Many of Borrego’s planned solar developments require Phase I habitat assessments for the federally-listed Northern Long-Eared Bat (NLEB) and Indiana Bat because the potential projects involve tree clearing within the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s NLEB buffer zone. GZA’s Ecological Services group was retained to conduct numerous Phase I assessments and provide reports required for permitting.
To date, GZA has conducted over 50 NLEB and Indiana Bat assessments and reports under Section 7 of the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) which stipulates that these due diligence assessments and surveys require the determination of the presence of any known hibernacula or maternity roost trees on or near the properties involved. The sites, ranging from 30 to more than 150 acres, have varied from completely forested areas to re-use of existing gravel pits, farm fields and cranberry bogs. The habitat assessments included walking all areas of the proposed cutting as well as the immediately adjacent areas. A natural community map of all habitats found was then created based upon field observations. Each natural community unit was assessed for its potential to support NLEB summer roosting and foraging activities. Within each natural community unit, dominant and common vegetation assemblages were identified by stratum. Within the tree stratum, average diameter at breast height (dbh), canopy cover, and species composition were assessed. Particular attention was paid to standing dead trees, high snag density, clutter density, or other trees that might provide roosting locations. Standing dead trees were assessed relative to their size, size relative to other trees, location, distribution and degree of decay. Notes on structural diversity and complexity of each natural community unit as well as other habitat features associated with NLEB (corridors, water sources, clutter) were made to better inform the bat habitat assessments.
GZA’s natural resources experts, well-versed in the latest regulatory requirements and keenly familiar with the geographic region, conducted the surveys and assessments required to successfully move the solar development projects forward.