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A Science-Based Approach

Development by Design

Smarter energy, mining, and infrastructure development based on 60 years of conservation planning experience and cutting-edge science.

Is it possible to have the resources we need and the nature we cherish? The challenge is daunting, and most development approaches address only a project’s immediate, site-level impacts. Such approaches may recognize the threat that rapid development poses to a natural area, but still fail to consider the overall impact and the project’s effects on the future health of natural systems. Instead of a “band-aid” approach that reacts to each impact in isolation, a holistic solution is needed. 

The Nature Conservancy’s Development by Design promotes a proactive approach to help guide sustainable development decision-making by looking beyond individual project locations to identify the cumulative impacts of development on natural areas across the landscape (whole ecosystems). Incorporating landscape-level conservation planning can dramatically improve traditional mitigation efforts. Development by Design supports blending conservation planning with the “mitigation hierarchy” — first avoid, then minimize/restore, and finally offset — to address critical issues for effective mitigation:

  • Where might future development and conservation goals be compatible or in conflict?
  • What impacts should be avoided? What impacts can be offset through compensatory conservation actions?
  • How can offsets deliver ecological equivalence (i.e., similar conservation values)?
  • How much do offsets compensate for project impacts?
  • Which offsets can deliver the greatest conservation value at the lowest cost and risk?

Development by Design supports more effective mitigation options to balance development and conservation needs, avoid impacts to sensitive natural areas and wildlife, and identify opportunities to offset remaining impacts.

Additional information on the scientific framework can be found in our publications.

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