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R.A. Smith National, Inc. Knowledge Blog

A Quest for State Endangered/Federally Threatened Orchid Species

by Tina Myers 12. July 2013 05:59

My co-worker and fellow ecologist, Heather Patti, and I participated in a unique opportunity this past week when we assisted the WI Department of Natural Resources in a survey of the State Endangered/Federally Threatened Prairie White Fringed Orchid (Platanthera leucophaea).  This extremely rare plant is primarily found in moist, undisturbed, deep-soiled and/or calcareous prairies and is less commonly seen in tamarack fens.  Since these ecosystems are also quite rare, the survival of this beautiful wildflower is dependent upon the preservation and management of the few remaining areas that harbor them.  These unique ecosystems are under constant threat of invasive species such as glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) which can easily overtake a prairie in the absence of fire.  The WDNR’s Bureau of Endangered Resources, which was renamed the Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation on July 1, tracks rare species and manages State Natural Areas to preserve the best remnants of our original landscapes and they depend on many volunteers to help them.

With approximately a dozen other volunteers, Heather and I meandered throughout a prairie in southeast Wisconsin in search of this rare beauty.  It was much like looking for a needle in a haystack!  By the end of the day, only a small number of orchids were found and their locations GPS’d.  I was thrilled to be able to personally find one lonely orchid during the last 10 minutes of a long day searching.  In addition to the rare orchid find, we also caught a glimpse of the State-Threatened Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), and several other rare plants such as smooth phlox (Phlox glaberrima), marsh blazing star (Liatris spicata), and ohio goldenrod (Solidago ohioensis), among others.


 White Fringed Orchid
Credit: Tina Myers, R.A. Smith National



A Thank You to Our Employees and Clients

by Richard A. Smith 8. July 2013 05:42

It is very satisfying to see teamwork and dedication rewarded. Recently we have received two corporate awards – The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s “Best Places to Work” and Zweig White CE News’ national designation as one of the top 20 “Best Civil Engineering Firms to Work For.”  

This is R.A. Smith National’s 35th year in business and being selected as a top employer locally and nationally are honors I take to heart. I thank our employees who make our firm what it is with teamwork, good nature and dedication. Of course, a company only exists because of its clients. Our clients give us the purpose to achieve. So I thank our clients for their trust in our services and their continued support. The recognition is a testament that much can be accomplished by working together, and I thank all for their contributions making this a wonderful 35th year in business. 

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GPS is More Than a Survey Tool at R.A. Smith National

by Paul Schafer 12. June 2013 09:06

While GPS has traditionally been used by R.A. Smith National to survey property, our construction services staff is now using GPS to calculate quantities including earthwork as part of our construction management and inspection services. Our use of GPS to verify construction data has become increasingly important as more contractors are taking advantage of GPS controlled equipment. R.A. Smith National is using GPS as a tool to provide greater accuracy and increased productivity, which translates to a cost savings for our clients.



Summer Construction Season in Full Swing: I-94 Freeway Closures Impact Local Street System

by John Bruggeman 6. June 2013 06:43

Recent construction work at the I-94 interchange and Rawson Avenue in southern Milwaukee County required full daytime and nighttime closures of the freeway system as part of the ongoing I-94 North-South project. Many motorists were detoured onto the local street system, utilizing arterials such as STH 241 (27th Street), STH 38 (Howell Avenue), STH 100 (Ryan Road), Drexel Avenue and College Avenue. These traffic impacts required signal timing modifications at several traffic signals along the detour routes to improve detour traffic flow. R.A. Smith National worked with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to anticipate traffic problems at key intersections and made the necessary timing adjustments in advance of the closures. On a recent weekend freeway closure, staff monitored field conditions and made adjustments as traffic demands shifted throughout the duration of the closure. Additional overnight and weekend closures are anticipated throughout the summer. Drivers should stay tuned to local news and online resources such as for the latest roadway closure information.

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"Volcano Domes" of Mulch Could Destroy Your Trees

by Tom Mortensen 6. May 2013 17:58

You see them everywhere, except in the woods. Lumpy, domed volcanos of mulch around the bases of every tree on a site. What some people don’t realize is that they are slowly stressing and ultimately killing their trees. Building up mulch against the trunk of a tree 4” to 6” and sometimes even 10” above the natural root flare is a very effective way to stress and kill a tree. This can cause fungus and insect infestations at the base of the tree, cracking of the bark and girdling from mice that like to live over winter in these volcano domes. If you can’t see the root flare where the buttress roots meet the original ground level, you have too much mulch or soil on the tree.



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