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Expanding the Connotation of “Environmental,” UES Adapts to Evolving Needs

By: Glen A. Miley, MS, SPWS, CERP- UES Director of Ecological Services

As I sit down to write, a glance at the calendar reveals that today is National Coffee Day.  Who knew?  Who comes up with this stuff??  As you read this, it is World Habitat Day and we do have an answer for who came up with that.

The United Nations, as a body, has many functions.  One of them is education.  They have initiated a number of international “days” and “weeks” as occasions to mobilize political will, draw attention to global issues, and to celebrate achievements.  The first Monday in October is established as World Habitat Day and this year’s theme is resilient economies.

World Habitat Day is not intended to draw our attention to ecological matters.  Rather, the intent is to highlight urban issues, specifically to “remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat” and advance the idea that access to shelter is a basic human right.

Have you ever decided to buy a red Subaru Outback, for example, and having made that decision, see red Outbacks everywhere?  Our minds tend towards things that have our attention.  I’m an Ecological Consultant and the UN’s resiliency theme has captured mine.

Words are tricky and powerful things, let’s take “environmental” as an example.  We at UES categorize our work in five service lines, the first one being Environmental.  We all immediately have an idea what that entails.  If you scanned other companies’ marketing material, you might find that that term applies to an astonishing array of professions including everything from the guy who takes out the trash to a civil engineer who designs wastewater treatment facilities.  As we seek to grow our environmental consulting business this lexical plasticity confronts head on.

Even within UES, with the help and push from our clients, we are continuing to expand our definition of ‘environmental’.  For many years, we have performed environmental consulting work with our teams of geologists and engineers.  More recently, we are continuing to expand our teams and services to include a diverse cadre of ecologists and biologists and other scientists where our environmental practice can expand to services including ecosystem identification and mapping, protected tree inventories, and wetland permitting.  This is allowing us to provide a more complete service to our clients and more personal and professional development opportunities for our team members. 

In a larger context, the multi-meaning word “resiliency” has captured the public attention.  I think the general idiomatic understanding at this juncture is tied to the unfortunately-politically-charged topic, climate change.  If the weather outside is frightful, and if our future climate is truly going to be chaotic, then what impact will that have on us, and, more importantly, what are we going to do about it?  I think these questions are behind the ongoing narrative around Climate Resiliency.

At UES, one of the nation’s most rapidly-growing environmental consulting firms, we are redefining climate resiliency and growing our ‘environmental’ services.

As environmental consultants, our domain is regulatory compliance.  We are quite adept at deploying our savant skills navigating clients through the maze of regulations.  We, and our competitors, are quick to present solutions arising from well-worn policies such as the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act.  But new regulations are cropping up all the time and getting ahead of them presents opportunities for us to steer clients around obstacles that they don’t yet know exist.  One such policy is not even new anymore but still presents burgeoning opportunity, Executive order 13677.

Signed by Obama in 2015, this policy builds upon its predecessor, EO 13514, by raising the bar for federal sustainability efforts in foreign infrastructure development. The main point of this executive order is to prioritize climate resilience in U.S. international development efforts. It directs federal agencies to assess and mitigate climate-related risks, collaborate with other nations, and integrate climate considerations into strategies and investments to protect vulnerable countries from the impacts of climate change.  In other words, a mandate to conduct specific environmental analysis and report on resiliency prior to receiving funds!

So, sometimes expanding our thinking of words like ‘environment’ and ‘resiliency’ coupled with our experience with evolving regulations, also helps us support our clients better and help them re-define their use cases and needs; in this case, anyone spending federal dollars on international development.

A recent example is a training technologies company in Pensacola, Florida.  The group creates computer graphics for flight simulators.  In developing a training platform for the DOD, where they needed to train pilots to get into an airfield in Benghazi, these guys need to make a digital Benghazi. Their project’s funding was contingent upon a NEPA-esque climate resiliency assessment.  Among the roster of usual suspects to respond to this RFP, we were able to produce the requisite environmental assessment.

Glen is an applied ecologist with more than three decades of experience in environmental regulatory compliance.



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