Interior Department Rescinds Four Key Environmental Policies
Move Creates Uncertainty and Need for New Detailed Mitigation Guidance, Says The Nature Conservancy
Arlington, VA | January 08, 2018
Over the holidays, the Department of the Interior issued a new Order (Number 3360) rescinding the Department’s Climate Change Policy, Landscape-Scale Mitigation Policy, and two Bureau of Land Management (BLM) mitigation policies. While this action was taken on December 22, 2017, it has only recently become more publicly known. The Nature Conservancy released the following statement from Co-Chief External Affairs Officer Lynn Scarlett:
This Order is a step in the wrong direction. It goes against the need for building a clear, consistent and predictable framework for balancing development and conservation on public and private lands.
“In addition to rescinding guidance for addressing the very real impacts of climate change on the department’s mission, program, operations, and personnel, the Order rescinded several robust policies designed to provide consistency across the department’s authorities to apply mitigation and provide field staff with clear direction on how to evaluate project impacts.
“While we were encouraged by recognition in the Order that ‘[i]mplemented properly and appropriately, compensatory mitigation can be an appropriate tool used to reduce or off-set impacts from specific actions,’ we are concerned that the Order only commits BLM to revising a short Instructional Memorandum from 2008 on offsite mitigation.
“The Conservancy believes that mitigation is one of the best tools available to the department to guide use and conservation of resources in compliance with existing laws and regulations. Rescission of the BLM mitigation manual and handbook leaves field staff with insufficient guidance and direction on its authority to avoid, minimize, and offset impacts to comply with the agency’s multiple use mandate. An Instruction Memorandum alone cannot provide the comprehensive framework needed to support the efficient and consistent application of mitigation in the field. A better path for BLM would be to commit to revising the mitigation manual and handbook as suggested in the department’s own October 2017 report on ‘Review of [DOI] Actions that Potentially Burden Domestic Energy.’
“Finally, we believe it was misguided for the Department to rescind the Departmental Manual chapter on mitigation without a commitment to revise it. The goal of the chapter was to establish consistent and transparent standards for mitigation across the department. For mitigation to effectively balance development and conservation, we need clear, consistent, and predictable mitigation policy. Wiping the slate of existing policies with no commitment to replace them with robust and implementable policies is not a recipe for success.”
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.