What is a Conservation Bank?
A conservation bank is a parcel of land containing natural resource values that are conserved and managed in perpetuity, through a conservation easement held by an entity responsible for enforcing the terms of the easement, for specified listed species and used to offset impacts occurring elsewhere to the same resource values on non-bank lands. Bank parcels are typically large enough to accommodate the mitigation of multiple projects. A project proponent will secure a certain amount of natural resource values within the bank to offset the impacts to those same values offsite.
The bank is specifically managed and protected by the banker or designee for the natural resource values. The values of the natural resources are translated into quantified “credits”. Typically, the credit price will include funding for the long-term natural resource management and protection of those values. Project proponents are, therefore, able to complete their conservation needs through a one-time purchase of credits from the conservation bank. This allows “one-stop-shopping” for the project proponent, providing conservation and management for listed species in one simplified transaction. A bank can be created in several different ways:
- Acquisition of existing habitat.
- Protection of existing habitat through conservation easements.
- Restoration or enhancements of disturbed habitat.
- Creation of new habitat in some situations.
- Prescriptive management of habitats for specified biological characteristics.
Banks can be created in association with specific projects or can proceed from a circumstance where the project proponent sets aside more area than is needed for the immediate project, or where the specific project and is willing to protect the remaining area and thus generate credits, or where the specific project is implemented over a longer period of time.
A conservation bank also can be created as an entrepreneurial effort in anticipation of an independent customer base with several different potential projects. Once conservation banks are established, conservation banks each credit they sell is considered to be part of the environmental baseline. As a result, future project evaluations and listing or delisting decisions can be made in a more stable ecological context. This stability is one of conservation banking’s greatest assets, both from an ecological and economic standpoint.
For this reason, conservation banks must be established in perpetuity, regardless of the future status of the species for which the bank was initially established.