What is Natural Resources Management?
Natural resources management refers to the ways in which people manage or use natural resources available to them as they rely on them for survival and development. Natural resources include water, air, land, minerals, forests, animals/livestock, fisheries, and wild flora and fauna. Managing these resources sustainably means using them as efficiently as possible to limit waste.
This sustainable use of natural resources includes actively monitoring the actions of people, and the current and/or long-term impact of those actions on the environment. Natural resources management recognizes that the health and productivity of our landscapes are vital to people and their livelihoods—thus our actions as stewards in maintaining this are critical.
Natural Resources Management in Environmental Planning
In the context of environmental planning, natural resources management considers the protection of environmental resources with community goals on the regional and local level. Proposed projects are looked at through a holistic perspective including their environmental, social, and economic impacts on the surrounding area. As natural resources management focuses on protecting our environmental resources, these resources need to be considered when developing a proposition for a new project site to mitigate the impact as much as possible.
Natural resources management can help secure faster and more cost-effective project approvals. The installation, long-term monitoring, and overall compliance of habitat mitigation and monitoring plans for pre- and post-construction plan elements may include: biological surveys and assessments; Clean Water Act compliance; construction monitoring and reporting; Endangered Species Act compliance; endangered species surveys; habitat characterizations, mapping, and impact analyses; habitat conservation plans; mitigation and restoration plans; mitigation monitoring and reporting; multi-species habitat conservation plans; pre-construction surveys; regulatory permitting; resource management plans; sensitive species investigations; special-status species surveys; wetlands delineations and permitting.
Generally, the environmental planning services under natural resources management can be broken down into the following:
Regulatory permitting with the Us Army Corps, State and Regional Water Quality Control Boards, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Standalone biological studies and plans in support of CEQA/NEPA and/or regulatory permitting (Biological Resource Assessments, Mitigation Plans, Due Diligence Analyses, Jurisdictional Delineations of Aquatic Resources, and others)
CEQA and Natural Resource Management
In California, any project that is not exempt from the California Environmental Act (CEQA) is required to meet a set of guidelines before attaining permits to start a project. In efforts with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), the California Natural Resources Agency developed the CEQA Guidelines, administrative regulations interpreting the CEQA statute and published court decisions. Any ecosystem being proposed as a possible site for a project is evaluated through the anticipated effects of a project that can be deemed viable or in need of a modification in plans.
In pursuing CEQA compliance, using regulatory standards as significance thresholds is required through these guidelines. CEQA requires public agencies to evaluate and, if feasible, avoid or mitigate potentially significant environmental impacts from public projects that they undertake or private projects for which they grant permits, leases, funds, and other approvals. Significant thresholds are the standards which lead agencies that are conducting CEQA review use to determine whether or not impacts of a project are “significant” and must be mitigated.
Natural Resources Management Factors
Natural resources management takes into account:
Policy. Heavy reliance and abuse of natural resources turns into an insurmountable issue without policy and enforcement. It necessitates the creation of regulations and policies such as CEQA, Clean Air Act, Wildlife Conservation Act, and many others to create mandatory frameworks and guidelines.
Sustainable use of natural resources. Sustainable use benefits the quality of life for present and future generations.
Remediation of degraded resources. Policy, such as completely halting certain activities (e.g., shutting down a coal mine to stop water pollution, or creating fish reserves where catching fish is illegal), or switching partially to solar, wind, or other sources of clean energy that have a reduced carbon footprint are ways of replenishing depleted resources.
Current Challenges With Natural Resources Management
Natural Resources management is engulfed by many complexities. In some cases, especially in developing countries that use industrial manufacturing to increase their presence in the global market, there may not be enforceable policy in place or there may be a lack of action with an enforceable policy. Further, some business practices are affected more than others when new policies are created, particularly such practices as coal mining and extraction of nonrenewable resources that easily contaminate water, air, and soil. Such businesses may not be inclined to change their business model proactively and implement a sustainable model if they do not believe it makes fiscal sense.
Do you want to learn more about Natural Resources Management? Contact FCS for more information and to speak to one of our consultants.