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Women Owned Businesses Tackling Environmental Issues

Recent reports proclaim that the dome, which will house the Discovery Channel Telescope 40 miles southeast of Flagstaff on the National Forest Service (NFS) lands, is 99 percent done. It will be the fifth largest telescope in the continental United States once completed.

But not much is said of the environmental impact that such a large facility has on public lands. One reason for the lack of controversy is the meticulous environmental assessment done by woman-owned EnviroSystems Management (ESM). “We did public scoping inviting public input. Besides NFS concerns, alternative sites were analyzed, Mexican spotted owl critical habitats were studied and we looked at visual impacts,” said Stephanie Treptow, founder of the Flagstaff firm.

ESM completed environmental compliance and biological and cultural resource studies for NFS after four years of site analysis. Geothermal considerations, prevailing weather patterns and the darkness quotient were studied.

Treptow created her company in 1998 after the firm for which she was working moved its headquarters to Phoenix. “I had no desire to relocate and decided this is what I like and this is what I am best at doing,” she said.

Treptow finds an economic advantage to being a woman-owned business. “Governments and municipalities have require- ments for granting contracts to minority- owned or woman-owned businesses. Being a small business also gives you a small edge [in the government contract bidding process].”

“Over the years, we’re seeing more and more women-owned businesses. Women-owned businesses seem to factor in that people have kids and take a family approach. That’s what we do here at EnviroSystems.” The entrepreneur has two school-aged daughters and admits that having children helped push her into crafting her own company. “I didn’t want to move them to the city. I very much wanted to raise them in Flagstaff.”

Flagstaff native Stephanie Yard would probably agree. Yard is a licensed civil engineer and owns Natural Channel Design, Inc. The staff of nine does natural resource planning and river engineering. “It’s a specialty niche we’ve carved,” said Yard. “In Arizona, it seems like we don’t have many rivers, but the ones we’ve got have been hammered over the years.”

Even as a Flagstaff schoolgirl, Yard was “enamored with natural resources. My fa- ther was a physician, but we had a ranch.” Dr. George Yard, a general practitioner, moved his family to Flagstaff in the 1960s. They ranched public land south of Munds Park. Yard spent her youth chasing cows, camping and skiing in places with names like Rattlesnake Canyon.

In the 1970s, Flagstaff Junior High School teacher Jim David brought Yard and fellow classmates to the city pond. “He got kids involved with cleaning up the area and making it their own.” Designing the pond and island as a youngster was a pre- view to what would later become Yard’s life’s career.

Today you can go to Natural Channel Design’s office and view an aerial photo of Tuzigoot National Monument in Cot- tonwood where the firm is restoring “an old pinched-off oxbow.” Closer to home is the Picture Canyon Meander Restoration project. A collaborative effort with the City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, EMS and Audubon Society, they are cleaning up the Rio de Flag past the Flagstaff Mall where the Wildcat Hill Wastewater Treatment Plant discharges treated effluence.

“In the 1980s, the waste treatment facilities straightened and dredged the natural flow. Now the City of Flagstaff wants to reconnect the meanders to enhance the area.” In an earlier project with the city, Yates returned to the pond of her youth. “We helped them oversee increasing the pond’s capacity. It was great to be back almost 30 years later,” said Yard, whose own son is now in high school. The Francis Short Pond restoration was part of a storm water management project.

Last month, the Quivira Coalition awarded Yard and her late husband, Tom Moody, the “2009 Outstanding Leadership in Radical Center Award in Research.”

Why are there so many women heading up environmental businesses in Northern Arizona?  Yates suggests, "maybe we're more sensitive to healing the planet. We’ve got the nurturing part, and a love of the environment.”

A love of Flagstaff’s environment is one reason Nancy Riccio moved her business to Northern Arizona. After attending Northern Arizona University in the 1980s, she spent 14 years in the field of groundwater and environmental consulting as both a writer/editor and a hydro geologist. The owner of Plateau Mediaworks had her epiphany sitting in a traffic jam on a rainy Seattle freeway. “Riccio, will you be on your deathbed wishing you had moved back to Flagstaff, or are you going to do it?” She finally made the move in 2002. “Before that, we really didn’t have the technology to enable us to work from anywhere.”

