Forester Before & After
About Natures Image
Michelle Caruana has a simple but ambitious goal — to be the best. In her ideal world, every other habitat restoration company would be seen as second choice.
Caruana’s award-winning company has already made an impact in the field. The $10 million company boasts 100 highly trained employees, all with multiple years of tenure with Natures Image, as well as a host of satisfied customers
Designing Specialty Equipment
The mitigation industry was still in its infancy when Michelle and her husband, John, started Natures Image in 1995, recognizing the burgeoning opportunity in the field.
Early on, Michelle realized she needed special equipment to do the job right. Today, hers remains the only habitat restoration company with a seed imprinter specifically designed to work on slopes. It creates a distinct, waffle-shaped pattern in the soil that traps water for the seeds. Michelle recalls meeting the inventor at a bar in the Mojave Desert, and still has the napkin containing the initial drawing of the prototype.
Commitment at Every Level
Nature’s image is a certified women-owned business, and Michelle is a licensed landscape contractor.
Her passion for the environment and her commitment to client satisfaction and long-term project success set the tone for every project Natures Image undertakes.
Michelle says, “I work hard to ensure that every dollar invested in native habitat restoration is spent as efficiently and effectively as possible. Every employee I hire at Natures Image must be both knowledgeable and committed to delivering quality service.”
The Hill Canyon Wetlands Creation Project was recognized with the prestigious American Public Works Association Project of the Year Award 2005. It was a great success and I would be happy to work with Natures Image on future restoration projects.CH2M Hill
To create a world where the diversity of life thrives
Build a great company with exceptional people delivering superior results
Deliver superior habitat restoration construction and maintenance services
years in business
acres of invasive weeds pulled
hours of employee field training
gallons of sunscreen used
Michelle Caruana and Natures Image believe in giving back. Michelle looks for charities that are making a difference in the community. Then she sits down with her staff each year to decide how much money the firm will donate (the minimum is $10,000) and which charities should benefit from the largesse.
Sometimes the group chooses a worthy charity in a Natures Image project area. “We were working in Lone Pine last year, so we donated to Lone Pine High School,” Michelle says. The Wounded Warrior Project and OC Animal Care — Orange County’s animal shelter — have also been recipients. Of the county animal shelter, Michelle says, “They’re doing all the right things.”
Natures Image has two charities it contributes to on an ongoing basis: CARMA, Compassionate Animal Rescue for Medical Aid — which is particularly close to Michelle’s heart — and Families Forward.
Compassionate Animal Rescue for Medical Aid (CARMA) is the brainchild of Tiffany Thompson of Mission Park Pet Hospital in Mission Viejo, the veterinarian Michelle uses for her pets. Thompson takes animals with illnesses or injuries from shelters that might euthanize them. She treats them so they can go on to live happy, healthy lives.
Michelle started out fostering some of the dogs Thompson treated. “I realized how much good she was doing and how much of her own time she was giving,” says Michelle, who has fostered 10 dogs to date — for as little as a few days to as long as nine months. Michelle also seeks out and writes grant requests to organizations that provide funding for animals with medical needs. CARMA is an all-volunteer organization, so 100 percent of the money raised goes toward the animals rescued.
Families Forward is a safety net for families in crisis — people who’ve lost a job or their home, women who are recently divorced, etc. “It gives people the tools to get back on their feet without subsidizing them forever,” Caruana says. People can get food, clothing, counseling, job search training and access to housing opportunities. Families Forward also does special events, such as community-wide food drives and Thanksgiving baskets. Its Back to School Backpacks program fills kids’ backpacks with school supplies.
- Awarded 2009 National Best Project by the Construction Management Association of America for work on the Fire Station #6 Mitigation Project for the City of Carlsbad.
- Awarded 2008 Outstanding Civil Engineering Project by the American Society of Civil Engineers for environmental work on the San Clemente Canyon Mitigation Project with the City of San Diego.
- Awarded 2008 Honor Award by the American Public Works Association for work on the Oak Tree Mitigation & Monitoring Plan for the North County Transit District.
- Awarded 2007 Project of the Year by the American Public Works Association for the work on the Las Virgenes Creek Restoration for the City of Calabasas.
- Awarded 2005 Project of the Year in the environmental category by the American Public Works Association for the Hill Canyon Wetland Creation Project in conjunction with CH2M Hill and J.F. Shea Construction.
- Santiago Creek Mitigation for the City of Orange was signed off a year early by the California Department of Fish & Game in 2009.
- Chino Hills Mitigation for Shapell Industries was signed off two years early by the United States Department of Fish & Wildlife in 2009.
- Puente Hills Mitigation for Shapell Industries was signed off two years early by the United States Department of Fish & Wildlife in 2009.
- Arroyo Trabuco Creek Mitigation for Santa Margarita Water District was signed off a year early by the California Department of Fish and Game in 2011.
- General Engineering Contractor Class A
- Licensed Landscape Contractor in California (C27)
- Nevada Class C-10 Contractors License — Landscape Contracting
- Arizona Class A-21 Contractors License — Landscape & Irrigation Systems
- Licensed Pest Control Advisors
- Licensed Pest Control Applicators
- BLM Listed Environmental Firm for Implementing, Plant Salvage & Restoration
- DGS Certified
- California Public Utilities Commission Certified WBE
- Muni Arborist Cert
- ISA Cert Arborist
- Certified WBE and SWBE
- Certified SWPPP Managers
- Irrigation Auditor
- Irrigation Design and Build Experts
- Certified Project Managers
- BLM Listed Environmental Firm for Implementing, Plant Salvage and Restoration
- 561730 Landscaping/Weed Control Services
- 541620 Site Remediation
- 113310 Logging
- 115112 Soil Preparation & Planting
- 115310 Forestry Services
- 237110 Irrigation Project Construction
- 237120 Pipeline Rehabilitation Contractors
- 237310 Abutment Construction
- 237990 Other Heavy & Civil Construction
- 238910 Site Preparation
- 238990 Specialty Trade Contractors
- 562910 Remediation Services
- 54160 Environmental Consulting Services
- 541360 Geophysical Surveying and Mapping Services
- 541690 Other Scientific & Technical Consulting Services