On Tuesday, November 3, the White House released a Presidential Memorandum: “Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment” (“Memorandum”). The Memorandum was sent to the Secretaries of Defense, Interior and Agriculture and the administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and purports to establish a general “no net loss” goal for natural resources impacted by federal actions. The Memorandum recognizes “a moral obligation to the next generation to leave America’s natural resources in better condition than when we inherited them” and establishes the following policies applicable to identified federal departments and agencies (and all bureaus and agencies within them):
- To avoid and to minimize harmful effects to land, water, wildlife and other ecological resources (natural resources), and to require compensatory mitigation for the projects they approve.
Agency mitigation policies should establish a net benefit goal or, at a minimum, a no net loss goal for natural resources each agency manages that are important, scarce, sensitive, or “consistent with [an] agency[’s] mission.”
- For compensatory mitigation, agencies are directed to give preference to advance compensation mechanisms, such as mitigation bank approaches. “Advance compensation” is defined to mean a form of compensatory mitigation for which measurable environmental benefits (defined by performance standards) are achieved before a given project’s harmful impacts to natural resources occur.
- Agencies are encouraged to use large-scale plans to identify areas where development is most appropriate, where natural resource values are irreplaceable and development policies should require avoidance, and where high natural resources values result in the best locations for protection and restoration.