Communicating About Environmental Issues.


Riccio is passionate about writing and it shows in the websites she creates for those in environmental fields.  Plateau Mediaworks works with clients such as the Grand Canyon Trust, Pacific Groundwater Group and Western Landscapes Conservation. “It really helps having a science background,” said the professional writer.

“There is a certain amount of maturity needed to be a good writer. It’s not about  you; it’s about your client. I’m a mechanic. I’m a craftsman. I look at writing from the way people process information. At the university, you are lucky if you have one technical writing class [in the sciences]. Scientists are thrown into work where they have to communicate through writing. Much of the time, they are just not trained for it,” Riccio said.

“The reader spends a lot, they want to read the material and actually be able to understand it. I see myself as an advocate for the reader. On the web, I advocate for the user.”

Joy Staveley, chief operating officer of Canyoneers, Inc., sees herself as an advocate as well. “The very nature of our business is environmentally-related because we act as caretakers of and educators about the Grand Canyon,” she said.

“Many people come to the Grand Canyon from a very different environment, and they are not aware of their own environ- mental impact. We take our role as educator very seriously when we are down in the canyon. Our guests return home with a new understanding and then become more environmentally aware in their own backyards.”

Canyoneers, Inc. was the first commercial river company to carry human waste out of the Grand Canyon before the gov- ernment required them to do so. “We’re an example of how environmental consciousness can work for a small business, while at the same time, we practice what we preach,” said the Flagstaff businesswoman.

Rhonda Brose, CEO of Four Corners Environmental, Inc., remembers the delight of handling moon rocks. “We worked with the USGS on various projects, but our project with Gene Shoemaker’s collection was most exciting,” she recalled.  Gene Shoemaker, a longtime resident of Flagstaff, did groundbreaking work with NASA and the Moon. Shoemaker personally helped train Apollo astronauts and sat beside Walter Cronkite giving geologic commentary during the Moonwalks.

Environmental Hazard: Hantavirus

“After he died, the Smithsonian Institution notified the USGS that they would like the moon rocks that were part of his collection. Gene’s collection was housed in a storage unit, and the roof had fallen in. When the USGS looked inside, there were mouse droppings everywhere: Hantavirus.” Four Corners, known for its contaminant remediation work, was called in. “We had to make sure that scientists handling the moon rock were not exposed to Han- tavirus. At the same time, there could be no alteration of the chemical nature of the rocks to in any way compromise future scientific investigation. We used ionized water, UV radiation and other things [to remove the virus]. I got to handle moon rocks, and what a thrill!”

Four Corners’ typical work is with soil and ground water contamination and remediation. They established the proper protocol for asbestos abatement at the Flagstaff Unified School District. “We do operate in the four-corners area, but the business name symbolizes our four sons that are the four corners of our lives,” explained Brose, the mother of an older boy and a set of triplets. “We were sent all over by our previous employers. By having our own business, we were able to watch our sons grow up.”

Local businesswoman Addresses Third World Environmental Issues

Jane Ginn, Sedona Cyber Link’s managing director, brings years of environmental policy-making experience to her consultancy. She holds a master’s degree in Environ- mental Science and Regional Planning and served on The Environmental Technologies Trade Advisory Committee (Trade in Environmental Services & Products) and The Environmental Export Council (U.S. Public Policy on Environmental Exports).

“The environmental discipline is systemic – it looks at problems from a systems perspective – and allows thinking to evolve. I now recognize that environmental issues that exist in the Third World are part of the poverty issue. Once you address poverty issues, then you can work on pollution and other environmental issues,” she said.

Ginn stresses that poverty is tied in with resource conservation and use. “This was first articulated by delegates in the early 1990s. We were bringing officials to the United States who were involved with environmental management in their own countries,” said Ginn, who was then de- signing training for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“When I listened to those who were on the ground trying to deal with environ- mental issues, poverty was dominant on their peoples’ minds.” Sedona Cyber Link bridges the gap by providing consulting on international business, trade and sustainability issues.

Ginn lived in Seattle, a robust interna- tional trade community, for 17 years. “We decided that it doesn’t really matter where you live,” with communications tools provided by the internet and traveling to clients’ sites. Ginn and her husband chose Sedona and bought property here in 2001.

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