Catalyzing Conservation

Catalyzing Conservation

Conservation banks are parcels of land which enjoy permanent protection due to the value of natural resources therein. These lands are methodically managed for habitat critical for species listed as endangered, threatened or candidates for listing or otherwise at risk. As the name implies, conservation banking acts to offset impacts to habitat occurring elsewhere, this can also be referred to as “off-site mitigation”. Landowners receive habitat or species credits (which can be sold) in exchange for permanently conserving and managing land for these species. Then developers who will incur unavoidable impacts to critical habitat can purchase credits from conservation banks to offset and mitigate consequences.

Opportunities for conservation banking are open to almost all types of land and landowners; ranches, farms, silviculture, retired cropland and other land use varieties are all candidates for mitigation banking. Of course, lands will require specific management and some may need restoration before qualifying. Linear corridors, streambanks and riparian land also make excellent conservation land and may be in high demand depending on the region and habitat needs.

Conservation banking is incentivized so as to encourage more landowners to engage in managing habitat for listed species. Profits can be made from selling habitat and species credits to developers needing compensatory mitigation and maintaining large parcels of lands can have tax benefits. The cost per acre for land management of large reserves is less than managing the equivalent space broken into smaller, non-continuous parcels. 

The public population is also a recipient of benefits from conservation banking. Protecting open and green spaces improves the efficiency and increases the availability of environmental processes such as nutrient cycling, pollination, carbon absorption, stormwater management, erosion control and heat island mitigation. Optimally local conservation planning should work in concert with regional and federal programs, additional integration with Habitat Conservation Plans and/or green infrastructure planning would pave the road for conservation success.

Sensitive species especially benefit from the establishment of large, contiguous parcels of land when they are conserved and maintained for that purpose. Larger parcels of contiguous reservation land ensures connection of existing habitat types, improve ecosystem functionality and fosters biodiversity. Along with other preservation management tools, collaborative, incentivized conservation approaches have the potential to aid in the recovery of listed species. 

For more information on endangered species listing, the Endangered Species Act or conservation banking, visit:
http://www.fws.gov/endangered/.