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New Revisions to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mitigation Policy

By David Edelstein

Effective November, 21, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) revised its guiding 1981 Mitigation Policy to provide a new structure for mitigation during permitting in order to diminish the impact of private development upon fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats. The policy revision’s stated purpose is to replace project-by-project or single-source mitigation with the use of landscape-scale mitigation (which applies a hierarchy for impacts to resources and their values, services, and functions), consistent with the Presidential Memorandum on Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment and the Secretary of Interior’s Order 3330, “Improving Mitigation Policies and Practices of the Department of the Interior.” According to the USFWS, the overarching goal of landscape-scale mitigation should be a “net gain” in conservation outcome, or, at the very least, “no net loss” of resources, their value, services, and functions resulting from proposed action. However, development supporters criticize the policy for its failure to define “net benefit’ and “no net loss” which creates uncertainty that could create bureaucratic delays in permitting.

Tags: USFWS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1981 Mitigation Policy, Environment

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