Critical Time for Clients – Spring Biological Surveys

By Amber Oneal Heredia

Completing spring biological surveys can be a critical path item in a project schedule – and now is the time to schedule them!

Why are focused surveys needed?

Focused surveys are needed to determine the presence or absence of a threatened, endangered, or other special status species on a project site.

Some wildlife species are present and detectable year-round, while others may not be detectable outside the breeding season because they are migratory (i.e., only present in the area during certain times of year), are inactive during certain seasons (e.g., hibernating in winter), or are hard to find when they’re not breeding. Although they don’t move, plants may sometimes be undetectable because many of them only bloom for a few weeks during a particular time of year when conditions are favorable (e.g., when there has been enough rain).

Multiple Visits over Multiple Months

Wildlife agencies and other organizations have protocols specifying how to conduct focused surveys for each species. These methodologies typically involve multiple survey visits over the course of the species’ breeding/blooming season (i.e., when they are most detectable) during specific time periods. For example, a protocol may require six visits, with at least one visit in April, one in May, and one in June. If you miss the first survey window, you cannot complete the protocol as written and the project may have to wait until the following spring to complete the survey. Prior approval is required from the agencies on any modifications to the protocol.

Timing of Surveys

Most surveys need to start in mid-March to early April (although some desert projects start earlier, and some rain-dependent species start in the fall/winter). Because the timing can be a critical path item on project schedules, biologists spend the early months of the year (now) discussing the need for surveys with clients.

At Psomas, we have in-house experts in the appropriate permits for just about every species that can be found in the southwestern U.S. and subconsultants for even the most obscure species. If you would like to discuss the need and timing requirements of biological surveys with respect to your specific project, contact me at 714.751.7373 or

Amber Oneal Heredia is a senior project manager in BonTerra Psomas’ resource management group.

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