Compensatory Mitigation on Federal Lands

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As compensatory wetland and stream mitigation expands, particularly in the western United States, the availability and prominence of federal lands will become increasingly relevant in affecting the execution of mitigation. Moreover, as land management agencies face constrained economic conditions there will be growing interest in alternative forms of revenue and sources of money for restoration. Thus, it is realistic to expect the question of compensatory mitigation on federal lands to become increasingly relevant across land management and regulatory agencies. This raises the question: if federal land management agencies are going to create policies to formalize mitigation on their lands, what major considerations do they need to take into account, and what alternatives need to be acknowledged?

This report represents an examination of compensatory mitigation of aquatic resources (i.e., streams and wetlands) on U.S. federal lands through an examination of case studies and a review of the legal landscape in which such mitigation takes place. While the authors neither promote nor discourage mitigation on federal lands at this time, we do present a series of considerations and recommendations that should be taken into account as federal agencies begin formalizing policies regarding compensatory mitigation on their lands. While our review of existing federal lands mitigation projects was not comprehensive, it draws on learnings from significant cases that were highlighted by individuals deeply involved in these processes—federal agency members, nonprofit employees, and private mitigation bankers. Some of the issues identified with compensatory mitigation on federal lands drawn from case studies presented here may represent outliers, but are nevertheless important to emphasize so that, as policies for these processes are institutionalized, such issues can be addressed accordingly.






Doyle, Martin, Lydia Olander, Ori Sharon, Sara Mason and Todd BenDor (2020). Compensatory Mitigation on Federal Lands. Retrieved from



Martin Doyle

Professor in the Environmental Sciences and Policy Division

Martin Doyle is a Professor at Duke University focused on the science and policy of rivers and water in the US.  His work ranges from fluid mechanics and sediment transport to infrastructure finance and federal water policy. His first book, The Source (WW Norton, February, 2018), is a history of America’s rivers.  His second book, Streams of Revenue (MIT Press, 2021) is an analysis of ecosystem markets. In addition to his role as a professor, Doyle has had several stints in government: in 2015-2016, he moved to the Department of Interior, where he helped establish the Natural Resources Investment Center, an initiative of the Obama Administration to push forward private investment in water infrastructure, enable water marketing, and increase the use of markets and conservation banks for species conservation.  Prior to that, in 2009-2010, he was the inaugural Frederick J. Clarke Scholar at the US Army Corps of Engineers.  

He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Early Career Award from the National Science Foundation, recognized as a Kavli Fellow for the Frontiers of Science from the National Academy of Sciences and selected to deliver the Gilbert White Lecture by the National Academy of Sciences.


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.


Sara Mason

Senior Policy Associate

Sara Mason joined the Ecosystem Services Program at the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability as a policy associate after graduating from Duke with a master’s degree in environmental management. Her work focuses on the interdisciplinary nature of biodiversity conservation and how that can be leveraged to engage the public and policy makers in conservation efforts. Prior to joining the Nicholas Institute, Sara worked in ecological field research and endangered animal rehabilitation.

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