How Environmental Awareness Training Keeps Projects Moving Forward

When a bulldozer operator working on the Sacramento light rail expansion spotted two burrowing owls fly out of a burrow on the project site, the value of environmental awareness training for construction crews became clear.

The operator immediately started the protocol he learned in training, and the burrowing owls, a California species of concern, were successfully relocated with minimal delay to construction.

During the training conducted by a Dudek biologist, construction crew members learned which protected resources might be found on the project site, how to identify these resources, and what to do if any were encountered during work activities. The biologist also mentioned that several burrowing owls had been observed throughout the project site during pre-construction surveys.

When the bulldozer operator spotted the burrowing owls on a mound where he was working, he stopped the equipment and immediately called the Dudek biologist monitoring the project to the site. Since the mound’s several burrows showed they were actively being used by the owls, the biologist flagged an appropriate buffer around the mound so construction could continue nearby with minimal disturbance to the owls.

The biologist then contacted California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologists to discuss the next steps since the area the owls were using was inside the project boundary where tracks would be laid. Dudek biologists prepared an exclusion plan that was approved by CDFW. Then Dudek and CDFW biologists teamed to passively relocate the owls using protocol-level exclusion devices constructed by Dudek. Dudek biologists also assisted agency biologists in successfully capturing, tagging, and radio-collaring one burrowing owl to be included in a mitigation success study the agency was conducting.

After the exclusion devices were installed at the burrows within the flagged mound and monitored for 48 hours, the devices were removed and the mound was smoothed flat with heavy equipment to prevent the owls from using the area again. The burrowing owls were observed nearby at a burrow outside the project boundary and Dudek was able to give the contractor clearance to resume work inside the area that had been flagged.

Lisa Achter, a Dudek biologist who presents environmental awareness training for construction crews, said biologists presenting this type of training should have the following capabilities:

  • In-depth skills at field identification, knowledge of species habitat requirements and life history, and a thorough understanding of regulatory requirements and protocols for state and federal natural resource laws.
  • An ability to creatively use that knowledge to work cooperatively with the construction crews and resource agencies that result both in successful client projects and protection of resources.
  • An ability to communicate information respectfully and clearly with the client and contractor crews.
  • Using handouts or reference cards that help construction crews remember and identify the resources.
  • Provide reliable contact information so that contractors can quickly connect with the on-site monitor should any questions come up during construction.

“In our experience, communicating well with clients during environmental awareness training results in successful teamwork and seamless environmental compliance,” she said. “This is especially evident when consultation with regulatory agencies is necessary”.

For more information, contact Lisa Achter at or at 530-863-4647.