State and Federal Biodiversity Program

The Environmental Law Institute operates an on-going collaborative program devoted to the protection of biological diversity at the state level. The objective of ELI’s State and Federal Biodiversity Program is to improve biodiversity protection by identifying both obstacles to and opportunities for the conservation of biological diversity on the state and local level. The method we have utilized is to work in collaboration with local partners to formulate and implement statewide strategies for biodiversity protection and restoration.

ELI’s Biodiversity Program:
  • focuses on the state level where the critical decisions affecting state biodiversity are made;
  • recognizes that biodiversity protection must move beyond acquisition strategies to address factors that promote habitat loss and fragmentation, habitat degradation, and exotic species invasions; and
  • acknowledges the necessity of working in close partnership with — and serving — local groups to achieve conservation goals.

ELI’s State and Federal Biodiversity Program has two areas of focus:

Individual State Biodiversity Efforts
  • In Delaware, ELI published Protecting Delaware’s Natural Heritage: Tools for Biodiversity Conservation in December 1999, a collaborative project of Delaware Nature Society, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, ELI, and The Nature Conservancy. ELI, in coordination with a high level group of agency secretaries and non-profit organizations, helped develop Our Natural Legacy: Delaware’s Biodiversity Conservation Partnership, a framework for implementing recommendations from the ELI report.
  • In New York, ELI worked in partnership with the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, the State Museum, and the Department of Environmental Conservation on the New York State Biodiversity Project. This collaborative project seeks to assess the current knowledge of New York State’s biodiversity, make that information accessible, and incorporate biodiversity information into policy, planning, management research, education and business decision-making. In March 2001, ELI published a study, New York State Biodiversity Project Needs Assessment, which examines the extent and adequacy of biodiversity information currently being generated in New York, identifies impediments to the use of such information, and suggests ways to design formats for biodiversity information to increase their accessibility to decision makers.
  • In Pennsylvania, ELI assisted the multi-stakeholder Pennsylvania Biodiversity Partnership in a review of the law, policies, and institutions that affect biodiversity in Pennsylvania. This analysis supported the Partnership’s development of a comprehensive statewide strategy to sustain and restore the biodiversity of the Commonwealth on public and private lands and waters. The Partnership released its summary report in December 2002 ( ELI is working with a broad-based group of public and private partners to identify key opportunities to make Pennsylvania laws and policies support viable ecosystems, prevent habitat fragmentation and degradation, and control invasive exotic species.
  • In Indiana, ELI published Indiana’s Biological Diversity: Strategies and Tools for Conservation, the publication of which catalyzed the formation of the Indiana Biodiversity Initiative, a diverse coalition working to develop a statewide strategy for protecting biodiversity. The coalition includes state and federal agencies, non-profit conservation groups, including The Nature Conservancy, Hoosier Environmental Council, and Sierra Club, private sector companies, including Eli Lilly and Cinergy Corp., and the farm community, including the Indiana Farm Bureau.
  • In Ohio, ELI published Ohio’s Biological Diversity: Strategies and Tools for Conservation, as well as supported the efforts of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in development of a biodiversity strategy and implementation plan. ELI provided DNR with guidance and support, and worked with key Ohio conservation groups to build external support for the plan’s implementation.
  • In New Mexico, ELI published New Mexico’s Natural Heritage: A Handbook of Law and Policy in February 1999, in cooperation with the Center for Wildlife Law and Defenders of Wildlife. The report analyzes New Mexico’s laws and regulations and their treatment of biodiversity. ELI continues to collaborate with Defenders and the Center to build support for launching a statewide biodiversity conservation effort.
National Biodiversity Conservation Research
  • The Next Generation of Mitigation: This white paper, The Next Generation of Mitigation: Linking Current and Future Mitigation Programs with State Wildlife Action Plans and Other State and Regional Plans (2009), was prepared by ELI and The Nature Conservancy. The paper suggests 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.
  • Habitat Banking: In Design of U.S. Habitat Banking Systems to Support the Conservation of Wildlife Habitat and At-Risk Species (2008), ELI and the Environmental Defense Fund assessed the potential for habitat banking to contribute to the conservation of priority wildlife habitat identified in the state wildlife action plans.
