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-   -   Original Message: Question by David Magney June 27, 2008 (

njensen 07-08-2008 12:12 PM

Andy Sanders, UCR Herbarium, reply to Carl Wishner
“Carl, Well said! A lot of these "reputable firms" seem to hire inexpensive recent graduates, who have never had a field course in their lives and know essentially nothing about the biota of CA, and send them out to do surveys. The results are as you describe. They sometimes send me jpegs to ID or confirm. What they don't know is often amazing, and what they think they know is worse. If they're struggling to ID Malva parviflora and Ailanthus altissima, they obviously have no clue what they're doing. I recently had those come here as jpegs -- and the Ailanthus was tentatively IDed as Ligustrum lucidum! The half dozen such jpegs were probably the whole bot. survey for this site.”

njensen 07-08-2008 12:12 PM

Comment from Heather Wylie, Project Manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
“I agree. Another problem associated with this, is that the government employees "reviewing" these documents are not qualified to know when the wool is being pulled over their eyes or not (if they even care). Additionally, they are discouraged from soliciting third party opinions.”

njensen 07-08-2008 12:13 PM

Comment from Cher Batchelor, Plant Ecologist, Rincon Consultants
“I too agree that species lists are extremely important for completeness of surveys. So many times I am asked what the condition of a project is (is it highly disturbed or relatively pristine?), and often an efficient way to demonstrate existing conditions is to present the species richness of a site. Further, all plant community descriptions (most of which are written back in the office) are based on plant assemblages of a project site. How are we supposed to adequately convey habitat descriptions if we do not reference a field list of plant species observed onsite, especially for dominant plants and their specific associate species? These conditions are often scrutinized especially when reviewers are trying to determine if sensitive habitat exists for special-status wildlife species. Finally, if surveys do not require a species list, biologists/botanists are more likely to miss special-status plant species on a particular project site simply because they are just not looking closely enough at the plants onsite.”

njensen 07-08-2008 12:13 PM

Comment from Tasha La Doux, Botanist, UC Riverside
“Hi Steve [Boyd] - Thanks for including me in the e-mail. I agree that a species list is important for the reasons pointed out by David in his e-mail. Ideally consultants could establish this with their clients from the beginning, and even include paid herbarium time, as this is often the crippling factor in getting accurate ID and/or vouchers from the area. A species list is like a litmus test for the quality of the botanical surveys (and can be entertaining to read). I can see where the client would not necessarily want to pay for a species list to be the main goal (depending on the area to be surveyed and the reason it is being surveyed), however it is an easy by-product of targeted rare plant surveys. And by requiring a species list to be recorded, it encourages more careful observation and I believe will lead to more discoveries of rare plants unknown to occur there and/or significant range extensions.”

njensen 07-08-2008 12:14 PM

Comment from Mary Carroll, Botanist, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
“I agree with the other comments you have received to date. Species lists tell us about biological diversity, ecotones, transition zones, and many other subtleties. I do wish that folks with less experience wouldn't just put their perceived list of dominants on a list because they think those plants "should be" present. I have observed plants being listed for a site that I have carefully searched for, something common like Encelia californica or Rhus integrifolia that drop out at certain elevations or inland sites (or don't, in which case it is very interesting!). I try to avoid labeling an entire company or institution as incompetent, though, as our skills are varied within a company and as time passes. I think many of us, however, have found rare taxa - sometimes unexpected rare taxa - that have been overlooked by others, so field work and subsequent reporting, along with appropriate documentation, form a body of knowledge that deepens our understanding of a site.”

njensen 07-08-2008 12:15 PM

Comment from Rosi Dagit, Biologist/Arborist
“I am with you! I find them very helpful as well!”

njensen 07-08-2008 12:16 PM

Comment from Cindy Burrascano, Botanist, CNPS Representative
“In reviewing EIRs I have found species lists invaluable. They tell me something about the quality of the habitats being impacted and/or the skill of the person doing the surveying. In looking over a list included from a prior biological survey attached as an appendix on a document, I once found two listed species identified that had been "overlooked" in the more recent surveys. The project was redesigned. They are well worth the extra paper for a reviewer.”

njensen 07-08-2008 12:17 PM

Comment from Betsey Landis, Botanist, CNPS Representative
“I think species lists are essential to evaluating impacts on natural resources. However, lately all I have seen are lists from the CNDDB, usually for an entire mountain range or an entire county. The City of L.A. particularly abuses and bypasses the CEQA process (the developers pay all administrative expenses of the Planning Agency). I have been reading all the excellent comments. This would be a great article for the Bulletin and I hope someone is going to talk about this topic at the CNPS Conservation Conference "Strategies and Solutions" January 17-19, 2009. The Chapters need to know they can demand better species lists and that field surveys be done under CEQA when natural resources may be impacted by a project.”

njensen 07-08-2008 12:17 PM

Comment from Jennifer Kalt, Botanist, CNPS Representative on Timber Harvest Plans
“David, I feel it is the only method currently at our disposal to assess the qualifications of the surveyor. If someone (e.g. a timber company forester or "botanist") has few to no grass or graminoids, or if they ID every species of Salix and Carex to species, then I judge them either inexperienced or a hack. I would guess that DFG staffers would have a similar view. "Too expensive"??? Sounds like just another cry to get around the environmental review process to me.”

njensen 07-08-2008 12:18 PM

Comment from Diana Hickson, Botanist, CDFG
“I collected all the comments and forwarded them to Tony LaBanca, (before I noticed he was on the list!) who is chairing the impact assessment and mitigation session [for the CNPS Symposium in January 2009]... I hope someone submits an abstract dealing with this issue. A survey of what lead agencies (and my own Department) is requiring would be enlightening.”

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