New report on improving endangered species mitigation

The Biden administration has ambitious plans for tackling climate change, notably by expanding renewable energy development. The administration, however, also wants to ensure that renewable development doesn’t harm our nation’s lands, waters, and biodiversity. To achieve both of these goals, we need much better ways to mitigate the impacts of infrastructure development on our natural resources.

Today, my colleague Tim Male and I released a report on how to improve mitigation for plants and animals protected by the Endangered Species Act. Put differently, what are better ways to avoid, minimize, and offset the impacts of human activities on those protected species?

This is a crucial question for the Biden administration—one that’s received very little public attention in the last few years. Without better approaches to mitigation, we’ll continue to see conflicts between big infrastructure projects and endangered species protections. Those conflicts will frustrate both our climate change and our species conservation goals.

Besides infrastructure projects, other human activities also stand to benefit from better approaches to mitigation. For example, the agrichemical sector needs far better ways to mitigate the effects of pesticides on endangered species. In the next decade, EPA will need to evaluate these effects for hundreds of pesticides and over 1,500 species. No one has yet to develop a mitigation program that suits this gargantuan effort.

Today’s report offers about a dozen recommendations for improving endangered species mitigation. As a starting point, we recommend that the Biden administration promptly reinstate the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2016 mitigation policies, which the Trump administration rescinded. Those policies are good enough for this administration to work off; don’t waste precious time tinkering with them. Instead, the administration should focus on the far more difficult and important work of figuring out how to implement the policies effectively.

The implementation ideas in our report include the following:
- How to expand the number of endangered species conservation banks to meet the future demand for species mitigation credits.
- How developers can streamline permitting by voluntarily mitigating impacts to ensure “no net loss” to species.
- How current efforts to produce refined species range maps can help developers avoid impacts to species.
- How to begin developing a species mitigation program for pesticides.

Our report only begins to explore the topic of endangered species mitigation. We hope to prompt a much broader dialogue on this topic and will be releasing other ideas in the coming months.

Download the report here.

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