In general, the term “mitigation” refers to measures taken to lessen or offset adverse impacts from an action. Broadly speaking, mitigation includes: avoidance, minimization, rectification, reduction or elimination over time, and compensatory mitigation. Compensatory mitigation is mitigation that “compensates” for impacts that were not avoided or minimized.
Currently, the eagle nonpurposeful take regulations require all permittees to avoid and minimize impacts to eagles. Additional, compensatory mitigation has been required for:
- Impacts to eagles that could not practicably be avoided. However, such compensatory mitigation has not been required for every permit. A variety of actions have been required, including, but not limited to: habitat preservation, construction of nest platforms, in lieu fees, and funding for conservation education programs.
- Take of eagles that would exceed Service-established take thresholds. In these cases, the Service requires compensatory mitigation to essentially “replace” (by saving from another lethal threat) the number of eagles taken in excess of the threshold. The Service has adopted the term “replacement mitigation” for this approach. An example of replacement mitigation is power pole retrofitting, which reduces eagle electrocutions. After years of monitoring electrocutions and retrofits, the Service can estimate how many power line poles must be altered to reduce existing fatalities. However, there are other actions with the potential to serve as replacement mitigation , such as carcass removal from highways and reduction of lead available to eagles.
The Service would like to establish consistent standards for when compensatory mitigation would be required under permits. The range of options is wide, but can be simplified into these approaches (one or more of which could be adopted):
- Require replacement mitigation for take that exceeds established take thresholds.
- Require compensatory mitigation for all authorized take. There could be some scaled level of compensatory mitigation for every permit, with minimal restrictions on how the money could be spent so long as it was for eagle conservation.
- Require compensatory mitigation under some predetermined circumstances for take that is within established thresholds but nevertheless may affect the long-term preservation of eagles (for example, when habitat is significantly degraded; for loss of a traditional communal roost; or if necessary to offset impacts to the local area eagle population).