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Economic Impacts of Ecological Restoration

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How do you generate between $2.2 and $3.4 million in total economic output? Invest $1 million in ecosystem restoration, according to a new study released earlier this month by the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Economists employed by USGS reviewed and evaluated 21 restoration projects backed by the Department of the Interior and found that for every dollar invested in ecological restoration there was a two- to three- fold impact on economic activity at the local, state, and federal levels. Every $1 million invested in restoration also creates between 13-32 job years – which can have a significant, and lasting, impact on a community.

The analysis looked at a wide range of ecological restoration projects, ranging from sagebrush and sage grouse habitat restoration to wetland and tidal marsh restoration to post-fire restoration projects – all projects that aim to provide a number of “ecosystem services,” which often have an under-appreciated function in our economy, and are also important for the environment.

What does this all mean? In short: investing in ecological restoration supports jobs and livelihoods, small businesses, and rural communities – something which can be part of the narrative told by businesses, governments, and others investing in ecological restoration.

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Emily Callahan Honored at Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards

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Great Ecology is pleased to announce that Emily Callahan, one of our ecologists, will be recognized at the Tribeca Film Festival during the 7th annual Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards. The event takes place tomorrow, April 22, at 11:00am. According to the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards website, “The goal of the awards is to share insights into innovation to help solve some of the world’s most intractable problems.”

Emily will be honored alongside Amber Jackson, her co-founder of Blue Latitudes, an organization whose mission is to “unite science, policy, and economics to create innovative solutions for the complex ecological challenges associated with offshore structures.” In short, the work they do involves turning oil rigs into reefs. Rigs-to-Reefs allows an oil company to choose to modify a platform so that it can continue to support marine life as an artificial reef, which has been shown to increase biomass and attract additional marine species to the site.

Artificial reefs created from decommissioned oil rigs have the potential to facilitate artificial biodiversity, which can help mitigate marine ecosystem losses due to manmade stressors, including: pollution, overfishing, mining, coastal development, and climate change. This mitigation work to support of marine ecosystems may be especially important as human activities continue to impact marine ecosystems.

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Urban Ecological Design and Restoration: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach

Liz Clift, MFA

On Thursday, March 31, the Colorado Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLACO), the Central Rockies Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration (CeRSER), and the Denver Botanic Gardens (DBG) hosted the Urban Ecological Design and Restoration Symposium at DBG’s York Street gardens.
 
The symposium featured talks by Marion Hourdequin, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Colorado College who, with David G. Havlick, edited the book Restoring Layered Landscapes: History, Ecology, and Culture; Keith Bowers, founder and president of Biohabitats; and Rick Bachand, Environmental Program Manager for the City of Fort Collins. Following the presentations, the three speakers participated in a panel discussion moderated by Tina Bishop, a founding partner of Mundus Bishop.
 
Hourdequin’s presentation focused on restoration of landscapes with complex socio-ecological histories. She highlighted the restoration of former military and weapons-making sites, including Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a 15,000-acre National Wildlife Refuge only a few miles northeast of downtown Denver. Hourdequin pointed out that despite the complex socio-ecological history of the site, black-footed ferrets were recently re-introduced to the land. Many of the refuge’s visitors, as indicated in one recent survey, didn’t even realize the history of the wildlife refuge. Hourdequin also spoke about a chapter in her book by Martin Drenthen, who proposes absurdist artwork in locations such as Rocky Mountain Arsenal as a way to acknowledge “the problematic nature of the past human activities, such as the production of chemical weapons.”
 
Keith Bowers illustrated a variety of ways, via projects led by Biohabitats, that urban ecological design could fit hand-in-hand with restoration. He talked about biomimicry as a way to incorporate ecological design through both restoration ecology and landscape architecture, and how this can be done with both form and function – and that even if not well versed in biomimicry, landscape architects and restoration ecologists may still benefit from following these processes. Bowers opined that in many urban environments, there is very little nature left, and for this reason, monitoring can be especially crucial. He reminded the room that once the project is on the ground only 20% of the work is done – monitoring and maintaining the project remains a crucial component to success.
 
Bachand illustrated perspectives on restoration through descriptions of personality types in environmental design, and he provided as a case study his work with a team to restore the Poudre River. Bachand identifies as having a Type A personality, which serves him well in paying attention to detail – but is less useful when Mother Nature decides to throw a curveball. Flooding occurred shortly after the restoration project had been completed, and created a sandbank which Bachand’s Type B personality co-workers deemed would be great for beach volleyball – or a relaxing day lounging on the beach!
 