  • In Time Sensitivity of Priority Habitats, ELI worked with Colorado State University to identify where the pace and extent of urban and exurban development will soon be a significant threat to the key wildlife habitat identified in the State Wildlife Action Plan over five different time horizons in six case study states.
  • In 2007, ELI published Lasting Landscapes: Reflections on the Role of Conservation Science in Land Use Planning. The report brings together nine leading thinkers in the land use planning, conservation biology, and conservation policy professions to explore how the field of conservation planning could be further advanced. Each author was asked to reflect upon the role of his/her respective profession in promoting the use of science-based information in land use planning. These thought-provoking essays, introduced by Dr. Reed Noss, make it clear that a more intentional approach to conservation planning is needed.
  • In 2007, ELI released The Nature of Open Space: Linking Land Protection and Land Conservation, a report of state open space programs’ authorities to prioritize land protection for wildlife and biodiversity. The study, which examines 28 state programs in 21 states, concludes that there are significant opportunities for state open space programs to more effectively target their funding to support biodiversity conservation. The report makes recommendations that promote increased efficiency and effectiveness of biodiversity conservation among multi-objective open space programs that focus, either directly or indirectly, on biodiversity. Click here for more information.
  • Wildlife and Utilities: ELI is working to identify opportunities to link utility infrastructure planning and management with conservation of wildlife through use of state wildlife action plans. The Wildlife & Utilities project included a 2007 workshop for utility associations and a state-focused research program that led to the publication State Wildlife Action Plans and Utilities: New Conservation Opportunities for America’s Wildlife (2007). Click here to listen to ELI Senior Attorney James McElfish discuss this topic in a radio interview with the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.
  • In 2004, ELI published Nature-Friendly Ordinances: Local Measures for Biodiversity, a compilation of model laws and ordinances that integrate biological principles and information into land use planning, zoning, and infrastructure decisions. It draws on examples and best practices from across and can be used by planners to identify relevant biodiversity information, develop effective comprehensive plans that include biodiversity as a management element, and prepare ordinances and amendments for consideration by the local legislative body.
  • In 2003, ELI published Planning for Biodiversity: Authorities in State Land Use Laws. The report was prepared in partnership with Defenders of Wildlife and is the first to examine the land use planning enabling and growth management laws in each of the 50 states. It identifies a wide range of currently underutilized and potentially powerful authorities related to biodiversity protection, including planning requirements for natural resources, open space, wildlife habitat, and critical and sensitive areas.
  • In 2003, ELI released Conservation Thresholds for Land-Use Planners, a review and synthesis of information from the most up-to-date scientific literature to provide basic thresholds to land use planners to rely upon when making decisions affecting biodiversity. This report summarizes what is known within the scientific community about potential land use planning and design thresholds; offers general guidance on how to transform traditional planning approaches into more ecologically-based conservation tools; and provides a platform for identifying gaps in existing knowledge to help guide more in-depth ecological research directly applicable to land use planning.
  • In 2003, ELI published Planning with Nature: Biodiversity Information in Action. Working in partnership with NatureServe, ELI conducted research to assess when and where the use of biological information is required or authorized by state or local laws or policies. The report makes the case that there is ample authority at the state level for decision-makers to require more consultation with Natural Heritage Programs on the impacts of proposed decisions on biological diversity.
  • In 2001, ELI hosted Status of the States: Innovative State Strategies for Biodiversity Conservation, the first state biodiversity symposium. The symposium convened key leaders from 23 state efforts and other interested parties to participate in a symposium exploring the lessons and experiences of these initiatives. The goals of the symposium were to identify successful strategies and approaches that can improve the effectiveness of statewide biodiversity conservation efforts.
Available Publications of ELI’s State Biodiversity Program
Related Conferences, Seminars and Workshops