Services We Provide
BearPaws Environmental Consulting is an ecological science firm that provides consulting services to single-family homeowners, developers, as well as both private and governmental entities.
The services we provide consists of a wide array of activities including; environmental (due diligence) assessments, vegetation mapping, wildlife (protected/listed) species surveys, gopher tortoise surveys, excavations, and relocations, bald eagle nest monitoring, Audubon's crested caracara monitoring, sandhill crane nesting surveys and monitoring, red-cockaded woodpecker surveys and monitoring, Everglades snail kite monitoring, wetland delineations, environmental permitting and mitigation, impact assessments, habitat management plans, environmental land use permitting, development order, and re-zoning, local (city and county), state (water management district, FWC), and federal (FWS, ACOE) permitting, as well as post permit compliance and preserve/wetland monitoring.
The range in scope of services BearPaws Environmental Consulting will provide includes minor general permits to full environmental services for major projects. We will also provides the necessary support services during construction and after development, such as cost estimation, construction advisory services, wetland and indigenous monitoring, and the implementation of species and habitat management plans.
The purpose of conducting an environmental assessment is to identify the potential for either U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE), South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), and/or Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) jurisdictional wetlands. During the environmental assessment, the site is also assessed to determine the potential of listed (endangered, threatened, etc.) species inhabiting the site that are regulated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The USACOE, SFWMD, and the SWFWMD, are the agencies that regulate development activities in wetlands. To be considered wetlands by the USACOE, SFWMD and/or SWFWMD, the area should exhibit wetland hydrology, contain wetland vegetation, and have hydric soils. For an area to be considered wetlands, a site should have hydric soils, wetland hydrology, and wetland vegetation present. The property was reviewed for indicators of these parameters.
Hydric soils are identified by certain characteristics that are unique to wetland soils. Wetland hydrology is normally present if the soil is saturated or inundated for a period of time; typically from May through November; the rainy season in Southwest Florida. In the absence of visual signs of saturation or inundation, the regulatory agencies typically use hydrologic indicators such as adventitious rooting, lichen lines, or algal matting as method of guidance. If the majority of the shrubs/plants that are present are those that are adapted to saturated soil conditions, it’s likely wetland vegetation.
The FWS and FWC are the primary agencies that review potential impacts to listed species. The FWS reviews potential impacts and provides comments to the USACOE during the permitting process, while the FWC provides comments to the SFWMD and/or SWFWMD. In general, the wildlife agency concerns need to be addressed in order for the permits to be authorized by the USACOE, SFWMD and/or SWFWMD.
An environmental resource permit is required for development or construction activities to prevent flooding, protect the water quality of Florida’s lakes and streams from stormwater pollution, and protect wetlands and other surface waters. This includes new activities in uplands that generate storm water runoff from upland construction, as well as dredging and filling in wetlands and other surface waters. The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) regulates residential and commercial developments, roadway construction and agriculture; while the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) oversees power plants, ports, waste-water treatment plants and single-family home projects.
An environmental resource permit is needed for:
Dredging and filling in wetlands or surface waters
Constructing flood protection facilities
Providing storm water containment and treatment
Building dams or reservoirs
Other activities affecting state waters
Environmental resource permits were first required in 1995. They combine the former wetland dredge and fill permit issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Management and Storage of Surface Waters permit issued by the water management districts. Anyone proposing construction of new facilities, including governmental agencies, developers building new residential or commercial areas, or anyone who wants to fill in wetlands must have an ERP.
Environmental resource permit applications may be obtained online, or by calling or writing the District. If you need help in preparing the application, you can arrange a pre-application conference with a District engineer or environmental specialist, or you can call if you have questions that can be answered by phone. Most ERP applications involve a site visit by a District environmental specialists.
A permit is issued for a specific purpose and contains a number of conditions that must be followed. Permit holders are responsible for implementing these conditions and filing whatever reports may be necessary, including an as-built certification upon completion of construction. Each permit has a limited duration for construction, usually five years.
Listed (Protected) Species Surveys
The purpose a protected and/or listed species survey is to inspect the project site for potential of any protected and/or listed species that could inhabit the site. These listed (endangered, threatened, etc.) species are regulated by the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and/or the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Particular attention is paid towards locating any protected species within the uplands and/or wetland communities on-site.
Species surveys are conducted utilizing combined methodologies, depending on the county in which the survey is performed. Surveys for protected and/or listed species are based on the presence of specific vegetation associations and habitat types noted on-site. The frequency of transects performed in these habitats, unless otherwise discussed, were designed to meet the minimum updated coverage requirement.
Typically, the specific methodology in which surveys are conducted, involve and intensive pedestrian survey, utilizing parallel-belt transects and/or overlapping transects, as a means of searching for protected plants and animals. The surrounding vegetation communities and/or land-uses on the study area are delineated on an aerial photograph using the Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS). Next, these FLUCFCS codes are cross-referenced with the protected and/or listed species list. With a list of the potential listed plants and animals, each FLUCFCS community is searched in the field for these species. These signs or sightings of these species are then recorded and included within the report.
Wetland Mapping & Delineations
Florida Wetlands are defined as: those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface water or ground water at a frequency and a duration sufficient to support, and under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soils. Soils present in wetlands generally are classified as hydric or possess characteristics that are associated with reducing soil conditions.
Delineating the boundaries between wetlands and uplands often involves evaluations in areas with a broad transition zone. This type of area is referred to as an ecotone. An ecotone is an area where two or more communities grade into each other. The wetland boundary line is often located within an ecotone.
The focus of the methodology is on the use of vegetation, hydric soil characteristics and hydrologic indicators to delineate those areas which meet the definition of wetlands. Hydric soils play an integral role in defining wetland limits. Hydric soils arepresent in some flatwoods which are not wetlands as statutorily defined. Conversely,there are some site specific exceptions where hydric soil indicators are absent or are verydifficult to interpret in wetlands.
The prevalent vegetation in wetlandsgenerally consists of facultative or obligate hydro-phytic macrophytes that are typically adapted to areas having soil conditions described above. These species, due to morphological, physiological, or reproductive adaptations, have the ability to grow, reproduce or persist in aquatic environments or anaerobic soil conditions. Florida wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bayheads, bogs, cypress domes and strands, sloughs, wet prairies, riverine swamps and marshes, mangrove swamps and other similar areas. Florida wetlands generally do not include longleaf or slash pine flatwoods with an under-story dominated by saw palmetto.
This definition provides the concept for the types of areas intended to be included aswetland.
*The information above was obtained from “The Florida Wetlands Delineation Manual”. A copy of this manual can be obtained from: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wetlands/delineation/docs/wetland_delineation_manual.pdf