During the panel discussion, Hourdequin, Bowers, and Bachand were asked to define urban ecology and to talk about their vision for future cities. To some extent, each panelist responded that urban ecology must take into consideration that people and the non-human environment are going to interact – and that we must stop seeing people as separate from the environment. Hourdequin emphasized that we should consider nature and culture intertwined. Bowers pointed out that ecological processes happen from a natural standpoint, and we must consider how these processes flow into, and interact, with people. Future cities should be built with these ideas in mind.
 
The presentations and panel discussion were followed by a happy hour, where guests had a chance to mingle with each other, the presenters, and event sponsors.
 
The event was coordinated by Chris Loftus, RLA, a landscape architect with Great Ecology, and Casey Cisneros, Land Stewardship Manager for Larimer County Natural Resources. Tim Hoelzle, Vice President of Technical Services at Great Ecology emceed the event

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VP of Great Ecology to Speak on Habitat Mitigation at SER Northwest Next Week & Has a New Publication

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Tim Hoelzle, Vice President of Great Ecology, is slated to present on Habitat Equivalency Analysis (HEA) at the Society for Ecological Restoration Northwest’s (SER NW) regional conference in Portland, Oregon next week. The talk, “Increasing Federal Focus on Regulatory Mitigation: Is Habitat Equivalency Analysis the Answer?” will explore recent presidential memoranda, and Department of Interior orders, related to mitigation and ecosystem services, as well as look at several case studies of HEA in application. Check out his talk at the SER NW Conference, in the Multnomah Room, at 1:30 PM PDT. The session is titled: Strategic Planning of Ecological Restoration.

Tim will discuss how HEA can be applied outside of Natural Resource Damage and Restoration (NRDAR) frameworks to meet recent goals laid out by the US Department of the Interior and Presidential Memoranda that focus on habitat mitigation and ecosystem services. HEA acknowledges that when a site is impacted, it loses a portion of its total ecological services over space and time. Restoration of the site balances the human and ecological impacts with the benefits of ecological recovery, including lost ecological function and ecosystem services.

But, how do we know that a habitat has recovered?

Tim has an answer for that, too. He is an author of a recent publication on habitat monitoring of contaminated environments. The paper, “Integrated Risk and Recovery Monitoring of Ecosystem Restorations on Contaminated Sites,” stemmed from a 2014 Technical Workshop organized by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) and SER.

This article appeared as one of six articles in a series titled, “Restoration of Impaired Ecosystems: An Ounce of Prevention or a Pound of Cure?” This open access series is a collaboration between industry, government, the private sector, and academia, and appeared in Volume 12.2 of Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management.

Great Ecology specializes in restoration, planning, and design of both natural and urban environments through sustainable solutions. The company integrates science with design to solve complex ecological challenges to achieve environmental, social, and business goals. Reach out to Tim to learn more.

 

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Ecological Design and Restoration Symposium in Denver

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DENVER, CO – Spend the afternoon at the Denver Botanic Garden’s (DBG) York Street site, and attend the Urban Ecological Design + Restoration Symposium, presented by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Central Rockies Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration (CeRSER), and DBG.

Tim Hoelzle, Vice President of Technical Services at Great Ecology, will will act as emcee for the symposium, which will feature presentations and a panel discussion by Marion Hourdequin, Keith Bowers, and Rick Bachand.

Hourdequin is an associate professor of philosophy at Colorado College. Her work focuses on the ethics of global climate change and on the social and ethical dimensions of ecological restoration. Bowers has employed principles of applied ecology and land conservation to build a practice focused on regenerative design–a model that respects Earth’s ecological limits, heals damaged ecological processes, integrates green infrastructure, and catalyzes mutually beneficial relationships with the land. Bachand is the Environmental Program Manager with the City of Fort Collins, Colorado Natural Areas Department and is a leading expert in public land management who is widely recognized for his award-winning efforts to restore the Poudre River in Fort Collins.

The symposium takes place on March 31, 2016 and runs from 1:00PM-5:30PM. It will be followed by a happy hour reception, lasting until 7:30PM.

