Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.― John Muir, The Mountains of California
I moved to southern California in 2003. At the time, I intended to enter a graduate program at East Stroudsburg University. My colleague and friend whom I met in Belize, H. Lee Jones (who made his primary living as a biological consultant in California), urged me to come to California for the summer to make some money before school. “I think you would make a good consultant”, he said. I sold many of my belongings, packed what I could into my Isuzu, and drove across the country from Ohio. I am still in California to this day.
My career in California can be divided into three main periods:
Natural Resource Consultants
I joined Natural Resource Consultants (NRC) upon my arrival in California in 2003. Initially a small company based in a trailer on the beach in Laguna Beach, I contributed significantly to expanding the company’s services and its size. The company ended up in a sizable office on Pacific Coast Highway and I became the Director of Biological Services. I left the company in 2010. Today, the company has reformed itself as Environmental Intelligence, LLC.
Much of my time at NRC was spent working in housing industry. While I managed projects from a large number of clients, the most significant of those were:
- Pardee Homes – on projects located predominantly in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Diego Counties, I managed multiple staff and subcontractors surveying for different biological resources, met with Pardee staff and attorneys for regular project meetings, and prepared biological resource assessments and FESA Section 7 and Section 10 documentation. I also regularly led teams in completing “rapid biological assessments” for due diligence, so the company could determine what areas were best suited for potential development. The largest of these efforts included five days of surveys with a team of three biologists in southern Nevada.
- SunCal Companies – as the primary biological consultant to SunCal, NRC grew with them as they expanded rapidly, eventually into areas beyond southern California. While I provided similar services to SunCal as for Pardee, my work with SunCal included projects as far away as the former Naval Air Station Alameda and approximately 50,000 acres north of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
After the market collapse and subsequent chilling of the housing market in 2008, the most significant portion of our business came from Southern California Edison (SCE). I managed a large team of biologists on the El Casco Systems Project in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. I developed a biological resources database in order to provide timely data reporting to SCE. This database was initially created using an ESRI Personal Geodatabase (mdb format) with forms, analytical tools, and reporting in Microsoft Access. I eventually moved the database system to PostgreSQL with PostGIS extensions. SCE’s interest in that system led directly to SCE’s own database system used on their projects today.
By 2010, I felt it was time to do something a little different. I resigned from NRC and went on my own, working under the name England Ecological. While I worked under a DBA, I only endeavored to keep my own schedule full as an independent consultant and had no designs on building a company of any stature. The primary thing of importance to me, at the time, was the freedom to work when I wanted to work and do the projects of my choosing. My work during this period came from four main sources:
- Cell Tower Surveys – This was a contract that followed me from NRC, as I developed a close friendship with the project manager. The work was wide-ranging, located throughout central and southern California and covering a wide array of biological resource issues. There were periods that enough work orders were issued that I had to use subconsultants to complete the work on schedule. Primary biological resource issues surveyed for and reported on were nesting birds, Burrowing Owl, and California Gnatcatcher.
- Paleo Solutions – I am fortunate to count the majority owner of Paleo Solutions, Geraldine Aron, as a friend. At the time I went out on my own, her fairly-new company was growing rapidly, and I offered assistance where I could. I built the company’s original website, and provided as-needed GIS and mapping services until Paleo Solutions grew large enough to have in-house GIS staff.
- PCR Services Corporation – I worked frequently with PCR while at NRC. I was surprised to hear from them when I went independent, as one of the things I was working on at NRC when I left was functioning as an independent technical reviewer for the County of San Bernardino on a document prepared by PCR. I did not agree with an approach that was being offered, and I refused to budge on it, resulting in several tense meetings in PCR’s offices. I asked about that when they first contacted me, and was told that the fact I was willing to stand by my stance on the topic was precisely the reason they were contacting me. Anyhow, they invited me on to a team conducting a very large California Gnatcatcher survey in northern San Diego County.
- Bloom Biological, Inc. (BBI) – I had started developing an informal relationship with Peter Bloom while I was still at NRC. As an independent, BBI employed me to do a variety of field and office tasks, including surveys for raptors and nesting birds, biological monitoring, mapping, and report writing. Eventually, through BBI, I became the full time biological monitor on the Vincent Substation expansion component of SCE’s Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP). As this was prior to the development of SCE’s own database, we naturally worked with my own database to provide reporting back to SCE. As ICF International took over as the lead biological contractor on the TRTP (for a multi-firm consulting team), I was enlisted by ICF to work with their GIS staff to develop a geospatial database and web mapping system for the TRTP. SCE ultimately recognized my work by bringing me on to the project as the TRTP 4-11 Nesting Bird Lead, helping to organize the large nest survey and monitoring effort on the project.
Bloom Biological, Inc.
I was asked to join BBI as the managing partner in 2011. In addition to the standard duties involved with operating a small company, I implemented the company’s GIS and database program, managed personnel and projects, and was the primary author on the majority of biological technical reports and permitting documents for all major contracts. I endeavored to spend at least half of my time year-round in the field on a variety of BBI’s projects, most of which are in the energy transmission, wind, and solar industries.