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Side channel and mudflat habitats restored at the Alder Creek restoration project along Oregon's Willamette River. Credit: NOAA

USA - NOAA Releases First Comprehensive Policy on Mitigation to Conserve Natural Resources

Improving conservation through effective mitigation of adverse impacts to marine, estuarine, and freshwater resources.

NOAA is pleased to announce its first comprehensive Mitigation Policy for Trust Resources which will improve conservation through avoiding, minimizing and compensating for adverse impacts to natural resources, simultaneously advancing clean energy, infrastructure, and environmental goals.

We conserve a broad range of natural resources including marine, estuarine, and freshwater resources across our many responsibilities. Mitigation is a conservation tool that includes avoiding, minimizing, or compensating for negative impacts to natural resources and their habitats resulting from regulated actions (such as federal permits) or injury (such as an oil spill).

This policy supports NOAA’s mission to conserve and restore marine, estuarine, and freshwater resources and the ecosystems that support them. NOAA’s policy strives to implement climate resilient mitigation options that will last into the future. NOAA will use effective mitigation principles to reach our program objectives, expand best practices across the country, and incentivize private-sector investments in mitigation banks. The policy emphasizes collaborating with underserved communities and stakeholders to incorporate social equity objectives into mitigation planning.

View from the hillside of the Linnton Mill restoration project, including large wood structures providing shelter for salmonids in newly restored off channel habitat. Credit: NOAA
View from the hillside of the Linnton Mill restoration project, on the west bank of the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon. The large wood structures provide shelter for salmonids in newly restored off channel habitat. Credit: NOAA

Eight principles will guide our mitigation decisions:

  1. Apply the mitigation sequence appropriately.
  2. Employ the best scientific information available.
  3. Apply a holistic landscape and/or seascape approach.
  4. Promote mitigation strategies that have a high probability of success.
  5. Consider climate change and climate resilience when evaluating and developing mitigation measures.
  6. Implement mitigation that is proportional to impacts to NOAA trust resources and fully offset those impacts.
  7. Use preservation of intact habitat as compensation appropriately, taking into account the high risk of habitat loss in many rapidly developing coastal and marine landscapes and seascapes.
  8. Collaborate with partner agencies and stakeholders.

The policy applies to all appropriate areas of NOAA’s work from the projects we review for permits to the projects we fund or conduct ourselves. It also gives us the opportunity to consider a wide range of mitigation options and encourage the development of multi-use mitigation strategies.

The draft policy was released for public comment in May 2021 and revisions were made based on input received from a wide range of stakeholders. NOAA looks forward to working with our partners as we implement this policy.

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Last updated by Office of Habitat Conservationon July 25, 2022

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