Are environmental impact statements imperfect

Chris J. Durden drdn at
Mon May 8 23:41:19 EDT 2000

I agree that most EIS contractors are dedicated, very hardworking, sincere
  The first problem is that they are expected to be experienced universal
biologists/naturalists, when this is a specialty not adequately taught in
our universities for nearly a half century - it is old fashioned science.
  The second problem is that they are expected to survey and sample
conditions of the moment, and compare their findings with the normal
condition - when there has been no base-line survey conducted to establish
what "normal" was!
  The third problem is that when they turn to experts in a particular group
(if they can be found) they often find that they are themselves the expert,
because no-one else has studied the organisms of interest anywhere near the
region of interest.
   EIS seems premature in those regions of the world that are still being
described. If half the money thrown at EIS were redirected to biological
survey we would start to obtain some realistic figures of true biotic
diversity and begin to have some real figures on actual extinction rates. 
   These remarks do not apply in general to work on birds, mammals,
reptiles, amphibians and fish in Greater Europe and parts of North America.
Apart from Britain, there is little known about butterfly distribution and
ecology, because the baseline biogeographic description has just not yet
been done.
   In my local region (Balconian Canyonlands of Texas) most EIS work is
nebulously non biologic computer assessment of habitats predicted from
skeleton databases or it is primary biological survey which uncovers new
species (even vertebrates in need of description and listing). To think of
this work as adequate EIS, suitable for development and policy
decision-making is a travesty. 
   The bottom line is - applied science (EIS) cannot be done until basic
science (descriptive survey) has been done.
.......Chris Durden
At 12:13  9/05/00 GMT, you wrote:
>This is kind of like asking if reality is real.  Depends eh
>As someone who DID a lot of impact assessments (mainly vertebrate) in my
>time - and as concientiously as I could - I can say this.  It IS possible
>for a contractor to obtain much of the knowledge he/she needs to work on a
>specific project (i.e. I would have contacted whoever I could find who was
>considered an expert on a particular issue or organism and asked for their
>input - read everything about the organism in question I could locate - and
>put together a plan that addressed the concerns to be investigated. 
>HOWEVER, I don't think it is very possible to not be somewhat biased
>towards the view of whoever is funding the project.  There are, after all,
>many ways to look at and interpret data - especially when one is working
>under time, funding and other constraints.  At best I think the limitations
>of a particular study can be pointed out in the report. I think many
>consultants do the best they can - otherwise they would soon lose any
>I am sure all this varies greatly with jurisdiction and other factors. 
>Bottom line is I am no longer doing that work.  Got tired of being the last
>one out before the bulldozers pulled in.   

More information about the Leps-l mailing list