A reading list for environmental consultants

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My business partner, Ryan Anderson, owner of OTG Developments Ltd. (www.otgdevelopments.com) has been known to say that being a consultant is easy: all you have to do is read.

He is correct, and in that spirit, I have created a must-read list for environmental consultants, presented in no particular order.

Water Sustainability Act, Riparian Areas Regulation

Reading legislation can be a gigantic waste of time if you don’t know what you are looking at, but it’s worth looking at the definitions, particularly the definition of a stream under these two pieces of legislation, and the definition of Natural Boundary, under the Land Act. Then you can move on to reading some of the findings of the BC Environmental Appeal Board (Google it) to see how the definitions are interpreted.

The Professional Practice Guidelines for Legislated Riparian Assessments.

These guidelines were published by a handful of colleges to describe the level of effort required of professionals when undertaking Riparian Areas Protection Regulation Assessment reports. Even for those of us who never work with the RAPR, the Guidelines provide an excellent primer on how to prepare and write an excellent report.

They are available here: https://www.cab-bc.org/file-download/legislated-riparian-assessments-bc-apegbcabcfpcab-professional-practice-guidelines

The RAPR Assessment Methods

Following up on the above, it doesn’t hurt to read the RAPR Assessment Methods. Having a detailed understanding of the methods (and the legislation, while we’re at it) is essential to the understanding of environmental constraints to residential, commercial, and industrial development.

These methods are also very useful to assess and quantify impacts of proposed or unauthorized projects.

Everything you need is here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/plants-animals-ecosystems/fish/aquatic-habitat-management/riparian-areas-regulation/qep-resources/rar-notification-system?keyword=riparian

Develop with Care (2014)

This document is somewhat out of date, but it is certainly important to understand the terms of reference for environmental development on private land. Proper use of this document can lend a degree of repeatability to our work and facilitate the process, without sacrificing quality. There a handful of accompanying BMPs, that should be reviewed as necessary.

It is available here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/natural-resource-stewardship/laws-policies-standards-guidance/best-management-practices/develop-with-care

The Environmental Mitigation Policy

Nothing can possibly be drier, but understanding this policy is key to being able to prepare projects in accordance with provincial standards. This document should be considered a primer for any environmental impact assessment work.

It is available here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/natural-resource-stewardship/laws-policies-standards-guidance/environmental-guidance-and-policy/environmental-mitigation-policy

Field Manual for Describing Terrestrial Ecosystems

There is not much point in working in this field if you don’t know what you are looking at. This methodology includes far more detail than is required in most day-to-day work, but understanding the gold standard is a good place to start. With experience, one can decide which portions are relevant to the task at hand.

It is available here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/plants-animals-and-ecosystems/conservation-data-centre/field_manual_describing_terrestrial_ecosystems_2nd.pdf

A Field Guide for Site Identification and Interpretation for the Vancouver Forest Region

We use this little book (we call it the Red Book) all the time to classify ecosystems. While that is useful on its own, the actual body of the book makes for very interesting reading, and understanding the methodologies presented (e.g. indicator plant analysis) has helped us understand how a sites physical features (nutrients and moisture) influence the flora. It is now second nature for us to notice the subtle shifts in plant communities as the site gets wetter or drier.

It is available here: https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/pubs/docs/lmh/lmh28.htm

Fish-stream Identification Guidebook; Fish-stream Crossing Guidebook; Reconnaissance1:20 000 Fish and Fish Habitat Inventory: Standards and Procedures

Rightly or wrongly, I’ve put these three together. They have detailed information on what does and does not constitute a stream in BC. There are some caveats as these relate specifically to fish habitat, but they do provide a great primer on stream identification. I haven’t provided a link, but they’re easy enough to find.

Wetland Indicators: A Guide to Wetland Formation, Identification, Classification, and Mapping (2nd Ed.)

I like reading textbooks and I couldn’t resist inclulding this one. Wetland protection and policy in BC is woefully inadequate and out of date, but why not know more about wetlands, so at least you can understand how things can be better? You can also go down the rabbit hole of hydrophytic species. There is lots to learn there.

Where do Camels Belong? Why invasive species aren’t all bad

A lot of biologists get all hung up on native vs. non-native and management of invasive species. In my experience it’s best to understand the problem before trying to manage it.

If we’re being honest, we recognize that we will never be able to eradicate invasive species from our ecosystems. Our task then becomes managing site conditions so that invasive species do not thrive.

In some cases, there are very obvious benefits to non-native species. Looking at the sloughs in Chilliwack and elsewhere, the invasive reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea) is absent beneath weeping willow (Salix babylonica), a non-native tree. Wouldn’t planting weeping willows achieve a goal that is difficult to achieve with native species alone?

In other cases, certain near-native species can be used to ensure our ecosystems are resilient to climate change. We can plant species from our neighbours to the south that are more adapted to warmer temperatures in an effort to mitigate future loss of trees and plants from higher temperatures and lower rainfall.

This one isn’t free, unfortunately. Find it here: https://www.amazon.ca/Where-Do-Camels-Belong-Invasive/dp/1771640960#:~:text=Where%20do%20camels%20belong%3F,only%20wild%20populations%20in%20Australia.

This is not a long list, but it’s a great place to start. I spend a signigicant amount of time reading the primary literature, textbooks, policies, best management practices, and other guidelines documents. I come back to the reports above very often. Every professional should be doing the same.

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