Early registration rates apply through March 23: $30 for members of ASLA, CeRSER, or DBG; $45 for non-members; and $20 for students. To register, visit ASLA Colorado or SER Central Rockies.

After March 23, registration will only be accepted on site: $45 for members; $60 for non-members; and $30 for students. Registration includes admission to the botanic gardens, 2 drink tickets, and light snacks.

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Great Ecology- Prime Consultant for the Port of San Diego Mitigation Banking Project

Great Ecology was selected as the prime ecological consultants to help the San Diego Unified Port District (Port) establish and operate a wetlands mitigation bank on Pond 20, an undeveloped site in South San Diego, California. Commissioned by the Port, the mitigation bank is part one of a three part development plan for the 95-acre Pond 20 site.

The highly publicized project has been in development for almost two decades and included extensive stakeholder outreach to solicit public feedback and concept ideas. Located adjacent to the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, commercial and residential developments, and on Palm Avenue’s “gateway to South San Diego County’s beaches”, the project goals balance ecological, economic, and community needs.  Following the approval of the three part development plan in July 2015, the wetland mitigation banking RFP was released in October 2015. The first phase is currently underway and is led by Great Ecology.

Headquartered in San Diego, CA, Great Ecology is excited to bring the firm’s strong mitigation banking and habitat restoration expertise to the high profile project. Great Ecology’s in-depth understanding of the mitigation banking process from concept to credit sale is enhanced by the firm’s experience working as consultants for various mitigation banking companies nationwide. As the prime consultant, Great Ecology is currently conducting an in-depth feasibility study for the site which is scheduled to be completed in spring 2016 and will provide the Port information to move the project forward.

Great Ecology assembled a robust project team including RECON, ESA, and AES. The project team is led by Great Ecology President and Founder, Dr. Mark S. Laska, and is supported by Director of Ecology, Nick Buhbe. For over 20 years, Dr. Laska has provided ecological consulting expertise on projects nationwide with a focus on mitigation banking and habitat restoration. Deputy Project Manager, Nick Buhbe, brings extensive local experience, having worked in Southern California and California for over 20 years.

For more information and to sign up for project updates visit the Port’s Pond 20 website.

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Dr. Petrisor Receives AEHS Foundation Achievement Award

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Great Ecology is pleased to announce Dr. Ioana Petrisor has been awarded the AEHS Foundation Achievement Award. This is the seventh year for the award program, which recognizes individuals for significant contributions to the environmental field as well as outstanding environmental stewardship. The award will be presented to Dr. Petrisor at the 26th Annual International Conference on Soil, Energy, Water, and Air.

Dr. Ioana Petrisor - Senior Ecologist

Dr. Petrisor is a biochemist with 22 years of experience (both in academia and industry), specializing in environmental forensics and litigation support. She has helped both national and international clients to recover costs in complex contamination cases involving multiple contaminants (both organic and inorganic) and releases in time and space. Dr. Petrisor is the Editor-in-Chief of the Environmental Forensics Journal. She has extensive publication experience with an invention patent, a text book, 6 book chapters, 12 editorials, and over 70 research and review articles.

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Tim Hoelzle Appointed CeRSER Vice President/President Elect

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Great Ecology is proud to announce that Tim Hoelzle, VP of Technical Services at Great Ecology, has been named Vice President/President Elect of the Central Rockies Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration (CeRSER). Tim previously served on CeRSER’s board of directors as Treasurer, and will officially transition to his new position in January 2016.

Mr. Timothy Hoelzle

CeRSER is a regional chapter of SER serving the states of Colorado and Wyoming, whose mission is to foster ecological restoration awareness, understanding and activity among a range of participants.

Tim Hoelzle specializes in the restoration and enhancement of underutilized sites across the United States, as well as in the reclamation and remediation of lands disturbed through mining and energy extraction. His expertise also includes wetland and stream restoration, invasive species management, soil microbial community evaluations, environmental permitting, and Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR). He holds a Master’s degree in Rangeland Ecosystem Science and a Bachelor’s degree in Rangeland Ecology with a focus on Restoration Ecology from Colorado State University.

Great Ecology congratulates Tim on his elected position!

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How Healthy is the San Francisco Estuary?

Kate Gazzo, M.S.

