May, 2016, marks a milestone for Westervelt Ecological Services (WES): we're celebrating our ten year anniversary. Over the past decade, WES has focused on large-scale conservation and restoration efforts of over 5,000 acres of wetland and endangered species habitat on over 18,000 acres of preserved land nationwide, resulting in improved habitat quality, connectivity and water quality. This work could not be completed without invaluable partnerships with local, state and federal resource agencies, as well as many key non-profit organizations ... thank you for sharing our success!

This year we are implementing several projects which expand our conservation efforts including: Big Sandy II and III in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama; Bullock Bend Mitigation Bank on the Sacramento River; Markham Ravine Mitigation Bank in Placer County; and Nicolaus Ranch VELB Conservation Bank in Sacramento County, California. These projects will restore habitat specifically for threatened and endangered species and wetlands, with benefits extending to migrating birds and waterfowl, mammals, native fishes, insects, amphibians, reptiles, and a vast number of native plants.

In this newsletter, we spotlight three projects representing WES's successful conservation efforts which give us a reason to celebrate, as well as provide an insight into how we can continue to improve our efforts. We hope you enjoy, and please contact us with any questions or comments.

One of our greatest successes at WES is seeing a formerly degraded site transforming into a natural community. We have been monitoring the progress of our St. Marks Mitigation Bank in Wakulla and Jefferson counties in Florida for four years. This year's survey has shown how successful we've been restoring the native plant community. Our botanist stated in his yearly report "after four years of monitoring, it is evident the St. Marks Mitigation Bank is a significant conservation reserve as well as an ambitious restoration project."

When we permitted St. Marks Mitigation Bank, the general goal was to enhance and restore the natural community onsite by reversing the vegetation and hydrological impacts and by implementing a long-term management plan. We knew the potential for rare species recruitment was high, as it is adjacent to a large amount of conservation lands alongside the St. Marks and Aucilla River drainages. Also, much of the site is identified as potential rare species habitat, with specifically documented occurrences within a short radius.

A total of 373 native vascular plant species have now been documented on site, far exceeding the target threshold of 40. The overall plant species list includes 37 species with NatureServe G ranks of G4 or lower, indicating some degree of rarity. NatureServe sets the standard for natural heritage methodology, ranking plant species from G1 to G5 from the most imperiled (G1) to the most secure (G5). Many factors contribute to these rankings, including low population sizes, vulnerable habitats, or very restricted ranges. 

Eighteen species at St. Marks Mitigation Bank are ranked G3/G4 or lower, considered significantly rare and at least moderately vulnerable to extinction on a global basis. Of the somewhat rare species at the St. Marks Mitigation Bank, 3 are tracked by Florida Natural Areas Inventory as significantly rare and threatened in Florida. Florida Corkwood ( Leitnaria floridana) has a global NatureServe ranking of G3 and is considered threatened in Florida with a state ranking of S3. The St. Marks Mitigation Bank represents a significant conservation reserve for this rare and endemic small tree. Two additional species tracked by Florida Natural Areas Inventory were discovered in the same vicinity as well this year, the Night Blooming Wild Petunia ( Ruellia noctiflora; NatureServe G2, Federally Listed Endangered) and the Pinewoods Bluestem ( Andropogon arctatus; NatureServe G3, Federally Listed Threatened).

These are exciting discoveries and make us wonder what the next few years will bring. Restoration tasks include planting Longleaf Pine ( Pinus palustris) and several varieties of native warm season grasses. Fire will also be used as part of the management plan.

Stay tuned for future exciting developments from this jewel of Old Florida!
Native Fish Found Utilizing The Floodplain At Cosumnes 
Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus
For the last few years, California has suffered from a severe drought negatively impacting both human communities and the environment. Limited rainfall has depleted water to critically low levels in lakes, rivers, and other water bodies, leading to the mortality of fish and damage to wildlife habitat.

On the Cosumnes River, native fish have found relief from drought conditions in the restored floodplain at WES's Cosumnes Floodplain Mitigation Bank. Established in 2009 and restored in 2011, the 495-acre site was reconnected to the Cosumnes River through a breach in the farm berm surrounding the former agricultural land. This breach allows the river to regularly flow into the property in tidal channels and during flood events across a vast re-established floodplain.

The property is situated at the confluence of the Mokelumne and Cosumnes Rivers and adjacent to the Cosumnes River Preserve. The Preserve contains 46,000 acres of wildlife habitat and agricultural lands owned by state, federal and local non-profits as part of an effort to achieve the vision of a continuous floodplain and riparian corridor extending from the headwaters of the Cosumnes River to the Delta.

On March 16, 2016, fish surveys completed at the Cosumnes Floodplain Mitigation Bank by the California Fisheries Foundation proved what WES had hoped for - the presence of native fish using the far reaches of the flooded site nearly a mile from the breach. At the time, the floodplain had been inundated for approximately 10 days due to consistent rainfall from passing storms and high flow in the Cosumnes River, the longest duration of flooding that has occurred on the site to date. Of the fish surveyed, two Sacramento native splittail ( Pogonichthys macrolepidotus) (245 and 320 mm; a Federally Listed Species of Special Concern) and a hatchery steelhead ( Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus) (22.5 cm) were captured in a fyke net, measured and released. This is the second time steelhead have been documented on the property and the first time for Sacramento splittail. 

Pogonichthys macrolepidotus
This restored floodplain provides a high-quality habitat for migrating juvenile native fish during a  critical time in their development, as well as emerging riparian forest and shaded riverine aquatic habitat for migrating birds and other species. Monitoring is ongoing to ensure the restored and enhanced habitats are functioning as intended, and to document the effectiveness of the restoration activities. Since 2006, the Cosumnes Floodplain Mitigation Bank has successfully established approximately 300 acres of wetlands and other waters of the U.S., supporting a developing riparian forest, and exhibiting hydrogeomorphic functional capacity indices above pre-project levels.

