Congratulations to Craig Johnson, a principal project management team lead out of our Salt Lake City office, on being named the Lawrence S. Semo Award winner for the third quarter of 2023.
Since joining SWCA in 2019, Craig has shown a commitment to excellence, adaptability, and teamwork that embodies SWCA’s core values. His diverse background in landscape architecture, environmental planning, and expertise in scenic resources and historic landscapes, culminates in nationally recognized work. His foresight and understanding of complex management initiatives and permitting requirements ensure effective and sustaining results. Craig’s contributions assist in elevating SWCA’s capabilities in both project and resource management and position the company as leaders in these fields.
SCIENTIFIC EXCELLENCE AND LEADERSHIP
A Practicing Landscape Architect (PLA) by trade, Craig’s expertise lies primarily in project management, complex plans of development, scenic resources, and historic landscapes. Craig’s journey into landscape architecture, driven by a passion for art and design in harmony with the natural environment, spanned 11 years in the fields of site planning, design, local permitting, and construction administration. His experience in landscape architectural design equipped him with skills in environmental and site analysis and building and managing interdisciplinary teams. The economic downturn in 2008 unexpectedly led him to environmental planning, specifically scenic resource inventory and analysis, which aligned well with his understanding of planning and art fundamentals. This shift resulted in his involvement in nationally recognized scenic resources teams, engaging in large-scale projects, primarily rooted in the West. Craig’s involvement in environmental planning, coupled with exposure to top-notch project managers, sparked a broader interest in the entire environmental permitting process. “The complexity of environmental planning and continuous opportunities for learning are key factors that have kept me engaged and enthusiastic about my work,” said Craig.
Craig’s favorite projects at SWCA have been both challenging and rewarding. One significant endeavor that dominated his initial three years was the Gateway South transmission line project. This project surpassed the scale of any he had previously encountered. The intense and overwhelming nature of the project pushed Craig and his fellow teammates to achieve the impossible, fostering an intense sense of camaraderie. He found it humbling to be part of a team that could successfully navigate such challenges.
Another project close to Craig’s heart is the ongoing work on the Grand Teton National Park – Colter Bay Cultural Landscape Report (CLR), involving the redesign of a protected historic Mission 66-era landscape. The complexities of the undertaking, along with the picturesque setting and unique wildlife of the project site stand out as one of the best experiences in Craig’s professional journey.
Craig values the people he works with, considering them more important than the work itself. Having surrounded himself with individuals who excel, he emphasizes the importance of ongoing learning within a high-performing team. Craig’s interests lie in building and organizing teams for complicated projects, finding the right fit for each endeavor, and witnessing colleagues excel and grow through these experiences. His ability to assemble capable project teams across SWCA is notable, and despite managing complex and stressful projects, Craig maintains a calm, personable, and constructive demeanor that fosters team morale. In this way, he creates an environment where team members feel trusted, enthusiastic, and appreciated.
“The large conglomerate of high-performing individuals we have here at SWCA allows us to develop teams that are unparalleled in the industry.”
Craig offers valuable guidance to those embarking on a technical career path: “Identify your niche and strive to become a recognized leader in that domain. Cultivate a continuous thirst for knowledge by engaging in ongoing research and learning. Display your expertise by speaking at local and national conferences. Embrace the ethos of teamwork, excelling in your role and maintaining reliability, while also managing expectations proactively. Foster a network with individuals who excel in their respective areas, seeking those with complementary strengths and weaknesses to your own.”
Craig’s impact extends beyond projects, as he shares his knowledge through scientific papers. His contributions include Visually Integrated: Linking Visual Impact Analyses, Mitigation, and Reclamation for Large-Scale Linear Projects, published by the US Forest Service Northern Research Station, which addresses effective methods for analyzing visual impacts from linear projects, and emphasizes structured, logical analyses to facilitate the successful execution of mitigation measures throughout a project’s lifecycle.
The quarterly Lawrence S. Semo Scientific Achievement Award rewards individuals for demonstrating passion, creativity, and scientific excellence in a manner that advances SWCA’s purpose, mission, vision, and values. The award is in honor of Larry Semo, who began working as a biologist for SWCA in Austin in 1993 and transferred to Denver in 1999. A respected and widely published ornithologist and all-around naturalist, Larry had an insatiable desire to learn and a great love for the outdoors until his untimely passing in 2011.