December Farm News Member Profile Environmental Resource Solutions, Inc.

Written By: Brytann Busick
Published: December 2, 2020

Environmental Resource Solutions, Inc. is the largest forestry consulting firm in the southern redwood region and the newest Sonoma County Farm Bureau member. For local landowners who grapple with the impacts of persistent wildfires and seek to improve their land management, ERS is here to help. The company, headquartered in Sebastopol, works with clients including small private landowners, large industrial landholders, non-profit organizations, state and federal agencies on lands throughout the western United States to manage their forest land and natural resources. Their professional staff brings over 60 years of combined experience to the crucial work that they do.

The company was incorporated on December 2, 2002, as a CA-registered Small Business, from the former Forestry Division of Hammon, Jensen, Wallen & Associates, Inc., a leading western U.S. natural resources consulting firm established in 1949. Since 2003, ERS has also been actively involved in southern California, assisting regional electrical service utilities including Southern California Edison Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric and the County of San Diego to implement fuel hazard reduction and other fire-safe activities.

Today, their staff consists of 3 full-time California Registered Professional Foresters (RPFs), one part-time RPF, 2 forestry technicians, and one contract administrator and office manager. Bonnie Burchill (RPF #2590) is the President of ERS and one of the founders of the company. She oversees ERS’s operations out of the office in San Diego. Mitch Haydon (RPF #2810) is Vice President and has been with ERS since the company’s founding. He oversees the operations out of our Sebastopol office. Tim Moreno (RPF #3084) is a staff forester and has been with ERS since 2016, starting as a forestry technician.

John Williams (RPF #1677) is now semi-retired, but was a founder of ERS along with Bonnie, and guided the company as President for many years. He now helps with ERS projects as-needed and as his time allows. Ben Sapers and Clare Lacy are forestry technicians and are relatively new to ERS and forestry work, but Moreno said that they are learning quickly and enthusiastically.

Kelli Mathia is the CFO of ERS and handles contract administration, payroll, and HR, and manages the office.

Mathia said that she is excited that ERS is Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s newest member and wishes that they’d joined even sooner.

“We are pleased to be a part of actively managing our lands here in Sonoma County,” Mathia said. “ERS joined the Farm Bureau to support local agriculture, participate in change, increase knowledge, and improve land stewardship.”

She added that RPFs like Tim Moreno are land stewards–very similar to farmers.

“RPFs must advise and educate clients about environmentally and economically sound management options for their properties,” Moreno said. “We must take into consideration the impacts on and off each property when formulating and executing plans for forestry operations.”

He explained that a forester is a natural resources professional responsible for the stewardship of forest resources. California Registered Professional Foresters (RPFs) are licensed by the state to perform professional forestry services on private and state-owned land.

“To become a RPF you must complete the equivalent of 7 years of work experience under the supervision of another RPF and successfully pass a comprehensive written exam that takes upwards of 7 hours to complete,” Moreno said. “The field of forestry is multidisciplinary and requires knowledge of forest ecology, geology, hydrology, botany, wildlife biology, economics, wildfire management, forest road design, and timber harvesting techniques, to name a few.”

RPFs use their well-rounded education and experience to maintain the sustainability of forest resources like timber, forage, wildlife, water, and outdoor recreation to meet the needs of the people while protecting the biological integrity and quality of the forest environment. Under current law in California, if trees are to be harvested for commercial purposes a RPF must prepare and submit a harvest permit for review and approval by state agencies.

Moreno said that he is proud to have earned his RPF license because it signifies the time and effort that he put into becoming a well-rounded, knowledgeable natural resources professional.

“Clients can rely on me and our team for sound advice and guidance when managing their land,” Moreno said. “Some of the smartest and most pragmatic people I have met were foresters and it’s cool to get to count myself amongst the ranks of RPFs now.”

Mathia explained that because ERS operates primarily in Sonoma County where industrial forest management is less prevalent than in the other north coast counties, they have had to expand their services to specialize in other kinds of forestry projects beyond just timber harvest plans and into timber appraisals, timberland conversion permits, arborist services, and erosion control among other things.

That’s why Moreno said that no two days are the same at ERS and that every project they take on is different.

“Management goals and objectives vary from landowner to landowner, and everyone’s needs are a little different,” Moreno said. “It’s challenging and exciting work.”

Overall, he said the ERS team strives to see each project and the desired outcomes through the eyes of our clients and tailor their services accordingly.

“We have such a diversity in the projects we take on and clients we work with,” Moreno said. “My favorite part of the job is definitely the opportunity to meet new landowners all the time and establish relationships with people all across the county and northern California during the many projects we work on.”

Since 2014, their firm has provided grant program management services for the San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), Sunrise Powerlink Fire Mitigation Program with a current contract extending through 2025.

“Our diversity of services and professional capabilities enables ERS to be a full-service forestry consulting firm,” Moreno said.

Their disciplines and competencies include a wide range of forestry and land management expertise including Forest Management Plans, Timber Harvest Plans and Nonindustrial Timber Management Plans (THPs & NTMPs), Timber Conversion Permits & Less than 3 Acre Conversion Exemptions, Emergency Notice & Exemption Permit, Fuel Reduction and Vegetation Management, and Forest Fire Damage Valuations and Loss Assessments. Moreno said that they also do a lot of work with erosion and sediment control, reforestation, GIS and resource mapping, and forest carbon analysis and modeling.

“We provide timber valuation appraisals for land purchases, estate purposes, and conservation easements,” Moreno said. “Traditional timber sale management is only a fraction of our business.”

Mathia said that ERS distinguishes itself from its regional competitors by the sophistication of its technical capabilities and the diversity of services provided.

Since the 2017 fires in Northern California, salvage timber operations have increased significantly and ERS is actively helping our community recover and restore their forestlands.  Their team has also worked on fire mitigation and restoration valuations in Texas, New Mexico, Idaho, and Washington.

Mathia said that the future of ERS will include an increased focus on post-fire operations.

“We will continue working with fire victims to evaluate their burnt forestland for possible salvage operations, cleanup, planting, erosion control, restoration, and fuel reduction activities,” Mathia said. “It will be important to implement erosion control measures to get through the 2020 rainy season.”

Moreno said that the recent wildfires have increased the demand for the Registered Professional Foresters on staff to implement Emergency Notices.

“Our phones have been ringing non-stop since the fires settled down with landowners calling, wanting to know what their options are for cleaning up dead trees and possibly selling the logs,” Moreno said. “We are currently shifting much of our efforts to helping those people out.”

Mathia said that it is always challenging to adapt to the ever-fluctuating local log markets and trying to provide landowners with solid economic projections for projects that often have multi-year planning horizons.

However, Moreno said that the ERS team certainly shares one thing in common.

“We enjoy working outdoors and assisting landowners in stewarding their forests,” he said.

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