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Achieving Conservation And Development - 10 Principles for Applying the Mitigation Hierarchy

Bruce McKenney & Jessica Wilkinson | Development by Design Program, The Nature Conservancy

Achieving Conservation and Development - 10 Mitigation Principles Report

En Español: Logrando Conservación y Desarrollo - 10 Principios Para la Aplicación da la Jerarquía de Mitigación

Improving mitigation policy and practice – how we avoid, minimize, and offset environmental impacts to lands and waters – is one of the best opportunities for achieving sustainable development and conservation goals. This will be essential as we face a major global challenge: how to meet the demand for energy, food, water, minerals, and infrastructure of a growing population with expanding consumption levels and ensure the health of lands and waters for future generations. While investments to meet this demand will help fuel economic growth, improve quality of life, and lift people out of poverty, they can also bring large, negative environmental impacts. As these impacts expand to new frontiers, governments, companies, and concerned communities are increasingly taking action to improve mitigation policy and practice. This is evidenced by the fact that:
  • 56 countries have or are developing national mitigation policies that require offsets or enable the use of offsets, with most of these policies developed over the past decade.
  • Multi-lateral and private sector financial institutions are requiring the projects they finance to avoid, minimize, and compensate for biodiversity impacts in accordance with new performance standards. This includes requirements for project developers to avoid impacts to “critical habitat” and achieve “net gains” for biodiversity.
  •  At least 32 companies have established no net loss or net positive impact goals for biodiversity to guide their corporate practices.
Spearheaded by the Development by Design program, The Nature Conservancy is working to transform mitigation based on our decades of experience in conservation and landscape-level planning, global reach and policy expertise, and solution-oriented approach. Over 250 Conservancy staff work on advancing the science, policy, and practice of mitigation. This work spans a dozen countries and over 40 U.S. states. In the past decade, the Conservancy has engaged in more than 150 mitigation projects in the U.S. alone, helping direct over $500 million of mitigation funding towards conservation priorities and directly contributing to conservation outcomes on over 1.5 million acres.
Given the breadth of the Conservancy’s mitigation work, it is critical for the Conservancy to operate by and promote a core set of principles for mitigation. This paper summarizes 10 key principles for applying the mitigation hierarchy – avoid, minimize, and offset  – and is intended to guide the Conservancy’s approach to and engagements on mitigation.
This includes the Conservancy’s role in:
  • Fostering the development of new and revised mitigation policies and programs;
  • Developing and/or providing input on regional and site-level mitigation plans;
  • Preparing comments during public review processes;
  • Designing and implementing mitigation activities and offset projects;
  • Developing and conducting the Conservancy’s own mitigation programs, projects, and corporate engagements; and
  • Reviewing risks of the Conservancy’s mitigation engagements.

In developing this set of 10 principles – 6 principles for applying the mitigation hierarchy and 4 principles specific to offsets – we drew on several key publications including the Standard on Biodiversity Offsets (2012) developed by the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP), and Biodiversity Offsets Technical Study Paper (2014), developed by the IUCN Technical Study Group on Biodiversity Offsets. The Conservancy played a strong role in the development of both documents and we continue to support and participate in the efforts of these groups to advance best practices for offsets. It is important to note that the BBOP and IUCN documents
focus on principles and best practices for biodiversity offsets – the third and last step in the mitigation hierarchy. Because the mission of The Nature Conservancy is to “protect the lands and waters on which all life depends,” we believe the central focus of our engagement on mitigation must be on application of the full mitigation hierarchy, which includes offsets as a last step but starts with avoiding and minimizing impacts.