Getting the Most Out of Off-Installation Mitigation: Achieving Mitigation while Minimizing Encroachment

Increasing overlap between the military’s training and testing operations and endangered plant and wildlife species and habitat within installation borders have heightened the need for off-site mitigation. Off-site mitigation can be used for impacts to threatened and endangered species, wetlands or other environmental requirements. Overall, requirements for mitigation under the Endangered Species Act have increased due to shrinking availability of habitat and the number of newly listed species and candidate species.

WRA, Inc. works with landowners to identify properties with the greatest potential for mitigation for future impacts and minimal liability and risk as mitigation sites or mitigation banks. Mitigation lands often remain in private ownership and are protected and managed in perpetuity for the natural resources they are intended to protect. Often these purposes are compatible if combined with other land uses, unique to the client, such as recreation, agriculture, or in some cases, military installation buffers. More specifically, mitigation can be achieved with sites protected for the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program. This synergy between compensatory mitigation and REPI provides an interesting opportunity for strategic land and habitat protection around military installations.

WRA has adapted a GIS based approach for analyzing and prioritizing parcels based on multiple regulatory market and environmental factors. These tools have been critical to successful mitigation planning and site suitability mapping. The approach was developed for private mitigation banking, but with the inclusion of encroachment concerns (i.e. flight paths, noise generation/receptors, surface danger zones etc.), it can be used to maximize off-installation benefits of encroachment and mitigation planning, providing a methodology for targeting off-installation acquisitions.

This methodology for mitigation site selection addresses regulatory requirements, use of a watershed approach, and efficiently and effectively evaluates the feasibility of potential mitigation sites based on property and mitigation market conditions and a desktop analysis of site characteristics. Our presentation demonstrates ways in which this approach can be integrated into military mitigation projects and encroachment initiatives to strategically plan and protect land that maximizes mitigation opportunities.

The tool has great capabilities and a few limitations. Individual analyses often incorporate a combination of data on land use, population growth, road density, impaired streams, species ranges, population units, habitat, land cover, vegetation communities, species occurrences, conserved lands and statewide conservation priorities, for example. Many of these datasets off-installation are limited or difficult to locate. You will learn how to locate available datasets and how we conduct these analyses with partial or incomplete information and how to select datasets that represent the best available information on the study area, market conditions, and the species and/or habitat needs.