For Immediate Release: October 20, 2009
Mitigation a Must for Ecosystem Restoration and Conservation
(Washington, DC) — The Environmental Law Institute and The Nature Conservancy have jointly released a white paper suggesting that a more comprehensive approach to environmental mitigation by Federal agencies will result in improved conservation and economic outcomes. The Next Generation of Mitigation seeks to define and describe a new approach to the use of mitigation that would support significant, landscape-scale conservation results, while accommodating energy and infrastructure investments in the coming decades. Acting to protect whole watersheds and ecosystems is particularly important given the stress of climate change on natural systems.
Current protocols for mitigating environmental damage follow the standard model, “avoid, minimize, compensate.” In the United States, this protocol has been both an important tool for restoring and conserving ecosystems and a significant source of public and private spending. The ELI/TNC paper recommends the use of State Wildlife Action Plans and other plans to create a more effective decision-making framework for the application of the mitigation protocol.
Prior to the recent economic downturn, ELI documented yearly mitigation expenditures in the United States exceeding $4 billion—in effect, one of the largest environmental spending programs in the nation. “Despite such a significant level of spending, the funds used toward current mitigation efforts were often not spent effectively for realizing long-term environmental benefits,” said Jessica Wilkinson, director of ELI’s Wetlands Program. “This paper recommends ways to apply public and private funds more efficiently to achieve environmental restoration and conservation.”
At a time when the resources for conservation in the U.S. are limited and there are many competing needs, the strategic use of the mitigation protocol can save natural habitat by directing development away from sensitive areas and can use compensatory payments in a more targeted and effective way to accomplish restoration on a watershed or landscape scale that would not otherwise be accomplished. Bob Bendick, Director of U.S. Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy added that “given the real dollars involved, mitigation can be an important tool in restoring and conserving large ecosystems that will be resilient to climate change and to other environmental pressures.”
Mitigation is used most frequently as part of the regulation of wetland loss under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act and through the Endangered Species Act. The paper proposes further use of mitigation in the siting of energy and transportation facilities.
The research and writing of the whitepaper was funded by Wildlife Habitat Policy Research Program of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The report can be found at: http://www.elistore.org/reports_detail.asp?ID=11359.
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