In September, Great Ecology staff attended the State of the Estuary Conference in Oakland which is focused on the current health of the Estuary. The San Francisco Estuary, the largest estuary along the Americas western coast, supports an abundance of life, including 18 million California residents. The Estuary is comprised of the San Francisco Bay and the Delta – a network of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and their tributaries. The 2015 State of the Estuary Report (a significant component of the conference) summarizes the most recent research and ecological trends for the Bay and Delta. According to the report, the condition of the San Francisco Bay and the condition of the Delta differ. The ecological status of the Delta is degraded and in a declining state as a result of water diversions and decreased freshwater inflows. The San Francisco Bay on the other hand has received years of restoration and attention and is much healthier; however, large areas, especially marsh, are jeopardized by sea-level rise.

 

Bay-Delta Overview

Overview of the Bay-Delta/Estuary system. Image courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey

 

What factors have caused the Estuary to be in decline?

The Delta has been in a state of artificial drought for over fifty years (San Francisco Estuary Partnership 2015). Diversion of freshwater flows to the south for municipal and agricultural use have led to decreased freshwater entering the Bay and saltwater intrusion. Freshwater flows from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers historically entered the delta, mixed with saltwater, and created abundant brackish water habitat; they also delivered sediment that created and sustained marsh habitat along the Bay-Delta. Over time, as less fresh water has entered the system, the salinity gradient, also known as the X2 gradient, has migrated further into the Delta and increased the salinity of these areas, altering habitat conditions for species such as Bay shrimp (San Francisco Estuary Partnership 2015). Additionally, little sediment is now imported under the low flow conditions across the Bay and Delta. In the face of climate change and sea-level rise, existing tidal marshes in the Bay Area are expected to flood and transition to open water habitat. Because the North and Central Bays are highly developed, there is little room upslope migration of marshes (San Francisco Estuary Partnership 2015).

Canal Water Transport

Canals built to transport water to south for human use have greatly dewatered the Estuary. Image Source: California Department of Water Resources

How is the drought affecting the Estuary?

The Bay-Delta/Estuary is facing a slew of problems including, projected sea-level rise between 2-5 ft., increasing water and air temperatures, salinity intrusion, and less water in spring and summer due to decreased snowpack (San Francisco Estuary Partnership 2015). However, the most pressing problem this year appeared to be a lack of water caused by continued water diversions coupled with extensive drought. The current drought is considered one of the worst on record due to the combination of minimal precipitation and historically unmatched high temperatures (MacDonald 2015). The combination of artificial human-induced drought and natural drought have led to a fraction of freshwater flows the Estuary typically receives under a normal water years, resulting in minimal water to be shared among fish, birds, farms, and municipalities.

Lake Oroville Reservoir

As of November, Lake Oroville, the state’s second largest reservoir was only at 28% of its capacity.
Image source: Paul Hames|California Department of Water Resources

 

How can we improve conditions in the Estuary?

With El Niño predicted to bring intense precipitation across California in 2016, some relief in the Estuary may be provided next year by increased river flows; nonetheless, flows will become increasingly inconsistent in forthcoming years as the frequency of floods and droughts becomes more variable. While many models indicate precipitation will increase across California, drought is also expected to be more frequent. Strategies to adapt to an uncertain climate future in the Estuary emerged at this year’s Conference. These strategies included:

SOE - RepairReferences

G. MacDonald. “Drought, Demography, and Conservation in 21st Century California”. State of the Estuary Conference. Oakland, CA. September 2, 2015.
San Francisco Estuary Partnership. 2015. State of the Estuary 2015. Oakland, CA.

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Great Ecology Participates in Woodbridge New Jersey Waterfront Park Public Access Groundbreaking Event

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On October 27, 2015, Woodbridge Township Mayor, John E. McCormac, introduced the public access groundbreaking event at the Woodbridge Waterfront Park.  This important milestone, attended by the Woodbridge Redevelopment Agency, the Brownfields Development Area Steering Committee, Great Ecology and other members of the development team, signified the site’s transition from restoration efforts to the construction of trails, boardwalks, and an overlook structure which will provide valued public access to the site and views of the Raritan River.  The overlook structure, conceived and designed by Great Ecology, will initiate the series of construction activities slated for the public access element of the project.

Learn more about Great Ecology’s work supporting the Woodbridge Waterfront Park Restoration.

Woodbridge Construction

Mayor John E. McCormac with rendering of Woodbridge Waterfront Park at groundbreaking announcement.

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