Thorough knowledge and understanding of a project site is essential to ensure construction occurs in compliance with agency regulations. Proper environmental awareness training (EAT) prior to construction activities can help avoid delays due to unexpected wildlife on site.
Benefits of Environmental Awareness Training
EAT can be conducted by the project biologist, and may include construction crews learning which protected resources might be found on the project site, how to identify these resources, and what to do if protected species are encountered during work activities.
Lisa Achter, a Dudek biologist who conducts environmental awareness training, said biologists presenting this type of training provide many benefits to the client and construction crew, including:
- In-depth field identification skills, knowledge of species habitat requirements and life history, and a thorough understanding of regulatory requirements and protocols for state and federal natural resource laws;
- Creative collaboration with the construction crews and resource agencies that results in both project success and resource protection; and
- Efficient communication between construction crew members and the project biologist, enabling quick problem solving should any questions come up during construction.
Burrowing Owl Discovery
When a bulldozer operator spotted two burrowing owls fly out of a burrow on a Sacramento project site, the value of environmental awareness training for construction crews became clear. The operator immediately stopped the equipment and called Achter to the site, who determined the mound’s several burrows were in active use. Achter then flagged an appropriate buffer around the mound so construction could continue nearby with minimal disturbance to the owls.
In collaboration with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologists, Dudek prepared a plan to collect and release the owls, which was approved by CDFW. One-way doors were installed at the burrows, allowing owls to leave the burrow but not re-enter. Burrows were monitored for 48 hours and then the devices were removed and the mound smoothed flat with heavy equipment to prevent the owls from using the area again.
The owls were later observed nearby at a burrow outside the project boundary, and the contractor was able to resume work inside the flagged area.