental regulatory requirements at all levels of its operations across the U.S.
Shortly after President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 by Executive Order, a photo-documentary project called “Project Documerica” was created to “record the state of the environment and efforts to improve it.”
Much like the famous Farm Security Administration photos documented life during the depression, the Project Documerica photos concentrated on “environmental concerns of the early 1970s: water, air, and noise pollution; unchecked urbanization; poverty; environmental impact on public health; and youth culture of the day.” The project also documented the U.S.’s efforts to solve these environmental challenges.
Read more and see some of the photos at: http://fortune.com/2017/02/28/how-the-united-states-looked-before-the-epa/
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