Lost in the midst of Steph Curry’s exploits on the basketball court and the reality TV show that is the Presidential primary race, was a broad proposed policy change placed on the Federal Register last month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing changes to their Mitigation Policy, which directs how they require private companies, along with federal, state and local agencies to pay for or “mitigate” impacts to threatened or endangered species from a commercial development, bridge, highway, cell tower, etc. Federal agency policy changes like this usually are light on specifics, heavy in legal jargon, and result in far reaching consequences on how projects are regulated.

From reading the mitigation policy in the Federal Register, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expanding the scope of mitigation requirements to address wildlife issues. The USFWS is also officially including climate change as a consideration in the mitigation activities it will require for any wildlife impacts a project may have. The USFWS wants to make sure that they are included in consultation over projects impacting wetlands, rivers and streams as it seeks a more holistic approach to preventing habitat fragmentation. One example of this might be a greater input by the USFWS on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetland permitting process when wetland removal may affect migratory bird habitat. Expect to see new disagreements arise with the EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and state agencies as the USFWS mitigation policy encompasses more resources and crosses state boundaries in seeking to address landscape-scale habitat mitigation for threatened or endangered species.

This policy is up for public comment until May 9th. If you would like help understanding the potential implications for this policy change for your project or preparing comments, feel free to contact me.

Josiah Frey is an Environmental Scientist at Smith Management Group. Josiah can be reached at josiahf@smithmanage.com