We look forward to reporting on the presence of and use by native fish and other important benchmarks for this project in the years to come.

On March 1, 2016, WES's fire management team completed a 120-acre burn at the Chickasawhay Conservation Bank. This 1,230-acre bank serves as a preserve for the threatened gopher tortoise ( Gopherus polyphemus ), one of only four remaining species of land tortoise in North America, as well as many other species associated with the rolling hills of the Coastal Plain in southeastern Mississippi and southwestern Alabama. Over 100 gopher tortoises, including original residents, natural emigration, relocated and natural recruitment, have been documented on the site since its creation in 2009. Averaging roughly 1,200 acres burned per year on a  maximum 3-year rotation, fire is being used successfully as a management tool at the  Chickasawhay Conservation Bank to maintain habitat ideally suited for the gopher tortoise, whose wide, deep burrows provide critical protection to hundreds of species that share its burrows. 
The goal of prescribed burning is to allow sufficient sunlight to reach the forest floor by opening up the canopy and keeping the shrubs low in stature. The increased sunlight promotes the growth of various native grasses, forbs and shrubs that provide forage for the herbivorous gopher tortoise, as well as support the South's iconic piney woods and its associated species. 

The most recent controlled burn was another great success. WES would like to thank the visiting staff from the Tortoise Bank Review Team, who took part in the day and the burn. Continue to check our newsletter for updates on prescribed burns at Chickasawhay Conservation Bank and other WES banks. 
Long-Term Stewardship Funding and Mitigation Industry Sustainability
Mitigation has come a long way; many of the well-documented shortcomings in factors, such as site selection, design, site protection, and financial assurances, have been substantially improved since the 2008 Mitigation Rule. While there will be continuing improvement in these elements, long-term stewardship is the final frontier of progress in creating sustainable mitigation preserves. The Third Annual Environmental Law Institute -Stetson Wetlands Workshop, held in Florida, helped advance the cause by convening a panel of professors, regulators, and practitioners focused on the challenges and best practices of long-term stewardship. Jenny Thomas from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented initial findings in her review of long-term stewardship provisions in mitigation banks and In-Lieu Fee programs. WES was pleased to be a part of the Workshop and welcomes the shared learning from these venues and from the findings of Ms. Thomas's study, once completed.

During the event, the Environmental Law Institute welcomed Workshop participants to prepare articles for the National Wetlands Newsletter based on their presentations at the workshop. WES's' vice president Greg DeYoung and financial manager Steve Moore prepared an article entitled "Long-Term Stewardship Funding and Mitigation Industry Sustainability" that was published in the March-April publication. To ready the article and learn more about the Workshop please follow the link.
Customer Survey Winner Announced
Congratulations to Craig Martin with Wetland Science, Inc., winner of an indestructible WES Yeti cooler. Mr. Martin was entered into a drawing for the cooler after completing our annual customer survey, and he can now head out to the wilderness confident that his cooler is capable of keeping anything cold for days and outsmarting a grizzly bear! Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey, and please be sure to continue to do so.  Your feedback in invaluable to our organization in going forward.
Greg Webber Joins the WES Team
Greg Webber
Greg Webber is a new member of the WES team, serving as a Restoration Designer within the Design and Construction Management division of WES Western Region Office. With technical expertise in a variety of CAD, GIS and graphic design programs, Mr. Webber is responsible for the creation and revision of design documents used in all phases of our design development process as well as assisting with field data collection in both design reconnaissance and site monitoring capacities.

Greg received his Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture with a minor in Environmental Horticulture from U.C. Davis where he was a member of American Society of Landscape Architects. Prior to joining WES, Mr. Webber worked as a tradesman in a variety of fields including landscape management, agriculture, and electrical construction. He interned at the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve, a 640-acre ecosystem managed for wildlife protection, teaching and conducting research on the U.C. Davis campus.

After work, Greg enjoys cooking with his family and helping his seven-year-old son with homework, art, and construction projects. As an outdoor enthusiast, Greg enjoys hiking, camping and fishing in the Sierra Nevada foothills and mountains. Welcome to the team, Greg!
Kim Erickson Joins the WES Team
Kim Erickson
Kim Erickson is an Associate Conservation Planner in the entitlement division of WES, Western Region Office. Her primary responsibilities include working with staff and subconsultants in the preparation of various documents to entitle conservation and mitigation banks throughout California. She particularly enjoys working with the various federal and state agencies. Prior to joining WES, Kim had her own environmental management firm. She has also worked for various environmental and engineering consulting firms in the Sacramento area and specialized in environmental documentation and permitting.

Kim received her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Planning and Management from U.C. Davis. Kim lives in Carmichael with her husband. In her free time, Kim enjoys reading, quilting, and cross stitch, and visiting family in Sacramento, Santa Rosa, and San Diego. She also enjoys playing soccer and has competed in several tournaments in California, Canada, Australia, and Europe.
Upcoming Conference Schedule
Look for WES at conferences in your area this spring and summer.

National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference
Fort Worth, TX
May 10-13, 2016

Society of Ecological Restoration
Tahoe, CA
May 11-13, 2016

ACWA Spring Conference
Monterey, CA
May 3-6, 2016

Alabama Invasive Plant Council Annual Conference
Millbrook, AL
May 3rd, 2016

Mitigation Banking Interagency Review Team Course
U.S. FWS National Conservation Training Center
Shepherdstown, WV
June 20-24, 2016

Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   View our profile on LinkedIn