Knowledge Center

  • Using Technology to Improve Safety and Efficiency of Natural Resource Inventories

    Here at Logan Simpson, our environmental consultants offer expertise in national resources inventories (NRI) — a federal natural resource monitoring protocol developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS has been conducting this statistical sampling of land use and natural resource conditions and trends on US lands since 1982. While initially restricted to non-federal lands, NRI sampling sites recently expanded to BLM-managed grazing lands in the western US, making it the most comprehensive monitoring database in the world. In 2013, Logan Simpson completed two NRI contracts for NRCS on BLM grazing lands in Nevada. Our success is due to an experienced in-house staff, attention to accuracy, and the implementation of technologies that reduce the time it takes to sample and travel between sites.

    Completing each NRI sampling site (called a segment) requires application of knowledge in each of three different disciplines: soils, botany, and range management. Team leads must be masters of all three, but are typically supported by technical leads in botany and soils. For example, NRCS requires at each NRI point a census of all the plants within a 150 foot diameter circular area. A crew biologist must locate, accurately identify to species, and record the relative density of typically 25 (and up to 40) different plants within 15 minutes. Much like a triathlon, speed, efficiency, accuracy in execution and fast transitions between tasks and plots (called points) are qualities needed to successfully complete an NRI contract.
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  • Rediscovering the Past: Ancient Hopi Coalmines, Section 106 and Beyond

    As experienced consultants in the cultural resources management industry, Logan Simpson earns its bread and butter by helping our clients navigate federal laws designed to protect prehistoric and historic archaeological sites. But as full-time “compliance specialists,” we also tend to seek out the next exciting opportunity to conduct research that rises above and beyond the scope of our clients’ projects.

    Recently, a cultural resources inventory of the entire Arizona Public Service Company (APS) transmission system in Arizona and northwest New Mexico presented Logan Simpson Design with such an opportunity. Our team of archaeologists was given the chance to survey transmission lines on and near the Hopi mesas, adjacent to the six contemporary pueblos and numerous abandoned pueblos that figure prominently in the history of Southwestern ethnography and archaeology. In the process, Logan Simpson archaeologists came across an exciting site that had not been investigated for decades: an ancestral Hopi coalmine and associated pottery-firing areas.

    In a land with few trees for firewood, ancestral Hopis used coal dug by hand from natural seams in the Mesaverde sandstone. Under and adjacent to the APS transmission line, our crew recorded coal-extraction areas—curious mounds filled with the beautiful fragments of Hopi Yellow Ware ceramic pots (yellow in color due to the extremely high firing temperature of coal as fuel)—and other artifacts that appeared to date from the late 1200s into at least the 1400s. Sound avoidance measures were of course provided to protect the site; the land manager (Navajo Nation) concurred with our protection measures, and the Section 106 process was complete.
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  • Public Involvement for the National Environmental Policy Act

    Here at Logan Simpson Design, we understand that some planners and National Environmental Policy Act practitioners view public involvement as an obstacle to progress. These planners might find themselves asking, since we already know the best outcome, why are we prompting the public to be involved? Why would they be interested?

     And if we’ve already considered a wide range of alternatives, why open up the potential for more?

     However, meaningful opportunities for public outreach can improve the results of public involvement and National Environmental Policy Act processes. Increased public involvement can translate into designing opportunities that maximize interactions with the lead agency, stakeholders, project proponents and the public. There is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach or format. Therefore, do not be constrained to traditional approaches when designing public outreach.

    Pay attention to local culture and customs as they can easily influence both the format and the type of public involvement. For example, during a project in rural Utah, the public meeting center was a facility at the local fairgrounds, which meant we had to modify the format of the meeting to properly accommodate the available space. When we held the same meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, we had to consider a central location that allowed for a variety of transportation methods including public transit, walking, and personal vehicles. On yet another project in the southeastern United States, we were told to avoid scheduling public meetings on Wednesday evenings because local officials told us that they were typically reserved for religious studies. By paying special attention to local culture and customs, you’ll be able to circumvent any initial public involvement issues that may arise.
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  • Making it Through the Maze of Federal Regulations: 8 Tips to Avoid Stalling Your Federal-Aid Highway Funded Project

    Wayne Colebank, RLAIncreasingly, local public agencies (LPAs) are relying on federal dollars to help build Federal-Aid Highway Program transportation projects. Logan Simpson Design’s environmental consultants can help you understand the requirements of these projects and can help ensure your project gets built as planned:

    1. (S)TIP it in. To be eligible for federal funding, your project must be on the state transportation improvement plan (STIP). Typically, Federal-Aid Highway Program projects must first be listed in the local council of governments (COG) or metropolitan planning agency (MPO) transportation improvement plan (TIP) before they are added to the STIP. In some cases, a project may go directly onto the STIP, where your local COG or MPO can guide you through the process.

