Mitigation of Impacts to Fish and Wildlife Habitat: Estimating Costs and Identifying Opportunities, Environmental Law Institute, 2007

Every year, human activities cause significant harm to fish and wildlife habitat and the environment. Many of the impacts to these natural resources are never addressed. In certain cases, however, federal, state, and local laws and programs can require monetary or in-kind compensation for these impacts, in an effort to at least partially offset the damage caused. This report examines some of these compensatory mitigation programs at the federal level. For purposes of the report, "compensatory mitigation" is defined as the restoration, creation, enhancement, or preservation of natural resources to compensate for impacts pursuant to a regulatory program that: (1) prospectively issues permits or licenses for activities that affect fish and wildlife habitat or other natural resources; or (2) assesses after-the-fact damages for injury to, destruction of, or loss of habitat or natural resources. For the most part, the funds collected to date to compensate for impacts under these federal laws are reactively allocated on a permit-by-permit or case-by-case basis, with minimal regard for how they might be used to piece back together the fabric of the biological landscape. However, a proactive tool has emerged with the potential to address this problem: each of the fifty states has developed a State Wildlife Action Plan that maps out ways to conserve fish and wildlife before they become more rare and too costly to protect. The state fish and wildlife agencies were required to develop these plans under federal legislation that established the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program and State Wildlife Grants Program. The plans provide scientific data and identify priorities for conserving fish and ildlife habitat – information that potentially could be used to direct the allocation of compensatory mitigation funds from other programs.

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