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National Mitigation Bankers Association update

U.S. Congressional Initiative:

Across the country there are more than 1500 mitigation bank projects covering more than 700,000 acres.  At present, there are more than 370 new projects pending agency approval on more than 95,000 acres.  Each of these mitigation banks resides within a congressional district, of course, and each probably has a person or persons “sweating bullets” that there will be sufficient demand to sustain their investment.

The NMBA represents an industry with investments spread across the country. While there could easily be mitigation banks in the majority of the 435 House districts, many of these mitigation bankers are not talking to their U.S. House and Senate Members, and if they are, they may not be properly informed to effectively advocate for their needs or the needs of the industry.

An important role of a national industry associations is to facilitate communication between their industry and Congress.  To this end, NMBA intends to implement coordination efforts and support to its membership through its lobbyist and administrative support to deliver vital information at the critical times – before committee hearings, amendment deadlines, votes, etc.

Messaging will be focused and framed in a public interest context, consistent with the Congressional Member’s political views, and ultimately delivered by a constituent mitigation banker.  When the constituent is a landowner, investor, and job-creator in the Member’s district, such communication will carry more weight than the same communication delivered by a lobbyist or NMBA in Washington.

By matching mitigation banks with congressional districts, providing mitigation bankers in various congressional districts with targeted information, and coaching them about how and when to communicate with their Members of Congress, NMBA will facilitate a grassroots initiative in support of its strategic goals and provide a valuable member service.

NMBA will start these efforts first with key Members of Congress – chairs and ranking members of key committees in the House and Senate.   Then it will then develop a dialog with the banker/constituents in each of these key Members’ districts and provide them with the context for communications with their Member of Congress.  Finally, we will need to help these bankers educate congressional staff on our industry issues, and then prompt these banker/constituents to make their “ask” when the context and timing are right.

NMBA will stay abreast of congressional activity and spot the threats and opportunities to our industry – not just in the obvious recurring authorizations, but in energy and tax bills, agency appropriations, and oversight hearings.

Administrative Gains in 2016:

The November 2015 Presidential Memorandum: Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment (PM) is the most important federal initiative for private, entrepreneurial mitigation banking since adoption of the 2008 Rule. Among other things, it:

  • Endorses equivalent standards for all forms of mitigation;
  • Supports advance mitigation, which is a stronger support of mitigation banking than the “soft preference” in the 2008 Rule;
  • Establishes a “net benefit” goal and a “no net loss” floor for mitigation of impacts; and
  • Reinforces by Presidential authority five of the seven Universal Principles of Compensatory Mitigation advocated by NMBA.

The PM is analogous to a “beachhead” in military terms. It represents a hard fought advance policy position, but because it has come at the end of the current administration, it is a tenuous gain that will require a determined effort to hold.

One of NMBA’s Strategic Goals is to “Integrate the Presidential Memorandum into CWA, ESA, and NRDA mitigation policies.”  Because the PM embraces many of NMBA’s strategic priorities (equivalency, additionality, advance mitigation, etc.), promoting and defending the ideas in the PM will encompass many of NMBA’s strategic initiatives. Said another way, to the extent the PM is implemented, many of its other strategic initiatives fall into place.

The PM directs departments and agencies across the government to meet certain milestones of policy development and implementation, but many of these milestones occur in the next administration.  Fortunately NMBA has developed strong working relationships with the Corps, EPA, the Department of the Interior, including BLM and USFWS, the Federal Highway Administration, and the NOAA to guide their policy development. The Association knows a lot about the policy landscape within these organizations, and has established channels for dialog. While some dialogs have been more productive than others, all channels are open, and NMBA is working to open new lines of communication with the U.S. Forest Service, which the PM directs to implement policy as well.

The Association will continue to work with these departments and agencies to guide and comment on their policies as they are produced, and will be proactive working with Members of Congress to smooth the way for a national mitigation policy consistent with the PM and our own Universal Principles document (available at www.mitigationbanking.org).

testimonial

Audubon of Florida is pleased to count Mitigation Marketing as one of our partners in conservation in Florida. We have found Mitigation Marketing to be a true innovator in the mitigation industry. Dennis Benbow and his staff are pioneering important efforts in both the Wetlands and Conservation banking fields. Mitigation Marketing is demonstrating that carefully thought out Wetlands and Conservation mitigation banks can be an important factor in the effort to conserve and restore many thousands of acres of what is best in Florida’s wildlife habitats and natural resources.

Charles Lee
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