Although I have made many allusions to it in all my talk of the wetlands and the plant love, I am not sure I have ever revealed what exactly it is that I do. There is my whole wishy-washy anonymity complex to contemplate, after all. However, I have decided to come out in honor of the day: I work for an environmental consulting firm.
Environmental consulting firms and environmental consultants can get a bad rap. Sometimes our clients think we are a bunch of seed-eating treehuggers out to ruin them. Sometimes environmentalists think we are sell-outs in the pockets of developers, paving the way for all sorts of evils.
I am here to explain the situation. None of these things are true.
Every.single.person I know who works professionally in my field is there because of a passion for the environment. We all went to school and studied ecology, wildlife management, botany, hydrology, soils, environmental policy. We are not in it for the money; we all know we'd make more doing something else. I certainly had a higher income working at the chromatography lab, but I was miserable.
The sad truth is that some development is inevitable. It is barreling down on us. What we do at my firm is take that development, and make it better.
I admit I was a little unsure when I started at this firm. All my previous environmental work had been for various government agencies. I knew that system, and had some faith in it (although unfortunately the current administration is doing a magnificent job of dismantling every protection they can). But the same policies dictate what we do in the private sector, the same National Environmental Policy Act, the same Environmental Impact Statements, the same fieldwork.
Still skeptical? Allow me to present this unnamed creek, barely a dotted line on a topographical map:
I feel a little dramatic saying it like so, but I saved that creek. In the preliminary project designs, an access road and electrical lines were proposed to cross the creek. On a field visit this spring, I took photos. I was worried that blasting would be required to continue with the proposed plans, and that it would destroy the creek. I brought the photos to my boss, who shared my excitement about the beautiful site, and my concern for its future.
We got the ball rolling, and soon enough: voila! When I was up delineating wetlands last week at the same site, the new maps show no project components anywhere in the vicinity. The plans were re-worked, the road was re-routed, and the creek will no longer be impacted. It is but one example. When I find populations of rare plants, they are protected. The wetlands I delineate are avoided, and when impacted, compensatory mitigation is required at great expense to the developers.
The project goes on, but it is a much better project due to the involvement of people like me. It is satisfying to know that I am making a small difference each and every day.