Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact:Hugh Vickery
For Immediate Release: May 8, 2003

Interior Department Provides New Guidance To Promote Development of Conservation Banks

The U.S. Department of the Interior has issued the first comprehensive federal guidelines designed to promote the establishment of Conservation Banks, which ensure perpetual protection for endangered species that are adversely affected elsewhere, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Craig Manson said today.
"This is a hallmark event in the 30-year history of the Endangered Species Act," Manson said, "and a major step by the Fish and Wildlife Service to implement Secretary Norton's Four C's - conservation through cooperation, communication and consultation."
Conservation Banks were first authorized by the state of California in 1995. The banks are lands acquired by third parties, managed for specific endangered species and protected permanently by conservation easements. Banks may sell a fixed number of mitigation credits to developers to offset adverse effects on a species elsewhere.
Traditionally, developers have been asked to preserve a portion of the area they are developing - a policy that can translate into scattered, small parcels of land. Conservation Banks provide for much larger acreage, where species protection is more effective as well as more efficient.
Manson said there are more than three dozens such conservation banks now operating in a number of states, adding that they are becoming "an increasingly important" tool in mitigation.

When development is likely to harm threatened and endangered species or their habitat, the Service can authorize incidental take of these species, provided the developer prepares a conservation plan that minimizes and mitigates the damage. Conservation Banks have become an increasingly popular way to achieve that mitigation.
Manson said the department's new guidance helps ensure that banks operate with consistency, providing both the Service and the bankers a common set of rules and directions and a higher level of market predictability and stability, all of which are fundamental to accelerating the development and use of banks to meet mitigation demand while providing mutual benefit for people and endangered species.
Craig Denisoff, vice president of the National Mitigation Banking Association, said the guidance will lead to the creation of many more conservation banks in the United States. "The California experience has shown that conservation banks provide the highest level of long-term protection for threatened and endangered species and have assisted in the implementation of recovery efforts," Denisoff added. Banking also presents opportunities for private landowners to get economic value for property with endangered species habitat.
The guidance covers a dozen and a half areas of bank operations, including design and function of a conservation bank, definition of service areas in which they can operate, the relation of banks to species recovery plans, criteria for use of conservation banks, issuance of bank credits and the use of bank credits to meet mitigation requirements.
Examples of working Conservation Banks include:
  • Hickory Pass Ranch Conservation Bank, Texas. In exchange for putting a conservation easement on their 3,000-acre ranch in the Texas Hill Country for the perpetual protection of the golden-cheeked warbler, the landowners received conservation credits from the Service that can be sold to businesses and local governments to mitigate impacts to the species.
  • Kimball Island Mitigation Bank, Calif. This is the only bank that provides conservation credits for fish. A fully-restored island in the San Joaquin Delta, the bank is managed and owned by Wildlands Inc. Its credits provide mitigation for the Sacramento splittail and Delta smelt.
  • Mobile County Gopher Tortoise Conservation Bank, Ala. Habitat loss is the greatest threat to gopher tortoises in Mobile County, Ala., which has experienced a 94 percent increase in residential development in the past several years. The Mobile County Bank set aside 222 acres for protection of the tortoise and its now rare habitat. It has proven to be the most cost-effective means to protect the tortoise.
  • East Plum Creek Conservation Bank, Colo. This bank is owned and operated by the Colorado Department of Transportation to provide for the permanent protection of the endangered Preble's meadow jumping mouse. The CDOT uses credits from the bank to mitigate for adverse impacts to mouse habitat resulting from highway construction and development projects on the central front range of Colorado.


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