A conservation or mitigation bank is permanently protected land that is conserved and managed for its natural resource values. In exchange for permanently protecting, managing, and monitoring the land, the bank sponsor may sell or transfer aquatic resources and/or species/habitat credits to permittees/project proponents that need to meet compensatory requirements for the environmental impacts of projects. Use of mitigation bank credits must occur in advance of project impacts when the compensation cannot be achieved at the project site or would not be as environmentally beneficial.
A privately owned conservation or mitigation bank is a free-market enterprise that:
- allows landowners economic incentives to protect natural resources;
- saves permittees/project proponents time and money by providing them with pre-approved compensation lands;
- consolidates small, fragmented mitigation projects into large contiguous sites that may have a higher wildlife habitat value;
- provides for long-term protection and management of habitat;
- offers the sale of mitigation credits in advance of identifying the compensatory mitigation project.
A conservation bank generally protects important habitat including habitat for threatened, endangered, or other special status species that exists, has been, or will be created. Credits are established for the specific sensitive species and habitat. Agencies that typically participate in the regulation and approval of conservation banks are CDFW, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-National Marine Fisheries Service.
A mitigation bank is created to compensate for activities authorized pursuant to Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. Sec. 1344 et seq.) and protects, restores, creates, or enhances wetland habitats. Additionally, mitigation banks may also include the conservation and protection of state and/or federally listed threatened, endangered species and/or habitat. Credits are established to compensate for unavoidable impacts to aquatic resources and/or special status species and/or habitat. Mitigation banks are approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and may also be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-National Marine Fisheries Service, and State Water Resources Control Board.
The Benefits of Conservation and Mitigation Banking
For the buyer or user of credits…
- Cost reductions over per project Permittee Responsible Mitigation, due to the economies of scale, a larger habitat bank generates and passes on to credit buyers/users together with cost certainty.
- “One stop” permit compliance including habitat protection, long-term management, maintenance, and monitoring.
- More efficient. This means a permittee can likely satisfy mitigation requirements faster buying a credit than creating Permittee Responsible Mitigation.
For the ecosystem…
- Protection and restoration of larger, more functional and longer-lasting ecological systems.
- No temporal loss of ecological function because protection/restoration is completed before the impacts occur.
- Management of the property for aquatic resources, sensitive species and/or their habitats in perpetuity.
- ‘‘No Net Loss’’ in wetland acres at minimum, often with a gain of wetland acres.
- Permanent protection in the form of a conservation easement or fee title held by a qualified conservation entity, enforced by a qualified third party.
Please visit the links to the right for instructions, templates, contacts, and more detailed information about conservation and mitigation banking.