Occasionally, we have the delight of receiving an email from a customer who shares with us a little more about what they do. Thank you to London Lacy, for being one of those people to reach out and share with us. London is an Environmental Coordinator, at the Maricopa County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), in Phoenix, Arizona whose hard work helps keep plant and animal species safe, including species like the small and largely underground Western Burrowing Owl.
Enjoy London’s article that delves into what she does and why it matters. We appreciate your work, London!
*Article written by London Lacy, in collaboration with Allie. If you’d like to feature an original article on our blog, please reach out to our Content Manager via email at [email protected]
What Does the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Do?
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of the proposed actions prior to making decisions. With the NEPA process, agencies strive to make balanced decisions on transportation needs based on improving mobility and protecting the environment. On Federally-funded projects, a categorical exclusion (CE), environmental assessment (EA), environmental impact statement (EIS) or a record of decision (ROD) all need to be considered. Each one of these documents has extensive submittal, approval, and review requirements and processes.
There are over 30 regulations that must be considered for every proposed project. These regulations are meant to protect and preserve biological resources. Below is the list of the environmental regulations, policies and acts.
Regulations for Local Roads and Regulations for NEPA Policy
The difference between the two colors on this list (red = the regulations for local roads, that I investigate before starting a maintenance or roadway construction project) and (black = the NEPA policy regulations for Federally-funded highways and sub-regional projects), and includes the red regulations as well.
- Antiquities Act
- Atomic Energy Act of 1946
- Atomic Energy Act of 1954
- Clean Air Act
- Clean Water Act
- Coastal Zone Management Act
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and
- Liability Act
- Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act
- Endangered Species Act
- Energy Policy Act of 1992
- Energy Policy Act of 2005
- Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act
- Federal Land Policy and Management Act
- Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act
- Federal Power Act
- Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
- Food Quality Protection Act
- Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens)
- Lacey Act
- Marine Mammal Protection Act
- Migratory Bird Treaty Act
- Mineral Leasing Act
- National Environmental Policy Act
- National Forest Management Act
- National Historic Preservation Act
- National Park Service Organic Act
- Noise Control Act
- Nuclear Waste Policy Act
- Ocean Dumping Act
- Oil Pollution Act
- Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
- Rivers and Harbors Act
- Safe Drinking Water Act
- Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act
- Toxic Substances Control Act
- Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
- Wilderness Act
Transportation construction and maintenance projects are connected in numerous ways to environmental laws and most transportation projects must undergo environmental reviews and approval processes before construction can proceed.
Environmental Coordinators: Raising Awareness of Potential Impact
As London explained to us, she works for a county transportation department, with over 4500 miles of roads, some have been around for over 100 years. There will always be a need for roadway improvements (potholes, guardrail repairs, striping, paving, milling) just as there are always new roads, new lanes, new roadway infrastructure like bridges being built.
At MCDOT, the work is so important, that there are two Environmental Coordinator teams. One team handles the NEPA policy and Federal government projects and assists the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) on mutual highway projects. London’s team works on local county roads, with roadway maintenance/construction projects and infrastructure that needs to be repaired or replaced.
“I investigate an area by looking on the ground, in bushes and trees, for threatened and endangered species such as the Saguaro Cactus or the Yellow-billed Cuckoo Bird. Then, I work with the biologist in the Federal division, or the Arizona state biologists, etc. to remove the bird, plant, etc. and relocate it out of harm’s way.”-London Lacy, Environmental Coordinator
Environmental awareness training requires excellent communication skills, critical analysis, and problem solving. It varies in job tasks, depending on location and organization. For London, a lot of her work involves making sure any new development takes into consideration the cultural resources of an area, potential hazardous materials in the area, and the impact on native species that will be affected by further development.
What Are Environmental Impact Teams?
Environmental impact teams are just that—teams of professionals who together, ascertain the levels of risk associated with road development, construction, new infrastructure etc. Environmental awareness training requires excellent communication skills, critical analysis, and problem solving.
Commitments from local wildlife rehabilitation agencies, state wildlife biologists, native plant organizations help with relocating the animal or plant species. For someone interested in environmental justice, working outdoors, in all types of weather, and wanting to help preserve and protect animals and plants, this would be an exciting and very important career field.
For instance, think about a new development that is going to be built on a plot of land. What are the cultural resources of the area? Where are the potential hazardous materials found in the area? How much land will be disturbed for the project? What is the impact on native species of plants, or threatened and endangered animal species that might be found at the area? Now, you are thinking just like an Environmental Coordinator
Burrowing Owls: The Underground Explorers of Maricopa County
One of London’s favorite species is the Western Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea). Here’s what she has to say about them:
Western Burrowing Owl Given a Second Chance
The Western Burrowing Owl looks around the Traffic Operations Conference Room with his yellow eyes. He does not flutter his wings or appear scared. He grips the outstretched, gloved fist with his talons and perches on the arm of his handler, Laura Hackett of Liberty Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility.
The owl had been brought into their facility years ago with a head injury, but once recovered, it was determined his injury caused him to lose his balance, which prevented him from being re-released into the wild. Now, the owl is part of the team’s “educational outreach” program, a roadshow featuring such species as the Sonoran Gopher Snake, Great Horned Owl, Red Tail Hawk, and Desert Tortoise.
Fun Facts about Western Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owls are federally protected small raptors, about 8-11 inches tall, and live in openings in the ground, like abandoned gopher holes and old irrigation pipes.
The owls are found in the desert or in treeless areas with low vegetation, such as farm fields. They eat small vertebrates like lizards, birds, and mice and invertebrates such as insects and grasshoppers. Most of their feathers are light brown mottled with white spots. Burrowing Owls are migratory, wintering in Arizona and occasionally as far south as Mexico. Their lifespan is around 8.5 years.
London Lacy, a new staff member of the PC&I division, oversees the annual Environmental Awareness Training, where staff learn about the environment in which they live, wildlife habitat impacts, national laws, policies and acts, and how to recognize and report what they see regarding native plants and animals.
“Our inspectors are asking us to ’show’ what they need to look out for on projects, not just tell them,” Lacy said.
“The live animals certainly help!”
London usually works a 10-hour shift, four days a week. To give back to her community, London offers a day of service each week as a Sky Harbor “Navigator” volunteer every Friday, at the Phoenix, Sky Harbor Airport. She helps airport passengers navigate through one of the largest airports in the country, answering their questions and helping to ease their fears as they make their way to the gate, or to wait for family and friends to arrive.
“Making eye contact with people who seem confused or just have a question, meeting new people and greeting them upon their arrival to Phoenix or wishing them well as they leave to travel–it makes me happy.”-London Lacy
A big thank you to London Lacy for reaching out to the team at Acorn Naturalists, and sharing with us about the vital work she does. It makes the world a better place, knowing people like London are in it.
Do you know someone doing great work in the larger environmental field who would like to write a guest blog? We love featuring educators on our blog and sharing about the good work they do.
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