New Federal Mitigation Policies Will Reduce Habitat and Species Loss T
Finalized guidance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set an expectation that proposed development projects should minimize impacts to fish and wildlife wherever possible
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized two vital mitigation policies to conserve critical fish and wildlife resources, while still allowing for necessary development projects to occur in sensitive habitats. The two policies, a Service-wide Mitigation Policy and an Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy, provide guidance to agency staff for how to best mitigate losses to species and their habitats from proposed development projects.
The USFWS’ new policies recommend application of the mitigation hierarchy to ensure “no net loss” of resources. The ESA Compensatory Mitigation Policy provides additional guidance on how to replace loss of species and their habitats under the Endangered Species Act. These principles, referred to as the mitigation hierarchy, are fundamental to conservation and set expectations that proposed projects should first avoid impacts to species and their habitat within practical means.
Final Policies on Mitigating Impacts of Development to Further Conservation
If impacts are unavoidable, projects must then minimize remaining effects through project modifications. As a final step if the project ultimately impacts the species or sensitive habitat, the project proponent should compensate for that loss by replacing similar resource values elsewhere.
“When applied appropriately, these policies allow development projects to succeed by reducing conflicts with fish and wildlife resources in a clear and consistent way,” says Madeleine West, director of the center for public lands at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The TRCP welcomes these policies and encourages the Service to appropriately apply the mitigation hierarchy to ensure that development projects in sensitive habitats do so without causing an overall loss to fish and wildlife resources.”