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Insight on Compensatory Mitigation: Progress and Opportunities

Monday, January 14, 2019

Natural resource mitigation—avoiding impacts to important species and habitat, minimizing impacts, and then providing offsets for remaining, residual impacts—is a valuable tool for developers and agencies to comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, a variety of federal statutes that regulate impacts to important wildlife species and habitat, and/or public land management statutes requiring that uses of public lands be balanced with protection and conservation.

In 2008, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency overhauled federal policy governing “compensatory mitigation” for impacts to wetlands, streams, and other aquatic resources authorized under §404 of the Clean Water Act. Ten years after this rule was released, the January 2019 issue of ELR’s News & Analysis takes a comprehensive look at the issues. 

Wetlands

In Ten Years of the Compensatory Mitigation Rule: Reflections on Progress and Opportunities, authors Palmer Hough and Rachel Harrington review the major policy changes that were a part of the 2008 rule, highlight key areas of progress in compensatory mitigation practice documented under the rule, and note potential opportunities for further improvement. Their piece highlights progress made under the rule as well as some important work that remains to be done.

In Solid Ground: Using Mitigation to Achieve Greater Predictability, Faster Project Approval, and Better Conservation Outcomes, authors Jessica Wilkinson, Lynn Scarlett, Philip Tabas, and Brent Keith note that the benefits afforded by common-sense mitigation policy are now less available to developers due to recent actions by the Trump Administration. In hopes of offering clarity, the authors outline the authorities to utilize mitigation provided by DOI’s existing statutes and policies, describe the benefits afforded by mitigation policy, outline the current state of play and, finally, describe why we need to return to a balanced policy framework that advances positive outcomes for businesses, communities, and the environment.

Both of these timely pieces underscore the continued importance of compensatory mitigation. Done right, mitigation can support efficient and defensible government decisions, predictability for project proponents, and positive outcomes for both communities and the environment.

ELI is making this featured News & Analysis article available free for download. To access all that ELR has to offer, including the full content of News & Analysis and its archive, you must have a subscription. To learn more, visit www.elr.info.