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Solid Ground: Using Mitigation to Achieve Greater Predictability, Faster Project Approval, and Better Conservation Outcomes

January 2019

Citation: ELR 10028

Author: Jessica Wilkinson, Lynn Scarlett, Philip Tabas, and Brent Keith

Mitigation—shorthand for avoiding impacts to important species and habitat, minimizing impacts, and then providing offsets for the remaining, residual impacts—is a valuable tool for developers and federal agencies to comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a variety of federal statutes that regulate impacts to important wildlife species and habitat, and/or public land management statutes requiring that uses of public lands are balanced with protection and conservation. The benefits afforded by commonsense mitigation policy, however, are now less available to developers due to the actions of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) under the Donald Trump Administration. This Comment outlines the authorities to utilize mitigation provided by the DOI’s existing statutes and policies, describes the benefits afforded by mitigation policy, outlines the current state of play in mitigation policy, and, finally, describes why we need to return to a balanced policy framework that is a foundation for advancing positive outcomes for businesses, communities, and the environment.

Jessica Wilkinson, Lynn Scarlett, and Brent Keith are in policy and government relations at The Nature Conservancy. Philip Tabas is a senior advisor with The Nature Conservancy, North America region.

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