Integrating Large-Scale Planning into Environmental Markets and Related Programs: Status and Trends

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Building on earlier efforts, guidance from the federal government on mitigation for environmental impacts recommends the use of large-scale plans, preferably carried out in advance of impacts, to steer both development and mitigation. The idea is that advanced planning can improve site selection for proposed projects and increase the return on investment for mitigation while helping to provide greater predictability for project proponents, increase the efficiencies of project review, reduce permitting times, and support better environmental results. This paper explores progress in integrating large-scale, spatially explicit planning into environmental markets and programs in the United States. Through interviews with experts and review of the gray literature and government documents, it identifies examples of large-scale planning in these programs. It describes how the planning is guiding decisions about impact avoidance and compensatory mitigation, whether the planning is required or optional, and if the planning incorporates co-benefits or other regulatory-driven priorities. The assessed programs cover wetlands and streams, at-risk species, water quality, stormwater, greenhouse gases, and natural resource damages. They range from somewhat centrally planned programs in which spatially explicit planning is more common to distributed, market-based approaches in which such planning is less common. Large-scale planning appears to face few barriers to development and use, but its uptake may be limited by other factors like cost and time, uncertainty in the required spatial models, or insufficient proof of value. There has been little study of such planning’s investment return, environmental outcomes, or permitting time.






Olander, Lydia, and Ben Young (2017). Integrating Large-Scale Planning into Environmental Markets and Related Programs: Status and Trends. Retrieved from



Lydia Olander

Adjunct Professor in the Environmental Sciences and Policy Division

Lydia Olander is a program director at the Nicholas Institute for Energy Environment & Sustainability at Duke University and adjunct professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment. She works on improving evidence-based policy and accelerating implementation of climate resilience, nature-based solutions, natural capital accounting, and environmental markets. She leads the National Ecosystem Services Partnership and sits on Duke’s Climate Commitment action team. She recently spent two years with the Biden administration at the Council on Environmental Quality as Director of Nature based Resilience and before that spent five years on the Environmental Advisory Board for the US Army Corps of Engineers. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and widely published researcher. Prior to joining the Nicholas Institute, she spent a year as an AAAS Congressional Science and Technology Fellow working with Senator Joseph Lieberman on environmental and energy issues. She was a college scholar at Cornell University and earned her Master of Forest Science from Yale University and Ph.D. from Stanford University.

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