ESA is pleased to announce that Susan Cunningham will now oversee the entire Northwest region as Biological Resources and Land Management Business Group Director. In her new role, Susan will be managing a team of 23 employee-owners across ESA’s Seattle, Portland, and Bend offices. With a career spanning 31 years, Susan’s natural resource, land use and regulatory compliance expertise has spanned multiple market sectors including water, aviation, energy, transportation, and natural resource management.
Serving as ESA’s Business Group Director in Oregon for the past 6 years, she has managed multidisciplinary teams to deliver complex infrastructure projects in the built and natural environments. Susan is skilled in preparing National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents, Biological Assessments, Permit Application Packages, and all types of Natural Resource Assessments.
“Susan has always been a successful leader and consultant. She has a really solid understanding of our business and has a proven track record of success in leading people and developing client relationships,” says Margaret Clancy, Vice President and Northwest Regional Director. “Her new role provides a tremendous opportunity to take more complete advantage of her multi-disciplinary skills and expertise.”
Susan’s leadership has particularly focused on steering the complex land use and transportation infrastructure permitting challenges in Oregon and other jurisdictions. For example, as part of an 18-year contract with the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, Susan secured permitting and approval to stabilize two main sewer lines crossing the Willamette River while navigating an EPA Superfund site and Endangered Species Act regulations for listed salmon protection. And in Southeast Alaska, she led agency negotiations for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT-PF) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to gain approval of a new airport to service Admiralty Island. The project required an Individual Permit to allow fill of 300 acres of wetlands.
“The more complex, the better—I like to problem solve,” says Susan. “It just makes you think outside the box.”
In her new leadership role for the Pacific Northwest Region, Susan will integrate the team of fisheries and wildlife biologists, wetland scientists, conservation planners and water quality specialists throughout Oregon and Washington. She will support the team’s ongoing work in transportation and airports, conservation planning and restoration design largely focused on salmon recovery, and pursue more opportunities in the energy and water markets.
“I think that one of the things I’m most excited about with this position is the opportunity to sort of knit together the Oregon and Washington practices,” says Susan. “This is an opportunity to break down the geographic boundaries and bring staff together, offer more support and leverage each other’s skills.”
Susan has been recognized outside of ESA for her contributions to her field, including being named the Consultant of the Year in 2020 by the Oregon Airport Management Association for her work preparing an Environmental Assessment that encompassed several Capital Improvement Plan projects at the Rogue Valley-Medford International Airport. She is also an active member of the Women Transportation Seminar. Susan earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Oregon.