Knowledge Center

  • Process Mapping: How to Get the Most Out of Your Workforce

    Why map processes? It’s hardly a “sexy” topic, and generally, it’s avoided as a non-revenue generating activity that is not a productive use of time for many environmental consultants and planning professionals. However, if you find…

    • Tasks are done differently each time
    • Important steps are missed
    • Time is wasted on researching the right steps
    • Errors are common—costing time and money
    • New personnel are trained by overloaded peers or not trained at all

    … it’s time to consider a solid process manual. This can get everyone on the same page, produce efficient, consistent work processes, and save time and money on your environmental planning and design projects.
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  • Tips to Minimize Adverse Effects of Construction Vibrations on Historic Properties

    Kristopher Carambelas, RPAProjects that involve ground-disturbing activities oftentimes go to great lengths to avoid adversely affecting historic properties that are significant cultural resources such as buildings, structures, and even sites protected by Section 106. Some activities result in very obvious effects; others not so much. Thorough evaluation during the pre-construction planning process identifies most effects and makes recommendations to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects. Occasionally, some effects fly under the pre-construction planning radar.

    Construction vibrations are phenomena that are sometimes overlooked, yet these unseen products of blasting, demolition, pile driving, and compaction can travel well beyond a construction right-of-way and cause cosmetic and, in severe cases, structural damage to significant cultural resources. Discovering their effects after a project is underway can have costly consequences. Certain project elements may be delayed while a vibration monitoring plan is prepared. Disgruntled property owners may file damage claims. Project proponents may receive bad press. Time, money, and project supporters’ good will are potentially wasted.
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  • Cultural Resources – Stone Camp Dacite and the Greater Perry Mesa Community

    Cultural resources research on the archaeology of Central Arizona has focused mainly on the large settlements within Perry Mesa. Perry Mesa is a series of basalt-capped mesas and canyons along the Agua Fria River that resulted from the eruption of the shield volcano. This mesa-canyon complex covers an area of about 75 square miles and contains one of the most fascinating groups of ruins in Central Arizona.

    Beginning in 2006, as part of Logan Simpson-supported independent research, one of our senior archaeologists supervised a multiyear project of a previously unstudied prehistoric community that is undoubtedly part of the Perry Mesa system, which is located 10 miles east of Perry Mesa proper. Over this seven year period, a group of more than 20 volunteers, many of them Logan Simpson employees, surveyed and recorded over 150 prehistoric sites that are part of this unique community situated on the Tonto National Forest.
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  • Vegetation Sampling

    Richard Remington

    Logan Simpson Design’s biological resources staff is trained in a variety of vegetation sampling techniques. Vegetation inventory and mapping is a process that documents the composition, distribution and abundance of plant communities across the landscapes. Accurately describing and mapping vegetated land cover consistent with the national vegetation classification system is integral in providing comparable data in how vegetation is inventoried, studied, and applied to sound ecological science, land assessment, environmental planning and management.

     Vegetation sampling and mapping ranges from a broad scale delineation of ecological systems derived at a regional level to documenting fine-scaled vegetation associations and alliances at the local specific scale. Conducting detailed vegetation inventories and mapping are used in accuracy assessments of vegetation classes delineated on a vegetation map to provide the user with an estimate or index on the reliability that the vegetation type mapped actually matches the vegetation present on the ground.

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  • 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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