FWS Proposes Compensatory Mitigation Policy

FWS Proposes Compensatory Mitigation Policy

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released a draft policy for determining appropriate compensatory mitigation for unavoidable impacts to species or habitat during project development. The draft policy, published in the Federal Register on September 2, is intended to help evaluate opportunities for strategic mitigation planning across a landscape rather than evaluating mitigation on a project-by-project basis. This is the first time that the FWS has developed comprehensive policy for compensatory mitigation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), though it does update several policies and guidance documents that had been in place. It also pertains to all compensatory mitigation under the ESA including permittee-responsible mitigation, conservation banking, in-lieu fee programs, habitat credit exchanges, and other third party mitigation arrangements.

“Despite our best efforts to avoid and minimize impacts on the environment, there will almost always be some impacts that are unavoidable. Where at-risk species are concerned, we must ensure to the greatest extent possible that those impacts are compensated for,” said Gary Frazer, the Service’s Assistant Director for Ecological Services. “This policy takes a landscape-level approach to mitigation that will assist the Fish and Wildlife Service in modernizing our compensatory mitigation practices and meeting the challenges posed by a growing human population, climate change and other human-induced threats, while still being compatible with today’s vital economic activity.”

The compensatory mitigation policy follows the agency’s proposed revised Mitigation Policy that was released in March and reiterates the guiding principles of that policy. Both policies are intended to ensure that actions do not result in a net loss of conservation outcomes, and if possible pursues a net conservation benefit. The comment period on the proposed draft compensatory mitigation policy will be open until October 17.

September 19, 2016