Aldo Leopold would be taking a deep breath if he could with the news that the USFWS is enhancing mitigation guidelines to include a landscape-scale approach instead of a project by project approach. This means that reviewing agencies for requests to destroy precious environments with mitigation have now to take into consideration continuing biodiversity for the entire landscape and not just the project.
DOI has for the past several years been trying to get the approach changed, but with President Obama’s recent memo Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment, they and other related agencies finally got a big boost toward helping our environment.
This means that “the mitigation goal is not necessarily based on habitat area, but on numbers of individuals, size and distribution of populations, the quality and carrying capacity of habitat, or the capacity of the landscape to support stable or increasing populations of the affected species after the action (including all proposed conservation measures) is implemented. In other words, it is based on those factors that determine the ability of the species to be conserved.”
Further, “offsetting impacts to designated or proposed critical habitat through the use of compensatory mitigation should target the maintenance, restoration, or improvement of the recovery support function of the affected critical habitat as described in the relevant biological or conference opinion, conservation or mitigation plan, mitigation instrument, permit, or conference report. Recovery plans, 5-year reviews, proposed and final critical habitat rules, and the best available science on species status, threats, and needs should be relied on to inform the selection of habitat types subject to compensatory mitigation actions for unavoidable adverse impacts to species or critical habitat.”
If you’d like to share your thoughts about this new approach to mitigation go to Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy and submit a formal comment by October 17, 2016.
To read a simpler version of this guideline, go to The Presidential Memorandum and Interior Department Policy on Mitigation: Their Content and Implications by Holland & Hart.