In the 1970s, when the nation began to realize the importance of wetlands, Dr. Michael Josselyn found that wetland restoration was a niche that needed to be filled. While at San Francisco State University, Mike recognized that restoring wetlands on the West Coast needed (1) study to discover the best methods for restoration and (2) implementation to both test those methods as well as to begin the all-too-important effort of increasing wetland habitat in California. Mike wrote grant proposals and obtained funding to research wetland restoration, and with the help of an evolving ragtag group of graduate students, knowledge began flowing in about mud, marsh plants, and wildlife.
It was the Clean Water Act of 1972 and later amendments that prompted the need for private and government developers to obtain permits for working in wetlands and to mitigate for impacts to wetlands. Mike was in a unique position to offer help with both. In 1981, he founded Wetlands Research Associates to provide permitting and restoration services needed by the public as a result of the Clean Water Act. The process of determining how to define and regulate wetlands was in flux throughout the 1980s and 1990s as regulatory policies were tweaked and laws were adjusted, and Mike and the company were involved throughout the process by representing clients in landmark court cases, writing technical papers and books on wetland restoration, and participating on panels at conferences and seminars.
As the practice of wetland creation and restoration evolved, it became clear that moving dirt, breaching levees, and planting plants was not enough. Wildlife – particularly endangered species – became an important issue, and as a result, a wildlife biologist was added to the company. At first, the issues were mostly about birds such as clapper rails and yellowthroats, but as time went on, other groups of wildlife came into the picture and the staff of one wildlife biologist grew into an entire Wildlife Department.
By the late 1990s, creating and restoring wetland and upland habitats was becoming less experimental and more conventional, but was still a specialty practice. The company realized that there was a need for people with restoration and landscaping skills to develop detailed restoration plans, first on paper, and then properly implemented them in the field. In 1999, the Landscape Department was born. Today our staff of landscape architects and designers routinely create and restore natural habitats using techniques we have learned over the years.
Since the late 1990s, the company has expanded into many exciting areas. As services were added, it became clear that the name Wetlands Research Associates did not fully capture the breadth of our disciplines. In 2005, we changed our name to WRA, Inc. to better reflect our ever expanding scope of services. New offices were opened in Mendocino County and Los Angeles to expand our geographic reach and to better serve our existing clientele in those regions. In 2011, the company began offering full environmental review services, including California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis, with capabilities to complete Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declarations as well as Environmental Impact Reports and other NEPA documents. Mitigation and conservation banking represents our next frontier, and the company has developed a team of mitigation banking specialists that has allowed us to become a leader in this emerging market. True to our past, we continue to add a diverse set of people and skills to our company to meet the demands of a changing marketplace and expanding clientele.
WRA is on the move and the future is looking as bright as the storied past.