Augusta Free Press

Presidential memorandum gives preference to mitigation, conservation banks

The White House released a Presidential Memorandum Tuesday that mandates federal agencies to give preference to advance compensation mechanisms that are likely to achieve environmental performance standards prior to any adverse impacts. In other words, mitigation and conservation banks should be the first choice.

The directive instructs the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to apply the same “No net loss” goal of the Clean Water Act‘s 404 program to natural resources other than streams and wetlands. That goal will now be applied to all natural resources that are “important, scarce or sensitive”, including species habitats, water quality not covered in section 404, and other impacts to environmental resources.

Trout Headwaters welcomes this directive and believes the new guidance will not only ensure high standards and best practices across all federal agencies and departments entrusted with environmental regulatory authority, but will also enable increased private investment in restoration and conservation, providing a powerful tool to meet today’s growing environmental challenges.

As a long-time champion for clean water and quality habitats, immediate Past President for the National Mitigation Banking Association, and former vice president for the Western Sustainability Exchange, Trout Headwaters CEO Michael Sprague believes this new guidance reduces risk and increases clarity for restoration work and investment in environmental projects to benefit water, wildlife and other resources.  “As a now 20-year veteran in this space, I’m convinced this Presidential Initiative is one of the single most important advancements imaginable for the fast-growing ecological restoration industry,” he said.

The U.S. restoration industry now creates more than 120,000 jobs and nearly $10B in direct economic activity every year.  “With this new and coordinated policy, private investment in conservation, restoration, and preservation is likely to grow significantly,” he added.

Restoration and conservation investments require predictability to attract the innovation and capital of third-party providers, as well as to provide certainty to consumers of compensatory mitigation credits. “Trout Headwaters, Inc. wholly supports today’s Presidential Memorandum and we will continue to work diligently with federal agencies to repair and maintain our nation’s precious natural resources,” Sprague said.

Trout Headwaters has always employed science-based, accountable practices to address a wide range of environmental issues across the U.S.  Going forward, this work will increasingly include offsets for impacts to species habitats, natural resource damages from oil and chemical spills, diminished water quality, and the need for green infrastructure protection to combat extreme weather events including storms, floods, and drought.