Blending the Conservation Hierarchy with systematic conservation planning can also support sustainable development, as exemplified by The Nature Conservancy’s Development by Design initiative that seeks to improve the use of landscape scale mitigation. Improving mitigation policy and practice – how we avoid, minimize, and offset environmental impacts to lands and waters – is one of the best opportunities for achieving sustainable development and conservation goals. This will be essential as we face a major global challenge: how to meet the demand for energy, food, water, minerals, and infrastructure of a growing population with expanding consumption levels and ensure the health of lands and waters for future generations. While investments to meet this demand will help fuel economic growth, improve quality of life, and lift people out of poverty, they can also bring large, negative environmental impacts. As these impacts expand to new frontiers, governments, companies, and concerned communities are increasingly taking action to improve mitigation policy and practice.
Mitigation can generally be defined as measures taken to avoid, minimize, or reduce the severity of environmental impacts. In the mitigation context, landscape mitigation dictates that it is not sufficient to look narrowly at impacts at the scale of an individual project; it is necessary to account for impacts considering the values of a range of relevant resources that are being impacted. Development of landscape-scale mitigation plans have the potential to increase the effectiveness of conservation interventions while streamline permitting of projects. Despite these benefits, mitigation still largely occurs on a project by project basis. To advance the use of landscape mitigation, The Nature Conservancy is advancing this approach through a variety of projects that focus on an array of development footprints,
i.e. agriculture, energy, mining, roads and in a range of geographies i.e. S.W. Australia, Northern Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Colorado (USA), Central Appalachians (USA), Contiguous United States, India, Indonesia, Intermountain West (USA), Kansas (USA), Mongolia, Northern Great Plains (USA), Wyoming (USA).
Without strong oversight and proactive planning, countries with high development pressure, which also have weak governance and insufficient environmental protection procedures, are likely to suffer severe environmental damage. In contrast, where environmental regulations are adequately enforced, impacts on biodiversity can be avoided and properly offset. Opportunities for improvement include extending mitigation regulations to countries that currently lack them and strengthening compliance where implementation of mitigation is weak. The Nature Conservancy seeks to improve environmental regulations and their enforcement by partnering with government regulatory agencies in a range of geographies i.e. Colombia, Mongolia, and the United States.