Is Your Land Buildable? What Environmental Surveys Might Tell You

If you are considering buying a tract of land for the intention of building a home or other structures on it, some states require you to have various environmental surveys. The results of these surveys may give you the go-ahead, deem your land unbuildable, or restrict what and where you can build on the land.

Tree Survey

If your land only has a few scattered trees, a tree survey may not be necessary unless the government requires it. Some trees are protected by law, such as the live oak, which is protected in many southern states including Louisiana and Florida. While having protected trees present may not restrict you from clearing the land, it may require you to replace a number of the ones you remove, or to leave a number of mature specimens.

Threatened and Endangered Species Survey

The presence of certain threatened or endangered species on your land may stop your development cold in its tracks, or you may be required to move the species to another location before development. For example, in Florida, an osprey nest in a tree prevents you from removing the tree, even if it is dead, or building within a certain circumference around the tree. Doing so may carry heavy fines and possible prison terms, especially if the bird is killed in the process. Certain water-dwelling plants and animals are also protected, which may prevent you from building a dock or even using a motorized vehicle in the waterway. While the threatened and endangered species list is different in each location, a few protected species are

  •     Endangered bats
  •     Burrowing owls
  •     Birds of prey
  •     Endangered Reptiles and amphibians
  •     Crayfish

Rare Plant Surveys

Each state has a list of rare plants that are protected under law. A rare plant survey will make sure that all flora on the property are thoroughly and sufficiently evaluated. If the plants cannot be moved, a protected area surrounding the plants will be marked off and that area will require a special permit to build around the plants, or it may stop you from building at all. For example, in Florida, there are many protected native bromeliad and orchid species which live in trees Before any tree containing those species can be removed, environmental agencies must be contacted to determine how many can be removed and what will become of the plants. There are certain orchids, such as the ghost orchid, that are so rare that they cannot be removed and the land around them cannot be disturbed.

Especially if you are building or considering buying property in an environmentally sensitive area, you must have certain environmental surveys conducted. It is always best to have these surveys done before you purchase a piece of land, to determine if your plans for it will be possible.