Every spring biology survey is slightly different because of varying rain, temperature, and other factors. While some species—plants and some invertebrates, to name two—have variable survey seasons, others have well-established or agency-mandated survey seasons. Missing a survey window can adversely impact a project’s schedule and defensibility. By working closely with expert biologists, you can identify possible biological constraints early in the process, helping your project stay on schedule.
The key to managing spring biology surveys is to balance the needs and schedule of the development project with a thorough understanding of the various species’ survey protocols and regulatory requirements to develop a viable, cost-effective strategy. Depending on your site conditions, multiple surveys may be required for different plant and wildlife species that could occur. It’s important to know what type of surveys will be required and when they should be performed to ensure you don’t miss the window of opportunity; if you miscalculate, it could set the project back an entire year.
Planning for an Effective Spring Biology Survey
1. Determine whether a spring biology survey is needed. The project’s schedule and environmental conditions (e.g., wet vs. dry year) may necessitate a survey this year. However, it may be advantageous to wait until next year to better utilize current funds and protect against survey and public comment aging. Sometimes, if the timing or environmental conditions aren’t favorable, “if/then” mitigation measures can be attached to the project, which requires certain surveys before groundbreaking occurs. If the species is found, then measures are applied; if not, then no measures are applied.
2. Plan ahead and contact a biologist to determine what sensitive resources may be present. You must determine the presence of sensitive resources (e.g., soil types, vegetation communities, wetland resources) on or within a 5-mile buffer of the development site. A biologist can provide an initial assessment of the potential resources that might affect the project and help devise a plan for conducting the appropriate studies to get you through the regulatory process.
3. Determine which surveys are required. Specific vegetation communities and other factors may necessitate different species surveys, each with its own timing and protocol. Missing one of these survey windows can adversely affect agency coordination and project rollout or lead to additional surveys down the road.
4. Check to see if your property is located within a habitat conservation plan area. Across San Diego, Orange, Riverside, and Sacramento Counties, for example, there are numerous conservation planning efforts in place designed to streamline project review and protection efforts for several sensitive plant and wildlife species.
Communicating Often throughout the Process
5. Communicate early with the resource agencies and gain approval on the survey approach. This is especially important if:
- A single survey will not cover all the special-status species that can occur on the property
- Environmental conditions are marginal
- Modified survey protocols will be proposed
- Habitat suitability is marginal
Regulatory agencies appreciate the opportunity to participate early in the process and are more willing to work through logistical issues with project proponents when they are at the table early and feel like they are a partner in the spring biology survey process.
6. Communicate often with your biologist to keep spring biology surveys moving forward. Sharing property information, such as any previously performed studies, can provide some insight into site resources and habitat constraints, which can save time and money. Early coordination helps protect the survey timeline when there are survey delays due to high winds, low temperatures, or rain, for example.
Executing Your Spring Biology Survey
7. Hire the right experts. A good biologist should be conversant with the relevant local policies, wetland permitting policies, and habitat conservation planning efforts taking place in your region. Dudek biologists regularly attend and present at workshops and seminars. Our experts consult state and federal resource databases to stay current on the latest scientific information regarding species distribution, life history, and survey protocols. Dudek biologists have also prepared several agency-approved novel survey protocols for listed species.