Miami Herald July 7, 1986
DE VELOPMEH4I -
I A young industrysmust balance
growth with concern abouf .
Floridas fragile natural areas
*~r .. '' : *-. > i '.*
By GAIL DeGEORGE
rIc raid BudinM Wrier
rI. OSEATE spoon-,
I [8mn bills, ospreys and
S| I :sanook inhabit a
i .-North Dade man-
Smade lake and mangrove
stand ringed by high-rise
towers. Drawn by the '35-,
Sacre lake and. 15 acres of
recently planted mangroves,
i the creatures are considered
t:early signs .of success in a
development 'trade-off that.
swapped new wetlands for af'
mature mangrove swamp."
It took four years, eight .
agencies and thousands' of
Dollars in legal and consult- ;
Sing fees, but the Donn Acres
project, once at an unpasse
,with environmental .regula-,
Stors, now holds development
potential, while retaining,
some ecological promise.
"There's no way that it
could have gotten 'the per-
Smits without an environ-
mental consultant who was
Sable to work out a plan that
was acceptable to all the
agencies," says David Ett-
,jnan, Aa biol9ist.who heads
... "tI J
Sthe if an et an s
t section of the Dade County
Department of Environmen-..
ital "Management. *It's an -
without the reguationi, e
do'nt exist, and without dle-
velopment, there's no need.
for environmental i profes-
4ionals.7" I 4
Ths young hidustry ial-
: ancq the pressures of con-
Stinued growth with concerns
About Florida's fragile envi-
1 consultants forge compro-
mises n the battle over the
state's future that usually pits developers
against conservationist. .
:That role has become Increasingly.impor-
tant as. the battlerounds move. from
urbanized regons of Florida to' sensitive
developers hope environmental consult-
ant will aid in the complicated tak of
obtaining permits and a cstly lawsuits.
And their services will be sought by a small
but growing number of developers who
recognize the market potential of a'
project with a "natural" environment.
Still, environmental professionals must
often soothe the anger of developers
frustrated by the regulatory process, while
weathering scorn from some conservation-0
ists who consider them traitors. The
legitimate consultants must maintain their
credibility In an Industry with its share of
"biostitutes" who falsify data and create
distrust among conservationists, and charla-
tans who string clients along with promises
of the !mposible. .. .....
The term "environmental professional"
could Include everyone from engineers who
design pollution control devices to attorneys
who specialize in environmental law. But
the designation is generally applied to
scientists, usually with backgrounds nl
biology or enviromenta fields, wo act as
middlemen between development interests
and regulatory agencies.
An estimated 30 to 50 firms In Florida
specialize In environmental work. They
ompte with engineering firms that have
o-staff logist and with academicians
who have part-time consulting services.
Environmental firms survey land and
waterways slated for development, scout-
ing for threatened or endangered species of
plants and animals. They monitor the effect
of warm water discharges from power
plants. They aid local governments in
designing ordinances to protect dunes and
sea turtles. They help plan projects, restore
beaches, dig lakes, plant mangroves and run
Interference with a myriad of environmen-
tal regulations, pulling permits from a host
Many of the firms began 10 to 15 years
ago as environmental causes gathered force
and regulations began to restrict rampant
development and ecological abuses. Some
left government agencies for more lucrative
private work. Somwere frustrated conser-
.vationists who found the adversarial role of
environmental organizations left little room
for constructive change.
Robin Lewis, founder of Mangrove
Systems In Tampa, started as self-de-
scribed "eco-freak," fighting against a
number of projects in the Tampa Bay area.
A biologist by training, he found himself
giving advice to developers who were using
consultants from New York and California
with little knowledge of Florida's special
"I recognized that there was going to be
development In Florida," Lewis says "I'd
lived in the state all my life and watched It
Change, an ought someone should do it
right, became there were a lot of people
doing it wrong." *-
The decision to go into consulting II
years ago cost him friends in the conserva-
tion movement and expulsion from some
environmental organizations. But Lewis.
doesn'tregret his choice.
"I still receive flak from the conservatioo
community, but I believe I have done more
to preserve the State of Florida than 20
conservationists put together," he says.
Lewis and other environmental profes-
sionals contend they are ecological ress
"We know we can't stop development,
so we'd rather see developments that are
ecologcally compatible," says Joe Glio,
president of Wetlands Management, an
environmental consulting firm based In
Moreover, environmental consultants can
save developers time and money in obtain-
ng the necessary permits, they say.
