Environmental Science Associates (ESA) is continuing to expand our service offerings for clients in need of mitigation solutions for their projects. Since 1969, ESA has provided permitting and implementation services that meet the necessary regulatory requirements.

Permits may require applicants to provide compensatory mitigation to offset project impacts to natural resources. This compensatory mitigation may include, but is not limited to, purchase of mitigation/conservation bank credits, payment into an In-Lieu Fee (ILF), Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), Mitigation Credit Agreement (MCA) under an approved Regional Conservation Investment Strategy (RCIS); or development of a project-specific turnkey or permittee-responsible mitigation (PRM) solution. ESA is focused on providing cost-effective mitigation solutions for our clients that best meet their immediate needs as well as considering potential future needs.

“ESA recognizes the need and opportunity to bring experts on board that specialize in customized, project-specific compensatory mitigation solutions,” explains Erich Fischer, ESA’s national Biological Resources and Land Management Practice Leader. “With the addition of Melissa Denena and Katie Dudney, we have reinforced our experienced regulatory permitting team with a more in-depth, companywide understanding of mitigation planning and strategy.”

Melissa Denena joins ESA as a Senior Principal Ecologist, with more than 20 years of experience wearing many different hats within the realm of the environmental consulting and operating field. In recent years, she has been solely focused on mitigation/conservation banking and turnkey or PRM solutions, most recently with Resource Environmental Solutions—a national ecological restoration operating company. Melissa brings a unique understanding of the entire life of a mitigation project, including the real estate side of the equation, which means she can review a project’s mitigation needs and consult on the right location or avenue the client should take.

“It’s about creating tailored solutions specific to each project,” Melissa clarifies. “For large-scale projects, our clients may have to purchase credits from multiple mitigation or conservation banks and still need to do more—and by then this approach could get expensive. In these cases, many times, a more economical approach involves securing ideal land for conservation where all the target resources occur, allowing the mitigation solution to address multiple habitats and species at a single location.”

One thing is certain when it comes to this line of work—determining the right location for mitigation-related restoration is important. “What I’m really interested in is landscape-level conservation planning and how to create a landscape that supports climate resiliency, species recovery, and overall ecosystem health and function,” explains Katie Dudney, who joins the firm as Principal Restoration Ecologist and Deputy Director for the Bay Area Biological Resources and Land Management team. “When you locate sites appropriately, they are more likely to have the species and the habitats that you are aiming to conserve, meaning projects meet the regulatory requirements and they will better fit into the larger regional conservation strategy.”

With more than 14 years of experience in restoration ecology, Katie applies experience gained from work with agencies such as the East Bay Regional Park District, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and Caltrans to develop advanced mitigation solutions that incorporate environmental impacts from multiple projects into one comprehensive plan.

As part of the Northern California team, Melissa and Katie bring complementary expertise in regard to mitigation approaches, as well as operational and business-savvy experience that will support the busy and growing group of biologists with Jill Sunahara at the helm as the group’s director. “We have a large, robust, and capable team here serving all of Northern California for a wide variety of project types,” says Sunahara. “Bringing Melissa and Katie into the fold furthers the team’s vision of being able to provide comprehensive services for regulatory permitting and compliance efforts for our clients.”