California Department of Fish and Wildlife
American avocets. Photo courtesy of Brian Hansen.

Conservation and Mitigation Banking

A conservation or mitigationbank is privately or publicly owned land managed for its natural resource values. In exchange for permanently protecting, managing, and monitoring the land, the bank operator is allowed to sell habitat credits to developers who need to satisfy legal requirements for mitigating the environmental impacts of development projects.

A conservation or mitigation bank is a free-market enterprise that --

  • offers landowners economic incentives to protect natural resources;
  • saves developers time and money by providing them with the certainty of pre-approved compensation lands to meet their mitigation needs.

Conservation (Endangered Species) Banking

A conservation bank generally protects threatened and endangered species habitat. Credits are established for the specific sensitive species that occur on the site. Conservation banks help to consolidate small, fragmented sensitive species compensation projects into large contiguous preserves which have much higher wildlife habitat values. Other agencies that typically participate in the regulation and approval of conservation banks are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service.

Mitigation (Wetlands) Banking

A mitigation bank protects, restores, creates, and enhances wetland habitats. Credits are established to compensate for unavoidable wetland losses. Use of mitigation bank credits must occur in advance of development, when the compensation cannot be achieved at the development site or would not be as environmentally beneficial. Mitigation banking helps to consolidate small, fragmented wetland mitigation projects into large contiguous preserves which will have much higher wildlife habitat values. Mitigation banks are generally approved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Benefits of Conservation and Mitigation Banking

For the buyer of credits…

  • Cost reductions over “do it yourself” compliance (due to the economies of scale a large habitat bank generates and passes on to credit buyers), together with cost certainty
  • “One stop” permit compliance including habitat protection, long-term management, maintenance, and monitoring of the mitigation
  • Decreased permit wait time (purchase of bank credits immediately satisfies the mitigation requirements of the permit)

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 and ownership by endangered species and wetland professionals
  • ‘‘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 left for instructions, templates, contacts, and more detailed information about conservation and mitigation banking.