    2. Scope it out. Federal funds are authorized based on the scope of the project activities. Authorization is the federal government’s approval of the project. A thoroughly scoped project will uncover issues that may not be immediately apparent and allow you to derive a solid cost estimate that can be used to seek federal authorization. Once funds have been authorized, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the transportation entity that is administering the project will enter into a project agreement with the LPA to specify how the project will be designed, constructed, and maintained in accordance with federal requirements. FHWA will obligate funds — in other words, make a formal promise to pay — based on this project agreement.
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  • Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Lithobates Chiricahuensis)

    Richard RemingtonLogan Simpson Design knows the importance of protecting our biological resources through responsible environmental planning. That’s why our biological resources staff includes experts in the fields of botany, ornithology, chiropterology, wildlife and fishing management, ecology, and habitat assessment and restoration. The habitat of the threatened Chiricahua leopard frog is just one consideration for proponents of new development within Arizona.

    STATUS: Threatened (67 FR 40790, June 13, 2002) with critical habitat (77 FR 16324, March 20, 2012).

    What are the reasons for decline/vulnerability?

    The most serious threats to this species includes nonnative predators, especially bullfrogs, fishes, and crayfish, and a fungal skin disease, chytridomycosis, also known as BD. BD is killing frogs and toads around the globe. Environmental threats include drought, floods, wildfires, degradation and destruction of habitat, water diversions and groundwater pumping, disruption of metapopulation dynamics (relationships among populations of frogs), increased chance of extirpation or extinction resulting from small numbers of populations and individuals, and environmental contamination.
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  • Process Progress

    Perhaps no word elicits groans more quickly than “process.”  In community planning and environmental planning, process is often equated with long, slow, cumbersome, and costly activities. This is only fair, as we have all been involved in a planning process that was somehow painful. In a recent city meeting, the word “process” was used 16 times, each time to describe something that was not done, was now late, or had become otherwise problematic.

    Why does process get a black eye? Process itself is not the problem, bad process is the problem. However, good process, the foundation of good thinking, often goes unnoticed and unheralded. Process is the fundamental feature of structured thinking, project management, and orderly social progress. Have you heard of the Socratic Method? It is a critical thought method dating back to Socrates and it undergirds several modern facilitation techniques. Two generations after Socrates, Aristotle advanced his own process of inquiry, deconstructing and dividing information into its parts by asking: “What is it? What is it good for? How do I know?” Aristotle’s thought process has fundamentally influenced western progress for over 2,300 years now.

    In late 2012, Logan Simpson began providing facilitation services for the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, a very diverse collaborative group in a high-stakes community planning environment. The group had exhausted several facilitators and due to the complexity of issues, faced fresh challenges every month. The combination of personalities, interests, and history resulted in multiple and critical breakdowns. But now the group is clicking, producing, and performing well. What has changed? The answer would be good process.
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  • We Comply: Construction Industry Environmental Compliance Guidance and Training

    Kevin Boesch, CPESC

    To increase protection of water quality resources within and adjacent to transportation-related construction sites, state transportation departments often require contractors to designate highly qualified personnel for environmental compliance who hold certifications, such as the Utah Department of Transportation’s (UDOT’s) environmental control supervisor (ECS)  or the Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT’s) erosion control coordinator (ECC). For Arizona environmental consultants at Logan Simpson Design, as for others in the industry, training is essential for staying current on new technology and methods, as well as improving compliance with state and federal regulations and department or agency specifications. In a competitive consulting market, having experienced and well-trained environmental consultants on staff can be a differentiator for contractors that can help them win jobs.

    Types of projects that may require an ECC or ECS include those that have Clean Water Act Section 404 permits, National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, and stream alteration permits or other environmental concerns.

