Jacob Taminosian | Florida Ecology

February 21, 2024   |   Waterfront

Jacob Taminosian joins this podcast episode to discuss Florida ecology, wetlands, and the balance between real estate development and wildlife conservation.

This episode of In Our Expert Opinion Real Estate Podcast dives into the intricate world of ecology and environmental consulting with Jacob Taminosian, a Senior Ecologist at Passarella & Associates. In discussing the balance between development and conservation, Taminosian touches on real estate permitting, wetlands classification, and habitat preservation. He also speaks to the challenges faced by endangered species like the Florida panther.

Below is an excerpt from the interview. Listen above for the full podcast.

What is an ecologist? In general, we do wetland permitting, wetland delineations, some of the listed species surveys, and permitting as well. It's an entire industry in itself. We work with engineers, planners, and surveyors. We don't provide that under the same roof, but a lot of companies do.

In Florida, a lot of these projects are increasingly prickly. In the entitlements process and beyond, environmental consulting has played an increasingly important role, particularly in Florida because of the regulations.

What is a wetland? When we think of wetlands, it's really the low spots where the water has accumulated. As a result of that, you'll have these hydrophilic vegetation species - plants that naturally are adapted for wetter environments where they may not be able to transpire the oxygen in the same way.

These are kind of naturally depressional areas that have, as a result of that vegetation, hydric soils that are characteristic of wetlands. Then there’s the hydrology, which would just be anything from the water itself to indicators of hydrology like a water line on a cypress tree.

These wetlands seasonally fluctuate in their water levels. You might walk into somewhere, and if you didn't know the vegetation, you'd say, “There's no water here, it's not a wetland.” But there are indicators to us, with soil being a big one.

What are the advantages of having wetlands? Wetlands are advantageous in general. They provide flood attenuation, they filter water that recharges the aquifer that we ultimately drink. Coastal wetlands like mangroves, especially with Hurricane Ian, would act as natural buffers to some of that surge.

Then there’s aesthetic value. Wetlands, beyond just the pragmatic or practical features, they're pretty. They host wildlife, and there's no shortage of that in Florida, in part because of the wetlands that we have.

How can you develop on wetlands? There are avenues for this. In Florida, there's the Environmental Resource Permit (ERP) program. If you listen to Robert Angus Williams’ podcast, he can get into some of the nuances, but in general, you're almost always going to need an ERP.

There are two components to that ERP: there's the environmental, which is what we do on the wetlands and listed species side, and then there's the engineering and stormwater. 

It all has to be done mindfully, and Florida has done a really good job. If you want to look it up for some light reading, chapter 62-340 of the Florida Administrative Code defines a wetland, talks about some of those tests, and gives the process for delineating them. That's sort of the foundational regulation on why we do what we do.

Where can you find Florida panthers? The Florida panther, as the name implies, is basically endemic to Florida now. This is a species that once ranged across pretty much the entire Southeastern US.

There was a lot of development that, incidentally, squeezed out some of these big ranges. You're talking about hundreds of miles for males when they're breeding. Now, they've been sort of relegated to Southwestern Florida. 

This is a species that is down to between 120 and 230, I think. It's arguably one of the rarest mammals in Florida, and it happens to be extremely prevalent in the part of the state that our company does a lot of work in.

They reproduce south of the Caloosahatchee River, but there have been instances of the panther being documented north of the river. There were females, and that's important. Since the 70s, there were only three or four instances where that was the case. That's kind of a good bellwether for maybe there's a chance for reproduction north of the river.

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