President Obama announced a plan to safeguard America’s land, water and wildlife by establishing a “no net loss” standard for mitigating impacts on natural resources and encouraging related private investment to deliver better outcomes for the environment.
The plan will create a more sustainable future for the energy and agriculture sectors, for example, that provide our nation's food, fuel and fiber.
A historic commitment to conservation
Some might see today's announcement as the administration overstepping its bounds, but I see it as a continuation of the legacy established more than 25 years ago by President George H. W. Bush when he established a “no net loss” of wetlands policy – a policy that dramatically slowed the rapid loss of wetlands threatening our nation’s economy and national security.
By extending the “no net loss” standard to all natural resources, President Obama is creating a path for economic and environmental prosperity – understanding that, as our nation’s industries grow and thrive, we must also protect and enhance the natural systems that sustain us.
Opening new environmental markets for agriculture
If there is one sector that I believe can gain the most from this new mitigation standard, it’s agriculture.
Private lands make up the vast majority of the continental U.S. – lands that will be essential in offsetting environmental impacts from a variety of sectors. And when all of these industries need to mitigate their impacts with “no net loss” to land, water and wildlife, they will be looking to pay private landowners – farmers and ranchers – to offset these impacts.
The President’s new mitigation strategy should open the door to a whole slew of new environmental markets for agriculture, giving farmers and ranchers the opportunity to earn new revenue for conservation activities. If conservation isn’t already a part of their business models, it certainly can be now.
Benefits for the environment and the economy
The White House strategy specifically calls for landscape-scale, market-based solutions that allow us to achieve “no net loss” for the environment. Fortunately, such solutions already exist.
At Environmental Defense Fund, we’re working almost exclusively on these types of solutions. We’ve worked with energy and agriculture partners to develop habitat exchanges that create net benefit for wildlife on working lands – most recently for the greater sage-grouse. We also launched a Sustainable Sourcing Initiative that increases fertilizer efficiency to reduce runoff and improve soil health. Both of these initiatives allow farmers and ranchers to maintain their bottom line, creating net benefit for the environment and the economy.
With more solutions like this, agriculture will be well-equipped to help achieve the President’s “no net loss” goals, and to help sustain all that is core to America’s history, economy and prosperity.