    The cost and time commitment to water quality/erosion control training and certification will vary on where an environmental specialist works. UDOT’s certification class and test are administered online. The Colorado Department of Transportation certification training is a two day class. In Arizona, the Arizona Chapter of Associated General Contractors (AGC) offers the erosion control coordinator training class and a refresher course that meets the environmental planning training needs of construction personnel for ADOT projects, but these concepts also transfer to non-transportation related projects (civil or commercial).
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  • Lincoln County Archaeological Initiative

    Jesse Adams, M.A., RPALogan Simpson Design environmental consultants are currently conducting a number of long-term, research-driven inventory projects for the Bureau of Land Management in Lincoln County, Nevada.

    As part of a sample archaeological inventory near Delamar Lake, LSD has developed a GIS predictive model to help identify high, medium, and low probability areas of cultural resources associated with the Terminal Pleistocene-Early Holocene (TPEH) transition period.

    Our GIS model focuses on several critical factors likely to influence site distribution during the TPEH transition period such asproximity to high-probability landforms (lakeshores, beaches, or indented shorelines); extinct marshes or deltas; and elevated surfaces near wetlands.

    Delamar Lake cultural resourcesDelamar Lake is situated within a Pleistocene pluvial lake bed and, like other nearby pluvial lake beds, is a high probability area for Paleoarchaic archaeological sites. The now arid lake would likely have supported a marsh/riparian-type ecosystem during the TPEH.

    Throughout the process, our goal was to identify the TPEH, or Paleoarchaic, archaeological sites near Delamar Lake in order to establish baseline inventory data for locating TPEH-aged cultural resources in other pluvial lakebeds in Lincoln County.

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  • Cultural Resources Spotlight: The Smurthwaite House

    Greta Rayle, M.A., RPAUnless you’ve stopped to read the plaque hanging by the building preserved through Section 106 at 1317 W. Jefferson Street in Downtown Phoenix, you’re probably unaware that this beautiful Queen Anne style home is truly a little piece of history.

    Headquarters of the Pioneer Cemetery Association, the building was designed and built in 1897 by renowned Phoenix architect James Creighton. Dr. Darius Purman and his wife Mary commissioned construction of the home and two adjacent homes within Block 46 of the Churchill Addition, an early subdivision platted by entrepreneur Clark Churchill in 1887.

    Smurthwaite House

    Smurthwaite House

    Though originally intended as a boarding house, the residence was purchased by Civil War veteran Trustrim Connell in 1903. Trustrim was a noted war hero, having won a Congressional Medal of Honor for capturing a Confederate flag just days before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. He resided at the home with his wife Eliza, daughter and son-in-law Caroline and Charles Smurthwaite, and their child Carolann until his death in 1937. When the Smurthwaites divorced in 1937, Caroline and Carolann remained and operated an antique store out of the home until their deaths in 1971 and 1982. Following Carolann’s death, the home was willed to the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, the Heard Museum, and the Phoenix Art Museum, who donated the property to the City of Phoenix. In 1992, the residence was moved 26 blocks west to its current location at the Pioneer and Military Memorial Park.
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  • Street Enhancements: Project Investment & Community Planning

    Many communities in the western United States face a twofold obstacle to effective community planning. These communities must balance popular demand for visually appealing streetscapes with limited city budgets and resources to construct and maintain them. On top of that, environmental consultants are tasked with the difficult process of cost-estimate analysis for these street enhancement projects.  This requires extensive interagency and interdepartmental cooperation, as well as regimented data collection processes, to substantiate long-term funding needs.

    Logan Simpson’s work with the Cheyenne Metropolitan Planning Organization can provide us with one such example of how community planning teams can organize data to build community consensus.

    In this project, the City of Cheyenne was faced with implementing several streetscape redevelopment initiatives. Following an extensive collaboration with the Cheyenne MPO, the Cheyenne Public Works Department, the Cheyenne Parks and Recreation Department, Laramie County, and the Wyoming Department of Transportation, Logan Simpson developed a mechanism that assists in the selection and cost estimation of right-of-way enhancements

    The system is a combination of three documents: 1) the Cheyenne Area Street Enhancement Toolbox, 2) the Cheyenne Area Streetscape Enhancement Worksheet, and 3) the Streetscape Enhancement Best Practices Analysis.
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