"I sell services to a client that, based on
whatever they pay me, I can save them
tenfold" Lewis says. "If I save 30 days on a
permit, that's 30 days less interest on a
Dieter T" ann, an accountant who
represents German investor-owner of
Donn Acres, agrees. He credits Mangrove
Systems for building the lake, planting the
mangroves and convincing regulatory agen-
cies that the project could work.
Without a consultant, "it would have ;
been more difficult to satisfy requirements
and interpret rules," he says. "You need '
someone who will see various alternatives i
to keep all the parties happy, and the
expertise to bring the plan into reality."
Even conservationists contend that envi-
ronmental professionals play an important
role In obtaining government permits.
"Environmental consultants have. be-
come more prevalent because the develop-
ment community has learned that it's better
to clear hurdles before the permit process
than after," says Leah Schad. chairman of
Sthe Florida Audubon Society. "As-we try to
strike a balance between what's left and
what's developed, there will always be
arguments on both sides. But I'd much
rather work up front with a developer than
fight later, it makes for a better relationship
aU the way around."
But of concern to regulators, conserva-
tlonists and the environmental professionals
themselves is the lack. of certification
governing the Industry.
"There's such a broad mixturqf
Individuals engaging In this pseudo-pi J
sion that basically, anyone who wants to
hang out shingle can," complains Charles
Lee. vice president of conservation of the
Florida Audubon Society. I
A group of environmental professionals
hope to address that Issue by trying to
establish a state chapter of the National
Association of Environmental Professionals.
That organization, founded in 1975, has
900 members and a certification process
S. that considers both education and experl-
ence. Although the group has disciplinary
"" and expulsion provisions In Its bylaws, it
Sas never suspended a member, according
to president Norman Arnold, a Virginia
S / noise abatement specialist.
In the Industry, abuses are twofold.
'r' T Conservationists and regulators complain
about those who falsify data or conduct
i Incomplete studies.
* ft ftt
.. 'I I
'" X X 'r
Environ'tal Protection Agency
Oversees antipollution legislation,
Including air, water and noise
Army Corps of Engineers
Oversees permits for some
wetlands; coordinates with state
Department in wetlands
protection and permits.
Through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service, oversees Endangered
Species Act. Through the Bureau
of Land Management, Issues
mining permits (to the phosphate
industry, for example).
Environ'tal Resources Dept
Oversees protection of physical
environment, land and waterways,
under several divisions. Including
five Water Management Districts,
the Division of Environmental
Permitting and the Division of
Natural Resources Dept
Oversees protection of plants and
Game & Fresh Water Fish
Oversees protection of
endangered and threatened
species of animals and fish.
Community Affairs Dept
Oversees approval process for
Development of Regional Impact
Review, required for large
projects. Operates as the
reporting agency for 11 Regional
City & County depts.
Oversee local ordinances
governing planning, zoning and
~ -C.. II
nOeERT OUYrO I Mami H.eral SMt
Steven Lumbert, the Florida East Coast manager of Tampa-based Mangrove
Systems, checks out the area around Donn Acres, where the consulting firm
convinced the developer to build a lake and plant mangroves
"You wouldn't believe some of the
garbage Ive seen," says Herb Zebuth,
environmental coordinator for the South
Florida District of the Department of
Zebuth cites one permit application In
which an engineer filling the role of an
environmental consultant assured the de-
partment that "'since development already
as occurred on an adjacent site, all plants
and animals have migrated off-site. Obvi-
ously, he didn't know what he was saying,"
Environmental professionals concede
abuses exist. They complain that not only is
the industry's credibility weakened, but
that the charlatans rob legitimate firms of
.They also complain about environmental
consultants, who out of ignorance or Intent,
misrepresent the difficulty of obtaining
permits or string developers along knowing
that a project will never get approval.
"This business Is so new, it's not like
Engineering or the legal profession," Lewis
says. "Any developer will tell you they can
tell a good or bad attorney, or a good or bad
engineer. But when it comes to environmen-
tal consultants, they don't know good from
bad, because the bad ones say things that
"For us, it's not a question of how to
sweep something under the table," says Jim
'Hudgens, president of CZR Inc., a consult-
ing company with 19 employees and offices
in North Carolina, Jacksonville and Jupiter.
"You can't get caught but once and your
credibility is gone, and credibility Is all we
have to sell."
Says Steve Dial, as environmental spe-
cialist with Continental Shelf Associates, a
consulting firm based n Jupiter. "Evaluat-
Ing environmental impact and dealing with
agencies I the most important aspect of a
project -- it's not engineering that deter-
mines if you're going to get a permit, it's
the environmental impact. .